I’m thinking I may have to reorganize some of these posts. I never intended for the confessional to only be about my journey to publication, but it’s kind of turning into that right now. Maybe I’ll dig into that later this week and see what I can come up with.
Anyway, when we left off, my dreams of becoming a published author had taken a bad hit. I had a science fiction trilogy that I had written. I had pitched the idea at a writing conference and was basically told that I had no chance of publishing it anywhere. Some folks may have gone home and hung it all up. I was tempted to do that. So why didn’t I?
Because of two published writers, namely Deborah Raney and Colleen Coble. I had taken an early bird class with them at the writing conference that included a semi-private coaching session. During that session, they told me they liked what I had written and seemed genuinely interested in what I was up to. It was enough to keep me going after a difficult experience. And, upon thinking it over, I thought I figured out what my problem was: I had a problem with the story’s structure.
Here’s the short version of my dilemma: the story of my trilogy had two parts to it. There was the “modern story” and the “ancient story,” for lack of better terminology. The way I wrote the trilogy, the first book started with the modern story and then, about two thirds of the way through, the ancient story took over in the form of an extended flashback. The second book was pretty much nothing but ancient story, but eventually, it got back to the modern story. And the third book was nothing but modern story.
Confused? So was I, when I thought about it. I knew what my problem was: my story was a tangled mess. And I knew how to fix it. I rewrote the first book so that it was nothing but ancient story, adding in a bunch of new material. The second book would be pretty much the way it was, and I would try to cram the entire modern story into the third book.
This rewriting process took close to two years, which was fine. I wasn’t able to go back to the ACFW Conference during that time anyway. But when I thought I had gotten a handle on it, I figured I would go back again and do a lot better than I had the first time. And I was really excited because that year, the conference was being held in Minneapolis. My backyard! Perfect! Things were definitely looking up. I had fixed up my story and I had the home field advantage. What could possibly go wrong?
Since the conference was in Minneapolis, I volunteered to help out and I was given transportation duties. I would go to the airport and pick up certain people and drive them to the hotel. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that Colleen Coble was going to be one of my passengers! She was the reason why I kept writing after that disaster of a first conference. I wanted to thank her for making such a difference in my writing career.
So when the day came, I picked up Colleen and immediately launched into a speech that outlined how she had helped me so much by restoring my confidence. She was very gracious and asked me what I was going to pitch that year.
“The same thing I pitched two years ago!” I said, smiling broadly.
I could tell that I had said the wrong thing. Colleen gently suggested that perhaps the time had come to stop working on that and do something new.
I was stunned. How could I do that? This sci fi trilogy was the story of my heart, the one that I had wanted to tell for so very long. I had worked on it for years and years. How could I give up on it? Colleen must have sensed my confusion, but she explained that if I kept fiddling with the same story for years and years and years, I wouldn’t grow in my craft. Working on new characters, settings, and stories would help me grow better and faster as a writer. She gently suggested that I set aside my trilogy and try something new.
Her words stung. I didn’t want to stop. But then I actually went to the conference. I pitched my new and improved trilogy only to have…well, nothing happen. There was no interest. I thought I had fixed what was wrong with it, and it didn’t seem to help at all.
So after that conference, I decided to follow Colleen’s advice. I put the alien trilogy up on the shelf, so to speak. I went on to some other ideas that I had been knocking around. As a matter of fact, I realized that I had an idea that seemed absolutely perfect, something that I was sure I would be able to sell. The next time I went to the ACFW Conference, I had a feeling I was going to go home with some sort of offer.
Little did I know, I was going to have the worst conference of my life. But that’s a story for two weeks from now.