So someone, after scouring through my Tumblr, posed this question to me, and while I already answered it, I decided to create a better answer in the form of a blog post.
Was it difficult to get to where you are today? What did you have to do?
Yes, it was difficult. I had to pretty much struggle on my own because while I did find decent beta readers, they couldn’t do for my story what needed to be done–the sequel to When Stars Die. While they were able to point out what was wrong, they couldn’t step outside of the box and present to me a different way of going about it. Instead they were trying to fix what was already there instead of what wasn’t there, and I needed the latter. I just didn’t know it at the time.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across YALITCHAT and decided to intern for its Founder did I really begin to learn how to write. She obliterated my first chapter. I was so daunted at first because I never had anyway tear the chapter apart. In fact, people loved it, but they were only trying to fix what was there. The founder told me to start my story earlier, that the chapter could work if I did that, and I was just astonished. How come no one had ever told me that before? How come it took a professional freelance editor who charges a hefty sum to tell me that? Perhaps I should have learned to reach outside the box myself, but no one was telling me that.
I had a short story published before meeting this brilliant woman, but novels are so much different, and at the time, I was more of a short story writer, even though I wanted to be a novelist. It was lucky I had never subbed a novel before though because I probably would have learned some very difficult lessons. So I interned for her and she looked over my book. My writing was spot on, but my novel storytelling skills needed some work, and I learned immense amounts from her on the art of storytelling, something that, in spite of reading many writing books and receiving critique from others, I couldn’t manage on my own. I was lucky, blessed even, to have found her. I had to work hard for her, and she in turn worked hard for me.
As soon as she sent me critiques, I got right to work on them and sent them back to her within two hours. I struggled the most with chapter three. I re-wrote that thing five times before finally understanding that something needs to develop every chapter, be it character or plot. She believed in me and my story, as did I.
Unfortunately, for reasons that have nothing to do with her editing, we had to part ways, but I took what I learned from the sequel and applied it to When Stars Die. The sequel couldn’t work as a first book because there was so much information within the first half alone, so I had to unearth the prequel and get to work on it because it spread the information over the entire book. The sequel simply reiterates it and reveals more historical background of my world. I re-wrote When Stars Die five times to get it to its current story. It was not easy, especially because I was going over everything by myself, with no one reading it, not even a single word or sentence. After I re-read it a sixth time, I finally sent it out to my beta reader and took a break from writing (because of burnout and depression).
Depression made me apathetic about my writing career. I no longer cared about When Stars Die. I couldn’t even care that my beta reader loved it. She even had chapter-by-chapter notes for why she loved it, instead of simply shoving it back at me only saying she loved it with nothing else. But I had to get my stuff together. I couldn’t throw away a childhood dream because depression was trying to tell me the happiness I sought wasn’t worth it. I found AEC Stellar, took a chance, and got an acceptance within a few days. I was, again, lucky and blessed. So even though I got accepted on a first go around, I had to pull teeth to get myself as a writer into shape to be able to create the story found within When Stars Die without needing a professional telling me this is what I should do. Now, of course, I’m going to have edits, but the point is that I was able to do this on my own, with only one beta reader, because the Founder of YALITCHAT taught me how to be my own self-editor.
It is never easy to become a great writer. A good writer. Even a decent writer. We can dream, but we also need to strip ourselves of this grandeur that we have when approaching writing. Any published writer will tell you that in spite of having a contract, it is no fairytale getting there.