Hello from the newest writer moving onto the block! I’m thrilled to be part of this great group of writers. Let me set down my things and introduce myself.
My name is LaShawn. I’m an African American stay-at-home mother of a 3-year-old little boy. I’ve been making up stories since kindergarten, but it wasn’t until college that I took the first steps in becoming a writer. My favorites stories had always been in the fantasy genre, a favorite I share with my grandmother. However, back then, there were very few books, if any, that had African characters in it. I wanted to change that, so I started working on my first fantasy novel I titled “The Weeping of the Willows”. That was at the beginning of 1994.
Yesterday, I finally finished the first draft of that novel.
It’s a pretty hefty novel–over 460,000 words. Granted, I’m not that slow of a writer. Out of the thirteen years between when I first started the book and when I typed “The End”, there was at least seven years where I didn’t write a thing. No stories, no novel, nothing. Part of that was due to graduating college, adjusting to married life, and working as a full-time secretary for an African mission office. But part of that also stemmed from being just too drained of creative energy. After spending all day in the office, I’d come home too pooped to do anything but veg. There was a tiny part of me that wanted to write, craved to write–during the first couple years of my marriage, I kept up my writing skills by doing fanfiction, which didn’t require creating original characters. It satisfied my writing bug a little, but soon I was too exhausted to even work on that (plus, back in those days, our house only had one computer–and when you have two techno savvy people fighting for it all the time, things can get pretty ugly).
So for seven years, I did not write. The story inside me faltered, then dwindled to a wisp. Occasionally, I journalled. But mostly I moped. I used to brag that I could take anything and make a story out of it, but I couldn’t do that anymore. Nothing came out. So I worked, came home, and pretty much figured I wouldn’t write anything again.
All that changed when my son was born.
My husband and I had agreed that I would stay home with him. So I left my job, intending to take on a part-time secretarial job with our church. But it didn’t pan out as well as I thought. For one thing, it ain’t easy trying to breastfeed a screaming six-month-old and type on the computer when your pastor is in the next room trying to work on a sermon (I gotta give props to my pastor, though. He was pretty patient and never once complained about the noise). When I realized it was too much for me to handle, I stepped down. I wanted to work, but I wanted to do it on my own terms in a way that would help me to be with my son.
Then, out of nowhere, this little voice nudged me: Say, didn’t you always wanted to be a writer when you grew up? Don’t you think that time is now?
For the first time, I thought about that novel I didn’t finished. Well…yeah. I guess I am all grown up now, aren’t I? So I pulled it out of the file cabinet I’d thrown it into, intending to finish it…and that’s when I realized that I had written about sixteen chapters worth of crap. I had completely forgotten my characters and plotlines, some of the stuff I written were physically impossible, even for a fantasy world, and there were so errors in the text that if I was to write it again, I needed to start over from scratch. A very daunting prospect indeed for someone who hadn’t written a thing in several years.
But here’s something–all those years of not writing did teach me a lot. Working in an African mission office, I learned much about African culture–I even had a chance to go to Africa with my boss in 2002. When I read my story over, I saw that what I had assumed was African culture was false. What I knew now gave me ideas on how to flesh the story out, making the story a lot stronger than it was when I started. I also was able to approach the story with a fresh, new perspective of being older and (presumably) wiser.
I didn’t start rewriting the book right away, but I did start taking steps into becoming a writer: I started writing more. I did practice exercises. I wrote a short story and sent it off, and it got picked up by Mytholog. I attended a Writer’s Festival in Aurora and got to speak to many authors who gave wonderful advice. And after that festival, I started rewriting my book from scratch. That was six years ago.
So now that I’ve given you all this history on the novel I wrote, I’m letting you know that I’m not going to work on it anymore. I’m putting “Weeping of the Willows” on hiatus.
Oh, don’t worry. I don’t intend on letting it sit for another seven years. Seven weeks is more like it. While it’s good to involve yourself in a work, sometimes, it does wonders for your creativity to let a work sit and simmer at the back of your mind for a while. What I want to do is let my book rest for a couple of months while I focus more on short stories and just some fun writing for a while. Then, when I am ready to return to it, I’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes, be able to figure out what needs to stay, what needs to go, what needs to be revised, and what needs to be added (though I do hope that when I finish the second draft, the word count will at least be cut in half).
Even though I’ve accomplished writing a book, I still feel that I’m just starting out as a writer. There’s so much I have to learn, not just honing my skills, but also learning the technical side, and of course, enduring rejection after rejection after rejection. I don’t know if this book will ever make the bestseller list–I don’t even know if a publisher will take it. But I’m going to try my hardest to make it so. And I am deeply honored that you get to share this journey with me, all the trials and tribulations, and all the joys and jubilations, too.
Because in the end, it’s all about the stories, right?