Writing Diary: Getting Started

Between getting distracted by fanfiction and various real life busy-ness, it took well over a year for us to finish our first original manuscript. I think part of that delay was due to our reluctance to move away from the fandom comfort zone; we’d been writing fanfiction for so long that we had our niche and were comfortable there, but at the same time, we could tell our enthusiasm was waning bit by bit, and there really wasn’t any other fandom that was interesting both of us enough to write for it. It seemed an ideal time to transition to original writing, but making that jump – letting go of the comfortable old shoe in favor of something new and unknown – was daunting.

But we did it at last, and we got feedback on the draft and made considerable revisions accordingly, which we both agreed made the work much stronger. Finally, on December 5, 2011, we submitted our manuscript amid much squeeing and virtual high-fiving over having actually gotten to that point. Whether it was accepted or not, we had turned a major corner, and we were both aware of the significance of what we’d done.

Both of us agreed that we loved fandom and writing for fandom, and we feel like writing fanfiction has been beneficial in countless ways; it let us hone our skills together and separately, and we learned and improved through practice and through the feedback we received over the years. But when we started to realize we were running out of things to say in fandom, we thought maybe it was time to start developing our own voices and our own worlds. Making the break was difficult, rather like taking training wheels off your bike for the first time, but writing – and more importantly, finishing – that first manuscript opened the flood gates for us. We now have an ideas list that numbers in the double digits.

On January 10, 2012, we got our first rejection letter. After a bit of wallowing (okay, I wallowed), we rebounded and regrouped, and we made a new plan. Instead of trying to submit our novel, we would write to specific prompts on the Call for Submissions pages for various publishing companies; that way, we would be writing something we knew the company wanted, and if it was accepted, we’d get our foot in the door with one company and have a success to list on our resume when we start shopping the novel around again.

The challenge for the first prompt we selected was keeping it short. The maximum word count was 18,000. To quote Arionrhod’s response at the time, “That’s a chapter for us.” But we decided we’d devise a simple, straight-forward plot and rein in the characters if they threatened to get talkative. We decided to write the draft without keeping an eye on the word count, and in the end, we came in comfortably under the limit at about 15,000-some words, pre-editing. We revised and edited that work and sent it off on February 11, and the publishers said we could expect to hear something before the end of March. Fingers crossed!

After that, we tackled another, shorter prompt which forced us to pare down to under 12,000 words, which proved to be much more of a challenge, but we got it done. That story is being looked over by outside eyes (we were concerned we’d pared it down so much, it didn’t flow as well), and we’ll get it edited and submitted in the next few weeks.

Currently, we’re back at work on a full-length manuscript, also written with a particular Call for Submissions in mind. This one is a historical piece, and so far, it’s going pretty well. We’re about 20,000 words in, and we’ve got a rough outline for where we want to go with it.

After we finish the historical, we’ll have to see where we are. There are a couple of other Call for Submissions prompts that we’re seriously looking at, and depending on how successful we are at getting our current prompt-work accepted, we may try shopping the first novel around again. If our current prompt-works aren’t accepted, I’m not sure what we’ll do with them: save them for submitting elsewhere another time or throw them up here as freebies. We’ll have to discuss it. Either way, they won’t go languishing!

Mainly, our goal is to keep writing. We want that first sale – oh, how we want that first sale! – but it’s not about the money so much as it’s about receiving the affirmation that yes, we can do this. We can write for publication. We can get paid for this. Maybe not enough to quit our day jobs and write full time, but still. So we’re going to keep writing and keep submitting, and eventually, something will stick. Eventually, we’ll get to see our work in print and be able to say, “We did it”.