I always dreamed of being a famous writer. I figured that since I loved to read, had an above average vocabulary along with a rudimentary grasp of basic grammar skills, it couldn’t be that difficult.
During my first few years of teaching and coaching, I was too overwhelmed to pursue my dream of becoming the next great American author. After five years in the classroom, however, I had systems in place that afforded me more free time to pursue my dream. My first idea was to write children’s books. Following previous logic, I figured that since I had once been a child and now had children of my own, how hard could it be to write books for children?
I signed up for a correspondence course from The Institute for Children’s Literature. They requested a writing sample which I gladly submitted. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I could have copied a page from the dictionary and been admitted to their program. They assigned me a teacher who would collaborate with me on the course curriculum. I was required to complete 10 writing assignments over the course of 12 months. After completing the course, they hinted that I would be ready for publishing.
Here’s what I learned right off the bat: Writing is hard!
I slowly worked my way through the course one assignment at a time. All communication was done through the mail back then, so it took a long time to write, submit, rewrite and polish each assignment. After 18 months, I finally graduated. I had several stories that I felt were ready for publication. Since I didn’t have (or even know) a literary agent, I wrote an introductory cover letter and started submitting my stories to publishing companies that printed children’s books. Just as quickly, I started receiving rejection letter after rejection letter. For two years I tried in vain to get somebody to publish one of my manuscripts. I struck out across the board and became discouraged. For the time being, I put my dream of becoming a published author on hold.
Two years later, while attending a teachers’ conference, I was introduced to the editor of a parenting magazine who was one of our presenters. We got to talking about writing, and I told him about my aspirations of becoming a published author. He told me he was looking for somebody to write a bi-monthly humor column about raising kids and wondered if I’d be interested. I told him I’d love to give it a shot!
We came up with a format for the column and he gave me a word count along with a date for my first submission. I immediately got to work and whipped up my first 800 word column. I sent it to my editor and waited for his response, assuming it would be perfect. When he returned my submission, it was covered with so many mark-ups, comments and suggestions that I could hardly see the original content. To be honest, I was disappointed, offended and a little angry. I swallowed my pride and reworked the article for the first time. This back and forth went on for several weeks before he was satisfied with my article.
By the time my first column was ready for publishing, it bore little resemblance to the original manuscript I had submitted. What I learned throughout this painful process was that he was a much better writer than I was. He knew what his readers wanted; he also knew how to get the most out of me and my abilities as a writer. Over the course of six years, we collaborated on 36 issues with my column featured on the back page of the magazine. Over time, I came to an understanding of what my editor was looking for and really began to enjoy the writing and editing processes.
After the column ran its course, they bought my manuscripts and published them in a book called Because I Said So and Other Things Christian Fathers Say. I was finally a published author! I’m currently in the process of republishing a 2nd edition of that book.
Writing is hard! Even the most distinguished writers in the world don’t magically turn out finished manuscripts. They all work with copy and content editors, proofreaders, researchers, indexers and designers. They write and rewrite again and again before finalizing a polished piece. The process can be frustrating and exhilarating at the same time.
One of the main reasons I started Skrive Publications was to work with first-time authors who would like to publish a book. Together, we can work through the challenging yet rewarding process that results in a great piece of writing!