whoops, I wrote a second novel

So this funny thing happened as I was pitching my first novel to literary agents… One day over the summer, exhausted yet unfulfilled after sending out a round of queries, all of which take time to research and must be personalized to suit the requirements of the agent being pursued, I thought to myself, “I need to write something more creative than a letter.”

Two days later, the idea for a second novel was born.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, I fired off a quick 25,000 words. But then I stalled. I was away for much of August, and while I wrote a little while I was gone, I was not as prolific as I hoped to be.

In September, I began working with the Virtual Writer Workshop, a small online community of writers who embraced me into their fold. Every two weeks, my group shared up to 7,000 words which the other members of the group critiqued. I don’t know about you, but I find my writing improves when I’m critiquing others. It’s easier to see your own weaknesses through the lens of another writer’s good prose. Under the pressure of deadlines and encouragement from my group members, I wrote above and beyond the workshop goals. Through this process, I figured out how I wanted to end the novel, and then I wrote the heart of the story with that ending in mind.

Two weeks ago, I sent the completed first draft of novel #2 out to a small group of beta readers, kind volunteers who will provide feedback on everything from misplaced commas to structural flaws with the plot. One of those beta readers is a writer I met through the workshop. She got “hooked” (her words) on my story, and I can’t wait to hear what she thinks after reading it beginning to end.

In the meantime, waiting for feedback is hard (I’m impatient) so I’ve taken a break from the story to work on other projects. I plan to pick it back up with fresh eyes and new perspective once the critiques are in. My ultimate goal is to have an agent-ready manuscript by the end of January. Ambitious, but doable.

“Has she given up on novel #1?” I can feeling you asking. Never. But I’ve heard from more than one author that often the first book you write isn’t the first published. In my humble opinion, the super secret plot structure of novel #2 is more unique than the love triangle at the core of novel #1. So I’ll shift my focus to the second book, and if an agent nibbles, guess what? I have a second manuscript (novel #1) waiting in the wings. The second book also lends itself to a sequel. Hey, writing novel #3  may well be to pitching novel #2 what writing novel #2 was to pitching novel #1.

What am I waiting for? Maybe I’ll just start writing now.

 

the midlife crisis

Shifting gears, I have a story. Maybe more of a mission. But first the story.

The other day, I was catching up with a friend. He asked what I’d been up to lately, and I started to tick off my list of ventures: I started my own one-woman consulting firm, wrote two novels, and am in the middle of a yoga teacher training program.

“Oh, right,” he said. “Yoga teacher training. That’s like a respectable midlife crisis for professional women these days.”

I laughed, but then I started to think about his words. I guess when you look at it on paper, my life the last year does contain the classic symptoms of a midlife crisis. But I’ve been so happy, fulfilled and mostly grounded; I haven’t for one minute felt any sense of crisis. (Except the fives days between finding out my COBRA coverage had been terminated and when it was reinstated. But that was more emergency than crisis.)

I digress.

Hours after this coffee-yoga-midlife conversation, I started to wonder: why do we call a change in the direction of one’s life a crisis? I made a mental list of the actions I have been guilty of attributing to midlife angst and honestly, I think we have it all wrong. The man who buys a high performance sports car? Maybe he’s been driving a grocery getter for twenty years, a vehicle that fit his three kids plus all their requisite accoutrements. And now he has not only the freedom to buy a smaller car, but the income. Changing jobs? Why not explore a profession that ignites your passion instead of sticking doggedly to the one you chose in your (perhaps) misguided youth? Getting in shape? Seems like a pragmatic thing to do as one ages and the body needs more attention. Divorce? Okay, it’s sad when a couple breaks up, but maybe the marriage had been eroding for years. Maybe the couple was waiting for their children to finish college. Maybe they fell out of love.

What I’m trying to say is that while in some cases, midlife can be scary and compel people to make bold moves, in a number of instances, the crisis is an exploration of one’s untapped talent or long-held dreams. The crisis is a realization you were meant for something else. The crisis is grounded in the wisdom of age and experience. Perhaps it’s a crisis because those on the outside are uncomfortable with change. Or they wish they had the guts to do the same.

Whatever the case, I propose the midlife crisis needs a rebrand. Maybe we call it a midlife awakening or midlife exploration. In fact, screw the “midlife” modifier all together. None of us knows how long we’ll live, thus it’s impossible to designate a midlife point accurately anyway.

Yes, I started a consulting firm, wrote two novels and am on a journey toward becoming a yoga teacher. These actions reflect who I am inside and out. If I add a convertible or a young boyfriend to the mix, don’t whisper about my crises but celebrate my ability to navigate life so that I’m on the right path for me in the present moment. And I will do the same for you, no matter the make and model of car you purchase.

time of reckoning

I’m still in a bit of awe that I finished writing the first draft of my novel. It’s the most natural thing I’ve ever done but it also feels like it happened to someone else. I appreciate the warm wishes as I reached that milestone. I’m truly humbled by the positive response and support. And it’s cute when people ask, “when’s it coming out?” because you see, writing the book wasn’t the hard part. I know I can write. (I already wrote the outline and ending to my second book.) But there are many grueling steps to before you’ll find my debut novel gracing bookstore shelves.

The last you heard, I shipped my baby to a professional manuscript consultant to edit. Initially, she told me that she wouldn’t be able to get to it for a week because she was finishing up another project. That was fine with me. I needed some time away from my story and characters.  So imagine my surprise when I received her complete edits last Friday, the day she was scheduled to start reading.

“That was fast,” I wrote her via email. “I’m going to take that as a good sign.”

“It is a good sign!” she replied. “I have a problem manuscript to look at… it needs so much work…Your novel is really strong.” In fact, she couldn’t put it down.

I’ve been on cloud nine over her summary of what she loved: the writing (“it reads real”), my main character (“luminous… so alive”) and the ending (“moving”).  As for what needs work? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet.  There was no way I could read her comments last weekend given the kids’ schedule. Then I was traveling early this week. Yesterday I had my 2014 turn at Warriors. I haven’t had but an hour or maybe two in between gigs, meetings, obligations all week. I’m not avoiding the task at hand. I swear. I look forward to perfecting my manuscript. I need to set a new deadline. But really, I need the luxury of an uninterrupted day to get started.

Lucky for me, the universe is going to deliver. Snow is in the forecast tonight. Enough snow for delays and cancelations tomorrow. With any luck, I’ll be home all day with my manuscript. While everyone in the DC Metro area is rolling their eyes at winter overstaying its welcome, I relish it.

Just please let the power stay on. I have a manscript to polish.