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Back at it again…

I’m about to start training for my 6th marathon this weekend. So it seems somewhat fitting that earlier this week, I began training for another kind of marathon: writing book 2 of my Polaris trilogy.

As you might have gathered from the previous statement, yes, I did finish The Polaris Uprising! Woohoo!! It was amazing to cross that finish line, of course, but I did end up celebrating quietly because I realized that my true “finish line” isn’t completing the manuscript; it’s seeing it in print. Seeing it in bookstores, on e-readers.

So until that day, I will hold my “celebration to end all celebrations” — although I will hold on to the feeling of accomplishment for getting to this point at all because let’s face it, the path to get here wasn’t easy either!

You might be wondering why in the world I’m plunging back in again and embarking on a “new” marathon. After all, some of you may remember my story that when I finished my first marathon, I was telling everyone left and right I would never, ever, ever do another one of these things again, and if I ever spoke of another one again, I gave people permission to call me crazy.

5 months later I ran my second marathon.

See where I’m going with this?

I love challenges. But more importantly, I love challenges that come from things that give me passion. Writing, like running, gives me tremendous passion. This story gives me passion. These characters, this world give me passion. I’m not ready to let go of them yet, and I want to tell their whole story — and until then, it won’t feel over to me, and I’ll keep running these marathons.

So as I start that terrifying, frustrating, but ultimately thrilling journey of writing the continuing saga of Ryla, Alanna, and Owen, I can’t help but think how fortunate I am that 10 months ago (almost to the day, in fact), a little seed of an idea took hold in my brain and wouldn’t let go. Whatever happens and wherever the road takes me with these guys, I will always be grateful for the privilege of writing about them.

Now onward with the “training”!

Back to this again... mapping out the key storylines for book 2!

Back to this again… mapping out the key storylines for book 2!

The best things in life are worth working for

When I was in the last half mile of the marathon where I set my personal record, my run coach joined me for the home stretch. I was tired, I was hurting, and I just wanted this to be over. I’d gone through the gamut of emotions up until that point, and I didn’t know if I had anything left in the tank to take me home.

But my coach, having run many, many races in her own right — including an Ironman — knew exactly what I was feeling at that moment. And she knew that a few encouraging words would mean the difference between me giving up right then and there and me digging deep and finding that last bit of something to get me over the finish line.

I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“Look at all those people on the sidelines. If this were easy, they’d be doing it too. But they’re not. Because it’s not easy. But you’re going to do this. You’re going to finish.”

I’m not sure I really believed her at the time — your brain does very strange things to you at the end of a marathon — but I internalized her words all the same and used it as fuel to take me to the finish.

I thought about her the other day, as I was almost in tears over a particularly rough patch I’ve been going through in the revision process. A pesky plot dilemma reared its ugly head, and not only did a solution stump me, but in the process of trying to find a solution, I uncovered another plot dilemma — and ended up having to cut a scene I really, really loved. Yes, it happend. I had to kill a darling. And it was brutal. Beyond brutal.

I have some friends who tell me that they actually preferred the revision process to writing the first draft, because they got to see their story transform before their very eyes and improve each time they sat down to work on it. That may be true and there’s no arguing that the results are very gratifying, but I’d be lying if I said that I’ve enjoyed the revision process so far. I haven’t. In all honesty, it’s felt very much like taking a sledgehammer to my head again and again. And then stabbing my chest with an ice pick, just for good measure.

I’m two weeks in and it’s been torture every step of the way. But I know it’ll be worth it, and I know I’ll be happy I did it. I think about what my coach said. “If this were easy, they’d be doing it too.”

The fact is, only 1 in every 200 people ever finish a marathon. And I bet the statistics aren’t that much better for people who finish a novel. I’m doing something that isn’t done very often, and I forget that sometimes. This isn’t meant to be easy. Not that I had expected it to be, but it’s even harder than I thought.

But still, I’m keeping at it. When the butterfly bursts out of its cocoon, the ugly caterpillar will be a distant memory, as will the grueling process it took to transform it. That’s what I have to focus on.

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Hard work is never wasted effort

Getting out there

My grandfather wrote screenplays. Stacks and stacks of them, all written on his trusty typewriter. He was a traffic cop by trade, probably the least likely screenwriter you’d ever expect. But my family had leanings towards the creative arts — my aunt was a child actress as well, so that may have also fed my grandfather’s dreams of moviemaking.

Here’s the thing, though: he never did submit those screenplays anywhere. He never shared them with anyone outside his family, and as far as I know, they remained stacked in his home office, even after he passed away. And I used to wonder why it was he’d never shared what he wrote.

Was he scared of rejection? Did he not like the system? Or did he simply write just for the pure joy of it, and he didn’t need, nor want to find an audience for his work?

When I first started writing, I did it mostly for myself. The concept of novels was foreign to me at 5, 6 years old, and I just reveled in getting to see where my imagination took me. Later, as an adult, when I picked up writing again, I was reminded of the joy of getting to play in this vast mental playground, of getting to take characters to places only you could take them, make them do things for your own amusement and entertainment.

I came back to writing as an adult via fan fiction, and it was a way for me to see my favorite characters in the storylines I wanted to see. I didn’t care about finding an audience or appealing to others; I just wanted to bring to life what I imagined these characters would do if I ran the show.

But find an audience, I did. To my surprise, I got a bit of a following for my fan fiction, and the immediate feedback quickly became addicting. I wanted to produce more to get more feedback–and whenever I was able to connect with people, it felt like the biggest triumph I could take on as a writer.

Now as I write my original fiction, there’s no question in my mind that my ultimate goal for it is to find an audience for my stories. In many ways, that piece is out of my control; I can’t predict how people will react to my characters and what I choose to do with them. I can only write the story that gives me passion and hope that comes through in the writing, that infusing my story with authenticity will give it that intangible something that makes it stand out from stories that were written by simply going through the motion.

And when I’m at my most frustrated, when I’m banging my head against the wall because it’s just not coming out the way I think it should–the way I think will make others love it–I have to remember that I need to love it first. Everything else will fall into place after that.

My grandfather may not have shared his stories with the outside world, but he did love them. He nurtured them and breathed life into them, and at the end of the day, that is all I can do.

And as corny as it may seem, I think a reader will always be able to tell when a story was written with love. That kind of love may even be transferred by osmosis. I sure hope so.

So as I fight my way through this grueling revision process, I’ll keep this in mind. Write it for myself first. Pour myself into it, make sure I’m proud of it. The rest will take care of itself.

 

All my grandfather needed was this and his imagination--thank you for passing on that gift, Lolo

All my grandfather needed was this and his imagination–thank you for passing on that gift, Lolo