I did it!
A book contract!
Dreams really do come true.
Was it harder than I thought it would be? Absolutely! Did it take longer than I ever expected? Uh…I started when I was 40 and my 56th birthday is coming up way too soon, so yes it took much longer than I ever imagined. I could have earned several PhDs in the same amount of time. If I’d known then what I know now, would I have even attempted it?
Mmm, interesting question.
I can’t remember not having stories in my head. Unfortunately, that’s where the characters and stories stayed—in my head. Fast forward a few years, I’m 40, restless, and unhappy. Some show or someone said it’s a good idea to write up your own obituary. I did—mine said I was the author of countless bestselling novels.
But how could that be? I’d never written a short story let alone a novel. And that’s when the light bulb went off. These stories in my head were the stories I was supposed to be writing down. LESSON ONE: Dreams don’t just happen, you have to chase after them.
And so I started writing. I had no idea how to create a novel but I’d read more than my share of them so page by page I wrote my story. And it might not have been good but it sure was fun. I wasn’t restless or unhappy anymore. LESSON TWO: Chasing your dreams is fun.
And so I kept writing. And then came the second lesson, I didn’t just want to write I wanted to be good at it. I started studying the craft of writing by reading books about writing. LESSON THREE: Chasing your dreams isn’t just fun, you need to put in the time and effort required—in other words make a commitment.
And so I kept writing. Years pass, but the goal of publication was just as elusive as when I first started writing. Discouragement set in. Obviously, I’m not good enough. I might as well give up and forget about it. And so I quit! But there’s a problem—I’m sad and restless again. LESSON FOUR: Don’t quit! If you quit, you’ll never reach your dream. I actually had to learn this lesson more than once.
And so I kept writing. And I was happy again! So, now I’m chasing my dreams and I’m committed to becoming a better writer. And an amazing thing happens, almost every time I send out a query letter on a new project, at least one or two agents and editors request the full manuscripts. And that’s where it stops. It’s like a hit a brick wall and can’t get past it, no matter what I do.
One agent takes pity on me and recommends I join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) where I get hooked up to a large and a small critique group. Talk about a painful process.
After all the purpose of critique groups is to critique your work. They aren’t called praise groups or encouragement groups. Their purpose is to tell you what you’re doing wrong. What? How dare they tell me that’s wrong? I love that word, that sentence, that paragraph, or that idea. And that brings me to LESSON FOUR: Be teachable.
I’m sure this is true no matter what your dream is, but it’s so, so, so true if you want to be a writer. Writers fall in love with their own words and as the saying goes ‘love is blind.’ As writers, we are too close to our own work and can’t see the obvious problems. Let other writers teach you what they’ve already learned about the writing process.
This past September, I went to the ACFW Conference and as I sat in workshops learning more about writing, I would see bestselling writers in their listening, learning, and taking notes just like me. That’s probably why they are bestselling writers—they are teachable.
And one wonderful other result of critiquing others work is as we hunt for their “mistakes” we can suddenly see our own weaknesses and strengths in our writing. I decided I would be teachable and learn from anyone who wanted to teach me.
And so I kept writing. This past December I received an offer for a contract on one of my manuscripts. Two weeks later, I received an offer for a second contract on another manuscript. Imagine two contracts in less than a month…and it only took fifteen years!
Let’s take a look at that question I didn’t answer earlier. If I’d known then what I know now, would I have even attempted it? Let me share a Bible verse with you, Hebrews 11: 8:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
I think this verse is a perfect description of what it means to be a writer. Writing takes time, effort, and sacrifice. And through it all, you have no idea if you will succeed.
I believe God gave me my love of books and my passion for writing. And even if I’d never received a contract, I enjoyed countless hours of creating characters and the worlds they lived in. So, I would do it all again.
Dreams can and do come true, but they don’t just happen. They take sacrifice and effort and with no guarantee of reaching them. God gives all of us dreams, and then it becomes our choice to chase the dreams or not. For me, I can’t imagine a life without dreams.
And so I keep writing.