My Writing Journey: Part Two

Check out my writing journey: part one.

There was honestly a part of my brain, thoughts I’d never think out loud (until now), that believed I’d get back that 15-page critique and hear: Why aren’t you published yet? I have no advice to give you. This stuff is fabulous! In fact, let me put you in contact with my agent.

I cannot believe I just admitted this, but for the sake of being transparent, there ya go. Please don’t think me horribly arrogant. I just loved writing and loved the stories I’d written and like I said in Monday’s post, I was ignorantly blissful.

So what did that first critique look like?

Let’s just say my cheeks flamed red when I read through the five pages (single spaced) of feedback from my first-ever objective reader. I found myself whipping through the pages, thinking things like, “Head hopping? What in the world is head hopping?” The critiquer, who was very gracious, told me at one point I’d gone so far as to bring the reader inside the dog’s head. To which my response was, “Is that wrong?”

I’m laughing as I type this. I really had no clue. And why would I? I’d never read a craft book. Never received any instruction on writing. My only guidance as a Christian fiction writer had been Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury, and that came in two varieties: paperback and hard cover.

By this point, writing had begun to move up in my list of priorities. I found the more I invested in it, the more in love with it I grew. So I was determined to learn.

I went to the library and checked out a substantial stack of writing books. I read Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell. I read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I read others that I can’t remember, and walked away with my head spinning and a proper perspective of just how far I had to go. My writing suddenly didn’t look so hot on this side of awareness.

So I revised my novels. Both of them. (Little did I know this would be the first of many, many revisions). Started my second year of teaching. Had Brogan in October of 2008, and life turned upside down for a period of about two months. That new Mommy period when priorities and dreams lay buried beneath poopy diapers and bleary eyes and burp towels and a patch of worn carpet in the hallway. When I resurfaced, my pull toward writing had tripled. Maybe it was my son in my arms. Maybe it was all the late nights reflecting on how I wanted to live my life. I’m not sure, but I jumped in, determined not to look back.

After 12 weeks, I went back to school and wrote my third novel: Beneath a Velvet Sky. I found this fabulous online community called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). I found my first critique partner. And I started this thing called a blog, to announce to the world that yes, I was a writer, and yes, I wanted to chase after publication, and no, there would be no guarantees. Imagine my surprise when I discovered an entire community of bloggers, all just as crazy as me, chasing after the same dream.

The Learning Time continued in earnest, picking up steam. I entered a prestigious writing contest. I entered all THREE of my manuscripts (this is the first time I’ve admitted this…and no, not one of them finaled). I finished my second year of teaching. I hurled myself into the summer, revising all three of my manuscripts one at a time. I read every writing craft book known to man. I devoured them like a pack of starving piranhas. You name it, I’m sure I read it. I paid for another professional critique. I found a mentor. I revised some more. Revised so much, in fact, that my brain got all twisted and fuzzy.

As much as I wanted to query, as much as I wanted to submit my work to agents (a process I was beginning to understand now that I’d done my research) I held back. I had it in my head that I would wait until I went to the ACFW writing conference. So I waited. Excitedly.

And in September, I flew to Denver. Little did I know that the doorway out of Act 1 was enticingly close.

More on that next time…

Question to Ponder: What steps have you taken to grow as a writer?removetweetmeme

33 thoughts on “My Writing Journey: Part Two

  1. Weronika Janczuk

    This is fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing, Katie. It opens a window into the very real possibilities that exist for us writers.

    Thank you for sharing! Can't wait to hear more.

  2. Katie Ganshert

    Thanks Betty! I appreciate the retweet, the follow, and the kind words!

    Loved reading the comments today and yesterday. This community of bloggers rocks!

  3. Betty Thomason Owens

    Yikes! A cliffhanger! Why are we always tempted to think we are alone in our struggles? If your novels are as interesting as this post, I'm looking forward to them.

  4. Shelli

    you are killing me iwth these cliff hangers! πŸ™‚

  5. Rebecca Knight

    I think we've all been through that stage where we're hoping our critiques will come back with a big gold star and a note that says "You were right–this is brilliant!" And then we wake up and get back to work ;). Hehehehe.

    I love hearing about your journey and the lessons you've learned along the way! Thank you for sharing this with us :)!

  6. Carla Gade

    I'm enjoying hearing about your journey! It sure has been one for me, as well. I was very naive when I started writing. I've been spending so much time learning how to write, sometimes I don't have the time to write. Working on both now!

  7. Patti

    That first critique is often a killer. I really had to suck it up and take it. So glad I did and every subsequent one after that.

  8. Shmologna

    A good blog. I cringe to think of how many mistakes my manuscript may have.

  9. Bethany Wiggins

    The two things that have made my writing improve (drastically!) are writing every single day and critiquing other people's writing.

  10. Tabitha Bird

    When I got my first critique back from one of my readers I was like, "Well what would they know!" Now I know that they knew a lot. I have since devoured my fair share of writing books and I am in that phase of rewriting my memoir because I have learnt a lot and want to put that into practise. I am holding off on querying until I have my readers say, "I can do nothing more for you." And then I will probably pay for another manuscript evaluation.

    Thanks for sharing your journey. LOL about being inside the dogs head! πŸ™‚

  11. Robyn Campbell

    Katie, I thought the same thing when I had my first crit. "How could they not love it? It's simply fab and the best thing they have ever read." Boy did my balloon get popped, busted, squashed. And I thought, "Hello! What is wrong with these people? Don't they know they're getting the next JK?" Sheesh!

    I love reading your journey. Don't stop! I want to hear it all. πŸ™‚

  12. V. S

    I love reading your journey, it let's me know that other writers are there trying to figure this out crazy writing world out.

    I have learned the power of prayer and what it can do for me in writing.

  13. Tara McClendon

    What I love the most is that you grabbed learning by both horns and immersed yourself into the techniques of the craft. And if that doesn't make your head swim, I don't know what will. I've found mentors to be very helpful as well as crit partners. Working with other editors also helped me out quite a bit. And reading. I love reading.

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

  14. Jill Kemerer

    Are we long-lost sisters?? I can relate to all of this because I've been there!

    Steps I've taken? At this point it feels less like steps than a full-out army march! Can't wait to read the next installment.

  15. Erica Vetsch

    The dog's POV? I laughed out loud!

    And it made me wince. I once wrote a paragraph that had the POV's of three secondary characters and a baby! ROFL!

    Biggest steps I've taken?

    Critique Groups

  16. ElanaJ

    There are so many steps. The first one for me came when I started participating in writer's forums. AgentQuery and QueryTracker. I joined two critique groups, and that was by far the biggest and best step I've ever taken. I've learned so much from getting crits, but giving them as well.

    Great post!

  17. Cindy

    Katie, I am really enjoying hearing about your journey. It's such an inspiration and I appreciate the honest because many if not all of us have gone through some of the same things.

    I'm sorry to say I wasn't terribly proactive about improving my writing until recently. I didn't blog, I didn't have a critique partner, I didn't go to conferences or read books. In fact I never read a book on writing until this year. It's all very overwhelming, but in a good way.

    I can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

  18. Kristen Torres-Toro

    Wouldn't it be great to hear that? I dream of that too, but ah, reality!

    Waiting can be so hard but it really does pay off. I'm really enjoying learning about your journey! Have a great day!

  19. Janna Qualman

    It was that way for me, too, that motherhood made my writing dream loom bigger. What is it about the change in role, the change in psyche, that makes us realize what we have to do?

  20. Heather Sunseri

    I love hearing your story, Katie! You are an inspiration. We all have our individual journeys, and we should celebrate that fact. I can't wait to learn more about your journey.

  21. Beth

    Our experiences after having children are very similar – it's like suddenly you have all this time to think (albeit groggy thinking) while feeding your child at all hours of the night and you discover what your life goals really are.

    My husband lovingly calls me "Narcissus" πŸ™‚ I think we all believe we're God's gift to writing, and quite honestly, I think we kind of HAVE to believe that sometimes to continue the insanity, don't you? πŸ˜›

    Loved reading this, Katie! Can't wait to hear the rest!

  22. Eileen Astels Watson

    How sad it would be if we didn't believe in ourselves and God's work in us to even subconsiously dream of our work shining. The more I've shared of my work though, the more I realize that day will NEVER come. Writing is so subjective, and it can always be improved.

    Now I just dream of getting where you are, Katie. Having someone else believe in my work, too.

    I've done everything you've done, Katie. The journey continues…

  23. Natalie

    This is so fun Katie! I think I've done a lot of the same things you have. One of the most helpful things I did was joining a critique group. They helped me take my writing to a whole new level.

  24. MeganRebekah

    Who hasn't had those lofty dreams? Even if we KNOW the work is flawed, I think there's that small hope in the back of our minds that the critique will be glowing praise. I mean we are writers, and we have pretty extensive imaginations.

    I can't wait to hear the rest of the journey!

  25. Marybeth Poppins

    I love reading the journeys to publication. It gives me hope πŸ™‚ You totally deserve this. Can't wait to read more!!

  26. Patti Lacy

    Steps taken to grow as a writer? Eat, sleep, dream, play, work writing.
    1. A nightstand wobbling due to book overload.
    (fiction, nonfiction, and a writing book.)
    2. The old dog new trick habit of blogging (wow, does it stir those soupy gray cells
    3. Force those three pages of the current WIP onto a file with as much regularity as a mom, wife, Bible study teacher, etc., can do.
    4. Get on my knees and ask the Holy Spirit to give me His ideas, His words, His fantastic insights (This one goes first, of course!)
    5. Critique the work of others. It helps me to see my own issues like nothing else!!!
    6. Listen to others who know a heck of a lot more than me.

    I'll stop now b/f y'all fall asleep!!!

  27. Tamika:

    I am enthralled everytime I hear more about the journey for my co-laborers. This crazy journey is worth penning on paper- thanks Katie for sharing with us.

    I can't wait to hear what happened at the conference!

  28. Terri Tiffany

    Thanks for being real here with us. I have had similar thoughts:) Wanted publishers to love my work cause I did and when they didn't.. what a letdown!LOL
    I've begun reading many craft books and as I do I keep thinking why didn't I start there?

  29. Jessica

    You mean a dog's pov is a no-no?? LOL! If you're arrogant, then I'm just as guilty because I felt the same way when I sent of my first manuscript for a critique. I had dreams of them calling and telling me they wanted to buy it, that it was so fabulous, etc. LOL The truth was a little different.
    Thanks so much for sharing your journey! I'm not too good at reading books on writing, but I completely devoured articles. I went through the entire list of romance author websites and read any writing tips I could find. πŸ™‚ Now I try to read my craft book a bit, and I also have some Margie Lawson lectures.

  30. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought

    I so appreciate reading about your experience.

    Like you, I read a lot of books on craft. I majored with a creative writing degree, but that feels like forever ago. I read agent/editor blogs. If all goes as expected, I plan to attend the next ACFW conference. I'm getting short stories & essays published. But mostly, I write. That's what keeps my head in the game.

    Can't wait to read on…
    ~ Wendy

  31. Sarah Forgrave

    When I first started writing, I ended up on Randy Ingermanson's website. I took advantage of one of his famous sales and purchased the Fiction 101 class. When I saw his list of recommended books, I promptly went in search of them. I'm still not through the stack, but I'm learning so much!

  32. sherrinda

    I love, love, love to read about a writer's journey. It gives me hope and alot of perspective! πŸ˜‰ Can't wait to read the next installment!

  33. Jody Hedlund

    I'm loving hearing all about your story, Katie! It's so interesting the different routes God takes us on, how each of us has such a unique path!


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