May 11, 2013. Two weeks after attending my first writers conference, I noted on my calendar – “Novel idea – No Rhyme Nor Reason.”
I was a 63 year-old retired nurse, married with no children, and had done some traveling. I had no formal fine arts education past basic college English and Humanities classes. I dropped out of Creative Writing in a panic when I couldn’t think of anything to put down on paper. I suffered from self doubt, a need to please, and a lack of imagination. Just the qualities I’d need to become a successful author in today’s literary market.
Seven years before, my muse had appeared in the middle of the night. Do they ever show up at noon? I suspect it was my long-dead, poetry-spouting father who was channeling through me with annual Christmas rhymes, tear jerking reminiscences of family members, reflections on love and loss, and commentary on current events. I joined a critique group, submitted to a few contests, and, in 2012, was included as an honorable mention and an editor’s pick in the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology. While poetry was good for my soul, it wasn’t well represented at that first conference, so I chose random fiction and publishing workshops.
They say write what you know. My first log line: “Four women in their early sixties reunite after sudden tragedy. Together they transform themselves into women of passion and purpose.” Initially, my hook was my poetry, interspersed between the chapters, but soon The Beatles wove their way into my tale, just like they had in my own life. And so, I set about creating back stories, plot lines, and twists using a combination of reality and fantasy. The what was, what is, what if, and what the hells. This would be my story, and that of many women of a certain age.
Of course, I fell into all the traps. I had a character describe herself in the mirror on my opening page. I had too many paragraphs of exposition, and then too many with unbroken dialogue. There wasn’t enough action, or it all happened at the same time. I didn’t have enough conflict, or the conflict needed more nuance. Some character arcs weren’t fully developed, or there were too many characters. Two of them even had the same name. I had the dog die, for God’s sake.
Over the next four years, I obsessed over first chapter revisions. I changed and rearranged the plot multiple times, added and subtracted characters, and killed off enough darlings to fill a mausoleum. My skin grew thicker, and the initial deeply-wounding comments from my critique group gradually morphed into gratifyingly helpful suggestions. In February 2017, I offered my composition to a small group of willing beta readers. More revisions. Then, I submitted my work to a professional content editor. Of course, I will pay you lots of money to tell me to change everything.
At last, my manuscript was finished. My Christmas present to myself that year was one last perusal through my own eyes as the reader. And yes, I still laughed and cried, sighed and trembled. I clucked like a hen who just laid an egg. I wrote this! On January 22, 2018 I emailed pages to agents. I put a bottle of champagne in the fridge, and waited for the offers to fly in…
Diana is a Baby Boomer, diehard Beatles fan, and now an Author on Amazon.