Looking Back at 2015…

Relax and have a coffee

Relax and have a coffee

So many things have changed in my life over the last year in terms of my writing and editing that sometimes I feel I’m in a whirlpool and just along for the ride. But it’s a ride that I don’t want to get off.

In October of 2013, I made the inevitable decision to walk away from my career in research and to focus full-time on my writing and writing-related activities. I finished my contract with the MARS Research project, which aims to develop colour-CT scanning technologies, and come Christmas that year, I was happy to sit in front of the computer doing nothing but editing and writing.

Beacon of Hope, my first novel, was well past a first draft stage at that point. It was on its umpteenth revision and had already become on an obsession that was starting to form a wedge between my husband and myself. It was a matter of finding time… and finding someone willing to help me, guide me, through the scary road toward publication.

In February 2014, I joined the Christchurch Writers’ Guild, and for my writing, that was the best thing I could have ever done. I learnt so much, so quickly, and I had found a group of people who understood the crazy, compulsive need that writers have. They were kindred spirits.

But my journey into the world of writing and publishing really started in 2015 — one whirlwind of a year.

In January, I had decided that I needed a public face. If I was serious about being a writer, a published author, I was going to need to take some active steps to get myself out there. Frightening as it was, I actually signed up for Twitter, I started a public Facebook page, and a month later, I started up a website — this website. I was incredibly resistant to starting up a blog, that wasn’t the kind of writing that I wanted to do. But for some reason, I had no problem with creating blog-type entries on my Facebook page. That’s when I realised that it would be much better to create an actual blog, then links could be posted on Facebook, Twitter and the like. The first official blog entry on this site was on 13 March, 2015 — a tribute to my mother for her birthday, based on the Facebook blog-type entries that had already been posted.

At the end of March, I decided that my novel, Beacon of Hope was ready to face the big bad world. Boy, was I wrong. So many new writers feel this need to be recognised for all the hard work that we have put in, not realising that there is still so much more work needed. Let’s face it… I fell into the query-before-it’s-ready trap. Thankfully, I had retained enough of my researcher background and level head to have a pragmatic approach to the whole process: send out only 2 or 3 queries; wait a while; if receive a “no” or no response, then revise query letter and try again. By the end of April, I had only a tiny handful of queries out there, and most had gone unanswered. (Some of them are still unanswered today, but I’m just pushing forward and assuming that they’re all no’s.)

But I wasn’t deterred. I reassessed the query letter again, but this time, I also went back to my sample pages. Maybe the issue wasn’t with my query letter; maybe the real problem was my sample pages. By that time, there had been nearly three whole months of not looking at the manuscript — I had spent all that time working on another project completely. My writing style had developed and my editing skills had flourished considerably. So I revisited Beacon of Hope and I was mortified. I couldn’t believe that I have been querying with that. It was shocking, diabolical, and just plain embarrassing. At that point, I had said a silent prayer of thank-yous for the cosmic energy out there (whatever you want to call it) for providing me with the wisdom to take the query process slowly.

In April, the universe saw fit to place a loving message on my Facebook and Twitter feeds about the contest “Pitch to Publication”, a chance to possibly snag myself an editor to help me groom this beast that had just taken over my life — yet again. I had until the end of June to rewrite this horrid manuscript and make it stronger. Believe it or not, I actually did edit the full manuscript with a massive grin on my face, feeling much happier about the writing that I was going to be presenting.

No surprises, I didn’t even make it into the first round of “Pitch to Publication”, but I was fine with that. I had been introduced into the world of writing contests, ones designed for novelists serious about getting published, and it was probably the biggest eye-opener of them all. In looking through the requirements of the various contest, I found myself examining my manuscript in ways that I would have never have thought of otherwise. #pg70Pit, where you submitted only the 70th page of your manuscript, reassured me that I had a story filled with action. NewAgent forced me to really look at those first 250 words, the maximum length of your submission. PitchWars gave me the confidence in my query letter and provided me with clarity about how my manuscript should be classified. And as an added bonus, I even made some friends along the way, some of whom have become very close and we can’t wait until the day we finally get to meet in person and not just through video chat.

In October, I probably made the biggest decision that has changed my life forever. For months, I had provided my critiquing and editorial skills for free to writers from around the world. I had people coming to me, asking me to review their work. They had seen snippets of my writing from various locations — my blog, blog posts on the Christchurch Writers’ Guild site, beta readers, listings in Scribophile.com — and they had all decided that I could write, that I knew how to work a story. They wanted my opinion with regards to their own writing. Man, that was such an ego boost — to have made the decision to walk away from a career in research to become a full-time writer, and to have complete strangers seek you out for advice on how to improve their own writing… So in October 2015, after months of providing my services for free, I decided that I would start up my own editorial business. I enrolled in a professional editing course, only to be validated again in my decision about the road I would take — all my assignments came back with top marks. With the speed I was going through the course and the marks I was getting, editing was natural to me. And the universe must have agreed with this decision, because the moment I made it, I suddenly had a paid contract on my hands, and it was one that I never sought — it just landed in my lap.

But my world was filled with not just my own writing and an editing business. In April, I led the move for the Christchurch Writers’ Guild to become an incorporated society, spending weeks pouring over legalese to get the constitution just right. In May, the CWG had it’s first AGM and I was elected secretary. (What had I gotten myself into?) A few months later, our president stood down, she had news of a baby on the way, and due to the lovely loopholes that I had written into the constitution, the membership agreed to promote me into the president role with another coming in to takeover as secretary.

In September, I was appointed one of the co-Municipal Leaders for the Christchurch region for the 2015 NaNoWriMo event. Again, I felt vindicated in my decisions, because again, I had writers turning to me for advice on various aspects of writing, from building worlds and fantastical characters through to pushing through the lull of writing, just to get words on paper.

During November’s NaNoWriMo, the military science fiction that I had been working on for many months had gotten a new breath of air. I discovered more about my own process of writing and gave up the resistance against the plotting movement — I moved to the dark side, but was able to bring some of my pantsing heritage with me. But the world wasn’t just NaNoWriMo. More editing was coming my way and I was really starting to understand the merits of having a blog. My number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ skyrocketed and from where I was sitting it was only going to get better.

Black Wolf EditorialDecember saw the official launch of my editing company, Black Wolf Editorial Services. It was another extension of my being, and one that made me feel proud to be a writer.

As I write this blog entry, I am working hard to rewrite the ending of Beacon of Hope, based on the recommendation of my own personal editor, and I have a big editing contract lined up for the end of January for a manuscript that will go before agents in February (a solicited query — no pressure). I also have a couple of smaller contracts lined up for mid-January, which will hopefully lead to others. I look at the goals that I had set myself at the start of 2015 and realise that I’ve achieved only a fraction of what I had set out to do. But you know what… I’m actually okay with that.

At the start of 2015, I was still in that delusional-new-writer state, with no clue what it would really take to succeed. In some ways, I’m still clueless, but now I have developed that drive to constantly improve and never back down. I have developed that passion for writing in general that I want to see others succeed just as much. 2016 is going to be my year.

I will start querying Beacon of Hope again and there will be some agent out there that just loves it and takes me on. I will finish the draft of my military science fiction and the long process of editing/rewriting can begin. I will complete the draft of another high fantasy novel, a companion to Beacon of Hope. And my editorial business will take off and provide me with the joy of sharing my writing/editing experience with other writers, maybe even see a few of them become agented too. But through it all, the ups and downs, one thing will remain constant: I will NEVER give up.

As Joe Konrath said: There’s a word for a writer who never gives up… published.


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2015

Posted in A Writer's Journey, Writing and tagged , , .

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