For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write! When I was young, I’d write poems and short stories—nothing more than a few pages. My first attempt at writing an actual book came in third grade with a children’s book called Misty’s Adventure. I even illustrated it. I wrote the book for an all-school writing contest at Spring Creek Elementary School in Rockford, Illinois. And I won first place! After that, the stories continued to flow. In high school, I started a number of different projects, but I never finished them. I’d get 40 or 50 pages in, and suddenly, I wouldn’t know where to go next. So, I’d start something different, and the same thing would happen. Over and over and over again.
Although writing has always come easily to me, actually finishing a novel is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. In 1999, I finished my very first full-length manuscript. I went through the entire query letter writing and sending process (and back then, everything was sent via snail mail with a SASE…thank goodness we now have email), but I came up empty-handed. Looking back on that manuscript now, I completely understand. My second full-length novel was finished in 2002. Once again, I went through the “seeking an agent” debacle, and this time, I got my first agent! Unfortunately, she ended up being a fraud. So, I was back to square one. In 2005, I started writing I Am Lucky Bird, but—much like my many other projects over the years—I powered through the first 50 pages and stopped. But it wasn’t writer’s block this time. Rather, an unexpected life change (not entirely uncommon in adulthood) caused me to put the book aside. Work and being a single mom made writing a challenge, and so I focused my attention on other things, all the while thinking about Lucky and her story and hoping I’d find time to eventually finish it. And I did. Another unexpected life change redirected me back to my writing, and in 2010, I applied to graduate school at Antioch University in Los Angeles for my MFA in Creative Writing. I needed a swift kick in the butt to get me back to writing, and within a few months of being in the program, I finished I Am Lucky Bird.
For anyone thinking of writing a book, I highly suggest developing an outline with chapter summaries and character sheets. I have hundreds of ideas floating around inside my head, but most of them are incomplete. If I try and sit down and start typing out my ideas, they fall short because I haven’t fully developed the characters or plot or structure. Start with the outline, and then tackle the novel! I’m also a firm believer in writing what’s in your heart. The only downside to this is the realization that what’s in your heart might not necessarily be what other people want to read. If you just want to write a book to write a book, great. But if your #1 goal is to find a publisher, you have to consider whether your story is marketable. If an agent and/or publisher can’t sell your book (no matter how much they might like it), they won’t take you on as a client. The best advice I can give, though, is to just keep writing!