The Proofreader’s Parlour
A BLOG FOR EDITORS, PROOFREADERS AND WRITERS
In the martial art of Taekwondo, one of the life skills taught is perseverance. Thirty-seven years out of 48 amounts to roughly three-quarters of my life, so I would say that qualifies. I was a writer (by definition of character) since before I learned to form my first letter of the alphabet, but it was when I was 11 that I decided to write a novel and, indeed, had started several over the next few years.
In my childhood, not only was there no Internet, but there were no writing camps, courses, or support for young writers—at least, not in any form that was accessible to me.
With little experience and no connections, I wrote anyway, completely on my own, because I couldn't not write. I figured out the mechanics of dialogue and punctuation by examining books, and I was a closet editor.
But, as you can imagine, writing was just a frill—not a lucrative way to make a living. So I got a “real” life: went to real school, had a real family, and worked real jobs—and took a hiatus from writing for over 20 years because, honestly, who had time for that kind of luxury?
Except one day, in a new age, I discovered online courses that offered writing instruction. It was late 2005 or early 2006. And I began to learn to write.
In July 2006, I conceived my current story, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE. In the years that followed, as my novel wove itself together, my life unravelled at the same rate. And I discovered this: The worse my life got, the better my writing became. I couldn't lose!
BEYOND THE PRECIPICE came about simply because I wanted to write a novel and I had a protagonist. All my life I had one protagonist or another who worked through life’s issues, and I spent my high school and university years observing people, studying natural dialogue, and—yes—jotting down ideas on napkins in the school cafeteria. Inspired by the writing courses I took in 2006, and realizing at this stage in my life that sacrificing writing had brought me absolutely nothing, I took up writing with renewed commitment. At the Edmonton International Fringe Festival in August 2006 (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), a musician ignited my central idea for BEYOND THE PRECIPICE, at that time still untitled. But, as time went on, I incorporated a number of messages I had about the complex world of family dynamics, unconditional love, aspirations of kids as they grow into adults, human error, guilt, and forgiveness. BEYOND THE PRECIPICE became the book’s title, which had a meaning both physical and metaphorical. The novel also unveils the unfortunate reality of how money determines whether a young person disappears into obscurity or goes on to live a full, successful life—and that sometimes we simply can’t do it on our own; we need the help of others who believe in us.
In the first half of 2009, I designated myself a writer. Not an employee who writes at night. Not an entrepreneur who provides a range of services. A writer by profession. With that new mindset, I published four articles in a career training institute newsletter by 2010. At night, I wrote the novel.
But life became the very Catch-22 I had tried to avoid, with my energies spread in all directions and, specifically, out of the office. What I really wanted to do, once again, came last, late at night after work—unpaid, as one year stretched into another, which stretched into the next. Until I sold my writing, I would not have time to write.
There was so much to learn about blogging, social media, websites, publishing, and how the craft of writing was changing—and the changes were accelerating. My dream was like a beach ball on the waves, always dashing out from under my hand just as I thought I had it in my grasp. I knew that no matter how hard I worked “after hours,” it was not enough time. And after years of working through every evening, weekend, and holiday, I was burning out.
But, not able to leave well enough alone, I was going to finish the novel that churned inside me, and send that, along with my magazine articles, out to publishers. This was not entirely a selfish motive. I was a single parent now, and I needed to be around for my kids.
The writer today has the best chance if he has a platform, a blog, and connects through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or other formats. This puts a sample of his writing “out there,” and he can gain followers whose interest he has captured with his upcoming work. In essence, he has to be involved in his own promotion, and this starts before he ever submits the book for publishing. Today, there are more publishing options than ever before, such as self-publishing and e-books, but in spite of that, paper book publishers seem to be busier than ever.
We can now connect to the world of writing in a way the writer of the past could not. Our colleagues, instructors, and publishers need not even be in the same country! Our websites, blogs, and Facebook pages reach around the globe. Organizations such as NaNoWriMo, writers’ guilds, courses, writing camps, and even personal author sites connect us to other writers, whether in our own community or farther out. As for learning what's required for a submission package, which includes a novel synopsis and query letter, a writing course can be a good first step. Submission requirements for each individual publisher are found in The Writer's Market, which is also available online, and in The Canadian Writer's Market. There are specific versions such as Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers.
For me, the next milestone is to get paid so I can continue to write, which means I have to publish my novel. I finished BEYOND THE PRECIPICE on November 13 of this year. Mine was probably the hardest, most convoluted journey, which involved external as well as internal obstacles. I only succeeded when I intended to be a writer. But the struggle to recognize the legitimacy of the writer within is not unique. Many people with whom I have spoken share a similar story. Some didn't recognize how important writing was to them until later in life. Others weren't taken seriously or didn't think they could make a career out of it. Still others were trapped in isolation until accessible inroads into the writing world developed.
For 37 years, I waited to say that I finished my first novel. If Taekwondo teaches us to persevere, then let this be a testimonial that perseverance does eventually get you there.
People must not give up their dreams. If their dreams aren't getting any closer, and it's killing them, then they need to adjust the way they do things. They need to first change their own thought patterns, intend their goal, and then change things in their environment to make the goal accessible. I know it doesn't work with everything. I have other dreams that I may never be able to fulfill. But, at least, pick one, the most important one, and follow it to the end.
Copyright 2011 Eva Blaskovic.
Eva Blaskovic is a writer/editor based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She runs a freelance business at Sirius Word Writing and Editing Solutions and was featured by Outsource Effectively in November, 2011. Her articles focus on How-to, Business, Parenting, and Travel, and she has just completed her first novel, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE. She published four articles in 2009–2010, including ‘Mentorship: Increasing Business Success’ and ‘What to Expect From, and How to Work With, Your Writer or Editor’. Connect with Eva on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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