what I want: a contest entry and a bunch of word vomit

I recently discovered Maggie Stiefvater’s blog and I, um, accidentally read it all.

I didn’t mean to. My plan was just to skim through and read the highlights of her writing advice. But somehow I ended up planting my butt on the couch and reading all the way back to her very first blog entry.

I really love Shiver. It’s the only book of hers I’ve gotten to read yet (although that will soon change, thank you Kindle Fire) but I loved it. And even that was an accident- I ordered the book for a gift, but accidentally got a well-loved used copy. Well, I couldn’t give that as a present, and so I kept it…and I read it. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. So when I discovered her blog, it was fantastic to actually, you know, know who I was reading about as opposed from a random author’s blog stumbled upon on Google.

It made me a little embarrassed to realize how jealous I was. When I think about what I want to do when I grow up, I want to be like her. Writing and getting paid for it, traveling with friends to promote the book, having a family, being able to blog about silly things and writing things and all sorts of things. I’m a little green around the edges.

Of course, I would never be able to do tell her that. I mean, how mortifying would it be to run up to her all like “HELLO MAGGIE STIEFVATER (I’M SORRY I BUTCHERED THE PRONUNCIATION OF YOUR LAST NAME) BUT I REALLY WANT TO BE YOU WHEN I GROW UP.”

Now, if that doesn’t scream please, I’d love a restraining order I don’t know what does.

So I’ll just camp out back here and idolize in secret.

But in any case, one particular blog post of hers (found here) stood out to me. Her newest book, Scorpio Races, was just published, and while all I know for sure is that she wrote it, it’s in Ireland, there are water horses, and cake is involved, I know it’s going to end up on my Kindle in short order. Because Ireland, and horses, and cake…this is a tangent. Anyways.

She blogged about how she wrote the book she always wanted to read, and how it took several iterations before it was the right book. And that just made me think, painfully, of my book. My sad little book, locked away in a binder in my closet, above the shoes and to the left of the purses.

All I’ve wanted to do is write. I know, I know, everyone says that. But I really do love to write. My first stories, as a wee little second-grader were about a beautiful girl named Christiana who had coal-black hair and blue eyes and a massive wardrobe, and twin boys named Matthew and Michael were always fighting over her. Unfortunately, all I ever really wrote about was her lavish outfit collection.

Later my stories veered into talking-animal tales with a heavyhanded Christian moral (hey, when you grow up in the Bible belt and spend six days a week in church, these things happen) and then into overdramatic soap opera-y fairy tales filled with gory battles, fainting lovers, and heroic girls in armor. It was fantastic. Then I had the obligatory “I am going to be a poet!” phase in high school. I’m pretty sure I burned those.

I also discovered the magical world of fanfiction when I was in the eighth grade. And I still haven’t left. But that’s another story.

But at some point…I lost my spark. I just couldn’t write stories of my own anymore. I couldn’t do it. Everything fell flat. The last thing I wrote was in ninth grade, when I wrote a third of a novel and pitched it when I realized it was a Tamora Pierce/Rurouni Kenshin hybrid and it just wasn’t my story.

It wasn’t until I read the long-awaited last book in one of my favorite series a few years later and was sorely disappointed in the ending. I remember clearly looking at myself in the mirror (shut up everyone reads in the bathroom) and thinking I can do this.
It took three years and five failed attempts before I finished my book. It had everything I wanted to read about- snappy banter, ruinous old boarding schools, angst-ridden orphans, odd magical abilities, pet weasels, funny names. I finished writing it (by hand) in June of 2008. I typed it up, did some editing…

…and left it.

It’s almost four years since I finished it. Almost seven since I started. And while I daydream about holding my book in my hands, I haven’t done anything about it. A dozen people have read pieces of it. Three have read it completely. All of them (even the snooty English department girl) agreed it’s not perfect, but that the story is good. It’s enjoyable. It’s readable. P says he can envision it on shelves. They have been nagging at me for years just try to get it published, please, just try.
And yet the poor little binder sits on my shelf still, unread and unloved.
When I read the entry about how long it took Maggie Stiefvater to shape Scorpio Races into the right book, at the right time, it made my stomach do little unhappy flipflops. I did that with Beatrice, shaping and reshaping and cutting characters and trimming scenes and starting over again and again. It needs work (especially in the last half) but I still think there’s something there.

And I think I have more books in me. For the longest time, while I’ve let my book languish, I’ve thought I was done, I’m all booked out, that I can’t do it. That I shouldn’t even try to get it published.

Well, maybe I can. Maybe this year I can finally finish editing Beatrice and send off a query letter or two (or twelve). Maybe I can write more books, different books, writing all the books I always wanted to read but could never find on shelves.

And in the meantime, I’m going to read Scorpio Races, give myself a nice post-book coma that all good books give, and hope that someday I can do that to someone else.

Currently listening to: “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars

2 thoughts on “what I want: a contest entry and a bunch of word vomit

  1. I am so in the same boat as you. Like you, I've only read (and loved) Shiver, read all of Maggie Stiefvater's writing entries… accidentally, and fear that I might be all booked out! I found your blog through Maggie's, btw! And you should DEFINITELY submit your novel to some agents, you owe it to yourself for toiling to write it in the first place ;). Good luck :D!

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  2. I can relate to this post, I write and then I doubt and then I try to write again and then I throw it away. I've finished a novel. But I've never edited it or even looked at it since then. I really hope you try sending your story in, you won't lose anything by trying, and it would be awesome to see it on the shelves 🙂

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