Wishing You a Fabulous Fairytale

I have a picture of my muse that sits where I can see it when I’m writing. I found her on the cover of a card that read: Wishing you a fabulous fairytale. I’ve never tried to define it before, but somehow she represents both the part of me that loves the magic of words and the person I’m writing for. Someone who believes.

When I first started writing it was just me and my story. I didn’t have a critique group. I hadn’t been to any conferences. I didn’t subscribe to Publishers Marketplace, or haunt the Blueboards, or follow writing blogs. I didn’t google agents or pay attention to who edited my favorite books. I didn’t know what social networking was. I didn’t have a Twitter or a Facebook account, and I didn’t have any friends who were published authors. I read books, attended author events, and wrote.

When I thought my story was as good as I could make it on my own I crawled out of my writing cave and began looking for ways to make it better. I attended my first writing retreat, hooked up with a local critique group, applied for an internship reading slush for a local literary agency, went through three rounds of revisions with an amazing editor via the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, decided my manuscript was ready to query, and started researching agents.

I sent out my first queries. And then I tried to write my next book. And I flailed. With all my newfound industry knowledge, there were suddenly so many things to consider. What kind of writer did I want to be? I’d written a funny middle grade fantasy so my next book should be another funny middle grade fantasy, right? But what if my first novel was destined for the drawer as so many first novels seem to be? Did I want to write another MG novel? Or did I want to try YA? Or even adult?  

I now had friends who were agented, published, professional writers, and they advised me to take my time and appreciate my freedom as an unpublished writer. I didn’t have to worry about befriending bloggers, or marketing my book, or doing school visits, or book tours, or any of the myriad number of things that can eat up your writing time when you finally sell your first book.

I wrote first chapters and abandoned them. I attempted pre-plotting and beat sheeting and outlining and NaNoWriMoing, but nothing stuck. Then I received a revise-and-resubmit request from an agent for my first novel, and I was relieved to be able to focus on that. And then I flailed. For months. I’d learned so much since I’d started writing that first story, I knew I was capable of more than just fixing the totally doable things the agent had asked me to address. Maybe I should just rewrite the whole thing? But if I was going to do that, why not write something else? Something even better!

I broke up with my novel. And then I went back to it. I’d put so much work into it, I couldn’t just leave it to die in a drawer, could I? Yes, I could. It was time to move on. Or maybe not. It was such a great story! I went back and forth until finally my critique partners intervened. They told me I needed to write something else. That if it was meant to be, my story would still be there when I was ready to try again. 

I packed up my first novel and banished it to a box in the garage. I signed up for a fast drafting workshop and discovered that when you commit to writing twenty pages a day you don’t have time to flail, you don’t have time to worry about anything except getting the story down. And I did. I rediscovered what had gotten drowned out by all the noise outside of my writing cave. By all the knowledge I’d acquired that had nothing to do with writing a damn good story. I’d lost sight of my muse, that sparkly girl wishing me a fabulous fairytale.

I love the magic of words. And I can’t wait to share them with someone who believes. 


Oh, Kristen, so much of this I recognize as my journey, too. This comment is going to be long.

You've done everything right.

Philip Pullman expressed this phenomenon so well in His Dark Materials, when Lyra's unconscious ability with the alethiometer fails her and she has to learn to use it consciously, and she panics:

"Oh, Will," she cried, "I can't do it! It's left me!"

"Hush," he said, "don't fret. It's still there inside you, all that knowledge. Just be calm and let yourself find it. Don't force it. Just sort of float down to touch it..."

But she's too tense and she can't make it work.

"Why—" Lyra began, and found her voice weak and trembling—"why can't I read the alethiometer any more? Why can't I even do that? that was the one thing I could do really well, and it's just not there any more—it just vanished as if it had never come..."

"You read it by grace," said Xaphania, looking at her, "and you can regain it by work."

"How long will that take?"

"A lifetime."

"That long..."

"But your reading will be even better then, after a lifetime of thought and effort, because it will come from conscious understanding. Grace attained like that is deeper and fuller than grace that comes freely, and furthermore, once you've gained it, it will never leave you."

So none of your journey has been wasted effort, Kristen. Your writing will be all the richer for it. Just follow Will's advice. Be calm. Don't force it. Just sort of float down to touch it. I can't help but feel that Pullman was talking about writing, about any natural talent that must be honed by craft to reach its full potential.

For all you went through, I really do believe you came out of it stronger, and with a stronger book. I'm so happy you found the magic again!

Kristen, I love your muse and I love your dedication to your own vision. Thank you.

Thank you, Lia :). That Pullman knows his stuff, I love His Dark Materials and the parallel you've drawn.

Thanks, Beth- my first fangirl!

Thank you, Robin! I think my muse and Saint Edna could be good buddies :).

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