Learning The Hard Way

Writing a book was a journey and an education for me. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but it had always seemed like a near impossible feat, a project too big to tackle, too overwhelming even to know where or how to begin. And, of course, sometimes life gets in the way. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I was busy raising a family and working to get ahead. I wrote poetry and short stories, some of which were published, but, the idea of writing a book sat on a dusty shelf in a dark corner of my mind until I found myself unemployed. A slip and fall on the ice at a client’s home had left me with back problems that made my job as a personal support worker too painful to continue. There I was, in my forties, facing the prospect of finding a new career, perhaps even going back to school. And I had no clue what I wanted to do, until that idea dusted itself off and said,”Write”.

Looking back on it now, I realize I went about it all backwards, which made it much harder than it had to be. I’d had an idea for a book floating around in my head for a while. One day, I sat down in my recliner with my laptop and began to write. Months later, when I’d finished the first draft, it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what to do next. I knew I had to make it better, but I wasn’t sure of the best way to go about it. So I researched. I Googled  “How to revise a book”. I read blog after blog, making notes that filled a notebook with page after page of dos and don’ts  and writing tips. During my research, I learned that I should have an “online presence”. I’m fairly technologically challenged, so, I spent hours researching further and somehow figured out how to set up a blog, Twitter and Linked In accounts and a Facebook page.

Months later, after the third revision, I realized my book was nearly finished and I knew nothing about publishing. Back to Google I went, where I discovered agents and query letters. Many more hours of research and notebook pages later, I had a completed manuscript, a query letter and a list of agents looking for Women’s Fiction. Now that the most time-consuming work was done, I had  some free time on my hands. It felt strange after spending hours every day researching and writing. As I reflected back on the writing process, I realized I’d spent a lot of time researching not only the process of writing and publishing a book, but also things like theme and style, dialogue and character building, even some basic grammar, like comma usage.  I probably should have taken refreshers and learned more in-depth about these things before I attempted to write a book. So, I enrolled in a Creative Writing program through my local college.

In hindsight, I did things the hard way. I should have taken the writing courses first. I should have done all the research first. If I had, it would have made the actual writing of the book much faster and easier. But, by doing it the hard way, I learned a lot, not only about writing, but about myself:  I often jump into things feet first without thinking or planning ahead and end up learning the hard way. I’m not great at blogging and should probably spend more time on it, but I also feel that social networking can be a huge time waster that could potentially keep me from writing, so I need to find that balance. I can also be tenacious, focused, and self-disciplined and, once I set my mind on doing something, I won’t stop until it’s done.

I surprised myself. I always wanted to write a book, but I think, deep down, I never thought I would. Writing my first book turned out to be a journey of self-discovery and a valuable learning experience. If I hadn’t jumped in feet first, if I had taken the time to  learn how to write instead of just writing, maybe there would be no book. Maybe I’d still be researching and learning instead of sending out queries and trying to get published. It may not have happened in the best or easiest way, but it happened.

 

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About Laurie Gardiner

Laurie has loved writing as long as she can remember. Her first published work, “'Til Death Do Us Part,” placed first in the 1997 Cambridge Writers’ Collective short story contest. Her latest works include short stories, “Retribution" and "Thief," appearing respectively in Scout Media's 2016 and 2017 anthologies, A Journey of Words and A Haunting of Words. Over the years, her poetry has also been published in various anthologies. Her debut novel, Tranquility, published in 2015, by Escargot Books and Music, was inspired by her work as a personal support worker specializing in dementia care. In 2015, she graduated with honors from Conestoga College’s Creative Writing program. She’s a Canadian, an avid reader, a yogi, and a Gemini. She grew up on a farm in remote northern Ontario, and now lives in Cambridge, Ontario with her husband and cat.
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