Sunday, August 08, 2010

New Beginning

I'm starting a new book today. There. I said it. I can't take it back.

For those of you new to this blog or new to me, I wrote two books that were published in '04 and '05. The sales experience was not kind. Whether the problem stemmed from low print run and light distribution or the overall toughness of the market with a lot of titles competing for readers' dollars or what, the stunning lack of success knocked me on my ass. I tried to invest myself in another story. I ended up starting three or four new books, but fell into a mindset of, "Why am I doing this? I suck. What's the point?"

Writing is not an easy task. Writing a book takes a hell of a lot of commitment in time and creative energy. While I am 100% a writer down to my soul, I truly questioned why I was giving up so much of my life to complete a book, only to spectacularly fail. Like most writers I know, I have a day job and in that job I write all of the time. So, my need to create is met every day.

After a couple of years of trying and not being able to sustain the book-writing effort, I sank from disappointed to completely demoralized. Every time someone asked me, "When is your next book coming out", I cringed inside and felt the failure even more strongly.

That's no way to live and enjoy life. Finally, I owned the fact that I did not want to write for awhile. I put an end to figuratively slamming my head against the wall and gave myself permission to not write another book. The switch to my mindset and emotions was instantaneous and powerful. Instead of wanting to duck and run from the next book question, I could smile and say, "I'm taking a break right now" or "I'm not currently writing."

I stopped feeling like a failure and gave up the guilt. I distanced myself from the previous experience, got involved in some other activities, and enjoyed myself.

After awhile, the expected happened. The urge to write fiction returned. The desire rekindled and a story idea germinated. I signed up for a course called Discovery, taught by outstanding author Lani Diane Rich. (Registration for the fall course is now open at For six weeks in this class I engaged in the process of discovering this new idea, the characters, the concept, the backstory. I put together a soundtrack and listened to it daily. Picked photos of actors to serve as placeholders for the main characters and put them into a collage. I wrote backstory for the woman who is the heart and purpose of the book.

Out of this Discovery process the characters developed and they grew as people. I've come to know them, to understand what makes them tick, what they're fighting, what they want, and what they need. Pivotal scenes have manifested in my head. I'm excited about writing this story, but I haven't opened up a document to start page one.

I'm a little scared. Okay, I'm a lot scared. No matter what happens, once I start writing this book, I'm not quitting until it's finished. There will be no repeat of getting 50 pages in and then giving up. One day at a time, one page at a time, once the journey starts, the book and I are in this trip together until The End.

That's my commitment to my story and to myself. I'm not concerned right now with submitting or selling the finished book. Until it's written, there's nothing to sell.

I won't do daily updates. Maybe not even weekly, but I'll let you know my progress from time to time. For today, the commitment is that I will write the opening scene. It's in my head. Now, today, it's time to get it out onto the page. A new beginning in more ways than one.


Chris said...

Hi Mary Stella,

What were the books that you wrote? I would be interested in reading them. Your blog and comments on Lucy are always brilliant.

Good Job starting a new one. Good Luck.


lora96 said...

Sounds amazing. I'm so sorry your previous efforts were met with discouraging reception. Let me tell you what I tell myself, what I tell my students:

Fail brilliantly. Fail with flair. Fail like no one else could. Bring your self and your glory to the failure and watch it blaze in the sky.

Can't wait to read it, babe.

Mary Stella said...

Thanks so much for the kind comments and generous inspiration.

Chris, All Keyed Up and Key of Sea are currently out of print. You can probably find used copies somewhere, or you can purchase them inexpensively ($5.00 and $3.00 respectively) directly from me.

My website is outdated, but if you'd like to read excerpts, go to

Thanks again!

Kara said...

Congratulations, Mary-Stella! I am happy to hear that you have found the happiness in writing.

I am eleven thousand words in on my first novel and I have so much I want to say that this time I will finish.

Lani's class was excellent and helped me so much. It was invigorating for me and my writing process.

I'll be checking out your excerpts from your previous works.

Lani said...

Yay, Mary Stella! I'm excited for you! It's always intimidating, getting those first few words down. The best advice I have about writing is that you MUST go into the rough with the intention of writing pure crap. Ironically, that's the quickest path to the best work. I know, I know, sounds counterintuitive but I swear by it.

Good luck, my sweet!

Delia said...

Yay! You can do it, Mary Stella! We'll be rooting for you.

Susan said...

I finished a novel a couple of years ago. And I threw it in a drawer. One friend read it and liked it. She shared it with someone I don't know and she liked it. They gave me a few questions they wanted answered. Another friend's reading group was going to read it. I printed out 10 copies and they all got too busy (apparently they've never read a book....!!! ever!!!) I gave it to my husband to read. And he did and he liked it. But. I threw it in a drawer and never looked at it again.

I admire your commitment to starting new. I've talked about it. But have done nothing.

A friend told me that I'll send it to someone when I'm ready. Perhaps. But maybe I'll never be ready (that's what I think now).

Go for it! (and if you want some feed back on what you write, I'd be delighted....I'm a fifty something from New Jersey too....we might just work well together!)

Mary Stella said...

Thanks again everyone. I really appreciate the encouragement.

Susan, I don't know if you're writing in romance or something close, but if so I'd like to suggest you look into the NJ RWA chapter. I was a member for several years but now live in Florida. There are a lot of great members and you'll have access to tons of terrific info if you'd like to take the next step.

It's where I met and formed friendships with incredible writers, including my critique partners. I work a little differently than beta readers, but appreciate your offer.

I didn't finish the scene today but I made good progress. Yes, Lani, it's pretty much crap writing but it's still helpful and it's more than I had yesterday.

I've heard Nora Roberts say several times that the only page she can't fix is the blank one. So true!

Becky said...

Congrats, Mary Stella! I hope everything about this experience is different and better than the last one.

susan said...

I didn't know they were called beta readers and I thought they were necessary to the process! So many agent blogs I've read and articles on how to get published have said how necessary these readers are.

I altered (not totally changed) the ending because of comments by "beta readers". The novel involves a love story, but is not a romance novel.

What a relief to hear that my gut was right about the writing process.

Think I'll pull that pile of paper out of the drawer and write the ending the right way this time!

(no crap writing talk...all writing is heading in the correct direction and is therefore, necessary, useful, and the best so far!!)

Hope said...

I can't wait to read the latest! And remember, you got two books published. Most people don't get ANY books published. So that's impressive right there. :)

Mechele Armstrong said...

Yay Mary! I'm so glad to hear you are writing. My pom poms are available anytime. :>)

Key of the Sea and All Keyed Up were awesome books. Definite place on my keeper shelf.