An Encouraging Note to Mistake Makers

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” ― Oscar Wilde

Some people come to the table with all of their research done. They’ve outlined every subplot of their future novel, they’ve studied the market, they’ve researched every aspect of publishing, and they’ve networked the hell out of their blogs.

I love those people. I’m impressed by them … but I’m not one of them. Even when I really, really try.

Instead I seem to learn best by making mistakes and having adventures.

Some mistakes I’ve made in life: marrying with doubts, wasting my time at NYU and

not having my book professionally edited.

Yes, most people are forgiven (and sometimes celebrated) for marrying and divorcing multiple times. Many of us think little of wasted nights at university, but everyone despises those writers who don’t pay to have their books professionally edited.

For a while (until I could afford to have my growing library of book titles edited) I kind of despised myself now and then.

But this is where the encouragement comes in:

Publishing mistakes can be fixed and sometimes in the fixing we learn a lot.

I consider myself lucky that I wrote my first book before I knew anything about publishing or else I wouldn’t have started. If I was told that I’d have to figure out how to blog or format documents I would have curled up in a ball despising myself all the more.

I published when a trusted friend dared me.

I published so that my children would have something to remember me by (they think I’m ridiculous for thinking of death all the time, but it’s in my blood).

A Historical Novel Society Surprise

When I started getting random good reviews I was pretty shocked (though I loved my book). When I got a really good review from the HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY I hoped and prayed that my self-editing had been enough —  yet knew deep down that no one catches every typo or weird writing habit for themselves. I gave it a good try — and with each re-edit I learned a lot about editing.

The First Negative Review!

When the first negative review came in and mentioned that I randomly always used the verb “pat” when I meant “patted” the worries flooded in. This was just a weird glitch in my brain, but how many other glitches were hidden from me???

Honestly, I was thrilled that my self-edited early versions of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD still managed to get mostly good reviews yet I knew I was selling myself  and my readers short and leaving myself open for the occasional vicious review about little typos and the word pat. I even felt some satisfaction when I found typos in traditionally published books. 🙂

Every writer comes to the point were they have to decide how devoted they are to their stories. After writing a six book series I knew — I  really, enthusiastically believed in my work (that’s fifteen years of my life right there!).

Having my series polished up by the great KEVIN BRENNAN at INDIE-SCRIBABLE EDITORIAL SERVICES this past year has been such an amazing experience and one that I’m not sure I would have appreciated as much had I handed over the books earlier because I was too insecure back then. Kevin is great at getting a feel for a writer’s work and stepped in with wonderful suggestions, comments and encouragement.

I won’t lie, I was incredibly relieved each time I opened one of his emails and read that he was enjoying the series and that the typos and occasional wonky wording were just that — occasional. On a professional level, the fixes were super important to me because I wanted all of my hard work to shine and flow. Fifteen years ago I didn’t even think I could write a short story and certainly didn’t believe  in myself enough to hire a REAL editor.

The point is, all those years ago I didn’t have the money, but more importantly I didn’t have the guts to consider myself a professional at anything. I did everything exactly how you’re not supposed to do it, but I’m still here. I’m more a writer now than ever. I’m more willing to defend my work and my life than ever.

I feel like things are working out just as they are supposed to.

I wrote a book.

I edited it myself and designed the first cover (more to come on that disaster).

My sister told me that writers had to blog. I didn’t even know what that was.

Through blogging I met Kevin and never even thought about his editing services — until the right time and then I knew without hesitation that it had to be him. It was all meant to be, in my humble opinion.  The thrill of sharing the series with a writer I admire who happens to be an excellent editor has been one of the highlights of my life.

How often are you afraid to begin things?

I get it. I really do. How often have you turned back after making painful mistakes? I get that too. But if you have a dream, don’t give up on yourself too early (and it’s probably always too early to give up). Your path is your path. Winding roads aren’t always a bad thing.

Just the other day I got the following review for THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD:

“I saw that this book was close to 600 pages. That didn’t daunt me, but I wondered if I would be engaged in such a long book? I was. For 3 full days. I really enjoyed The House on Tenafly Road. It is an interesting story with well written characters I came to care about. The Civil War history is well researched and accurate. There were many eye opening and fascinating facets of the Civil War, and the military in general, that I found interesting. I liked how the character of Katherine became a major one, and following her domestic life as a military wife in a then-remote outpost (Arizona) was excellent. I commiserated with her in the awful heat; pregnant, lonely and struggling in a barely livable hut. The all too real issues of war crimes, Native American relations, pain, family stress and addiction were woven seamlessly throughout this enjoyable read. One thing I will say; unlike almost all Kindle books I have read, this one had hardly ANY typos. There are some books that are so badly transcribed that they are almost unreadable…thoroughly frustrating and annoying. Not this book. Flawless and that made reading it truly enjoyable.”

So it took a while but I did it and you can too. No matter how off track you get. No matter what you don’t know yet. Just love what you do. Love yourself too –even when you make mistakes. They are often hidden gifts.

P.S. I obviously HIGHLY recommend INDIE-SCRIBABLE EDITORIAL SERVICES

 

Adrienne Morris is the author of

The Tenafly Road Series

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Dream Attained. Closing Shop.

001Fifteen years. Five books finished. The final chapters in the lives of my best friends soon to be sent off to the editor. I feel like I want to die.

Or maybe write an epilogue? Maybe another spin-off? My issue with God and writing books is that I followed the instruction to love my neighbor (in this case fictional) but hate the part after opening my heart where I have to say good-bye to people I so love. I used to ask: why love anyone if they’re only going to die or leave you heartbroken?

For fifteen years every book I read and every library I visited was in quest of information related to my characters and their world. I want to believe I was unearthing a real world in another dimension because at times I felt these characters urging me on and applauding the moments when I got them right. I want a near-death experience where these characters meet me at the end of the lighted tunnel. I want to say like Steve Jobs did before dying, “Wow. Wow! WOW!”

There you are, John Weldon, and looking so well!

002It’s raining outside, echoing my gloomy mood. I consider taking my dog’s anti-depressant but I won’t. I don’t like meds. I know mourning takes time. I’ve lost “real” people in my life. I’ve even lost favorite characters before, but to lose over ten people at once and to feel the loss so keenly is more than a little surprising to someone who only expected to write a cynical novella to prove I could.

I have ideas for the future but right now they don’t matter to me. I want to have an Irish wake but I have no one to invite. I want to wear a black arm band and sorry face so no one feels comfortable intruding on this sad time.

Someone will say, “You should be celebrating accomplishing something you didn’t think you could! You stuck to something, finally!”

I know I still have marketing to do and a final cover to enjoy being a part of. I have wonderful readers who encourage me with their reviews and comments. I’m happy with the ending of the series, but I’m afraid that everything now will feel changed like when you see an old flame on the street and find it painful to remember all of the good times between you. Maybe someone will be sad to read the final chapters of THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES one day. We shall see.

So I’m not quite closing my writing shop for good. I’m just putting a sign up: Closed due to death in the family. I know in a few weeks I’ll want to get started on another novel, but for now I’ll grieve.

Anyone find it hard to deal with endings? Real or imagined? Is there a character you really miss?

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Family Histories: It isn’t even past

Welcome to another installment of Family Histories. Today my featured guest is KEVIN BRENNAN, an accomplished novelist and editor. Kevin discusses how other people’s family stories have influenced his writing–particularly a family he knew growing up in the 1970’s during the Watergate hearings.  (The featured image is of my father and me during that same period–possibly watching the hearings)

I appreciate Adrienne’s invitation to write something for her Family History series, following a little discussion we had about phoniness and internet authenticity a while back. She mentioned her faith and I mentioned my atheism, and we both liked each other’s frankness on what can be a touchy subject online.

I’ve been thinking a lot about family history lately because I’m seeking an agent for my new novel about a unique family, the Heartneys. Their moment of crisis takes place in 1973, during the period of the Senate Watergate hearings, but the source of their pain occurred ten years before, when they lost a newborn child, then promptly buried their grief in order to function and survive. We learn through the course of the book that family history plays an even greater role than that in the story – always the gift that keeps on giving.

We all know that burying our feelings is no way to carry on, yet so much that surrounds family history concerns the well-meaning errors that we make in reacting to extraordinary circumstances. And the errors made long ago by an earlier generation can reverberate for decades. In my book, the parents of Mrs. Heartney – Arlene – protected her from her mother’s terminal illness, so that the sudden loss of her was a shock that Arlene couldn’t get over. It hardened her stance on life in a way that would come to affect her own family as the years went by, including the way she thought about her husband, a much more open man who could have helped her cope had she accepted his support.

The funny thing is, I knew a family like the Heartneys when I was a teenager, and though this isn’t their real story I took their dynamics and made up a story that seemed to fit them. And in that way they have become part of my own family history – someone who really existed and had a far-reaching effect on my life. I’ve never really stopped thinking about them.

I suppose that my family – hit with a difficult divorce when I was twelve and a pretty significant level of poverty that went with it – left an impression on others who were around at the time, wondering what our backstory was and how things got that way.

There’s always a timeline, a sequence of events. Family history is always a daisy chain of choices made along the way, and the consequences – good and bad – are what gets written down or photographed or just remembered in oral-history fashion. It can be inspiring, it can be cautionary, and it can be a source of pride, but it’s never just something that happened. It was created.

(And in the spirit of oral history, I use a hybrid point of view in this novel, with one of Arlene’s daughter’s telling the overarching story in first person but giving herself permission to tell us in third person about moments she wasn’t present for. It’s like leafing through a photo album but the pictures turn into YouTube clips before your eyes. We’ll see if it works for readers.)

The models for the Heartneys were the kind of people who, I could just tell, were going to have a hard time in life. I’ve tried to locate them over the years unsuccessfully, Googling the names I remember, but I was surprised one year when I went back to St. Louis, where they and I are from, to find that their house had been razed at some point and there was nothing there. No artifacts, no foundation. It was an empty lot. To look at it, you’d never know that a family had once lived there. Nothing about their history and their choices that had put them in that spot remained. Their choices might also have caused the loss of the house.

Who’s to say? That story will have to be a different novel.

KEVIN’S BLOG

KEVIN’S BOOKS

Utopian Artist Communities

Image

Should art be made in solitude? There is a certain loneliness that artists know. The process and emotions seem alien to others. Artists may tear each other apart but they know, they know the loneliness.

The Art Colony At Old Lyme:

http://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/exhibitions_AmericanPlace.php

Byrdcliffe:

http://www.woodstockguild.org/about-byrdcliffe/byrdcliffe-history/

Cos Cob Art Colony:

http://www.hstg.org/colony.php

Provincetown Fine Arts Workshop:

http://web.fawc.org/history

The MacDowell Colony

http://www.macdowellcolony.org/about-History.html

Yaddo

http://yaddo.org/yaddo/history.shtml