In all the excitement of the last week (I still can’t believe I actually have an agent - woohoo!), my thoughts wandered inevitably to the very beginning of my writing career, and how much things have changed since then. I originally sat down and began writing my first novel in June of 2008 during the 7th anniversary trip Kirk and I took to Gulf Shores. With my shiny new MacBook Pro in hand and an uninterrupted week away from work ahead of me, I eagerly wrote my very fist sentences:
Lady Evelyn Moore, oldest daughter of the fifth Marquis of Granville, doting sibling to three beautiful sisters and one dashing older brother, loyal friend and confidant, and proud granddaughter of the Duchess of Kensington, was about to take a stand.
By the end of the week, I had my first chapter (not to mention a very nice tan, lol) and could scarcely believe I was actually doing it: actually sitting down to write a novel as I had been wishing to do for the past four or five years. The giddy, heady sense of accomplishment lured me back to the computer again and again, writing more and more chapters —despite the fact I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.
In the weekends following our return, I would hole up on the back porch with my laptop, and click away at the keyboard with slow, measured strokes. Sometimes, when I wasn’t too exhausted after a day in the field, I would work late into the night in random hotel rooms all across Alabama, squinting in the dim florescent light on the single bedside light. It was a slow process, but infinitely fun, and I am glad each and every day that I decided to undertake the challenge.
Over time, my fingers became more nimble and my writing more polished, and by July of 2009 I decided to take the crazy leap of faith and quit my job to write. In January of 2010, I completed that first novel, celebrating with a joyous 2 AM iChat with my sister on the west coast. I remember screams, cowbells, and the groggy emergence of my husband from the bedroom to kiss my cheek and offer a sleepy congratulations.
I had my novel, and it was a thing of beauty: brilliant, perfect, and positively swoon-worthy.
It was only later, when I had the benefit of my fabulous crit group, that I realized that most of what I had written was rubbish :) ‘Was’s’, and ‘that’s,’ and ‘out of’s’ abounded, bogging down the action and showing my newbieness. I learned that I was heavy on the well-worded but pointless scenes, and light on conflict, goals, and motivation. That very first sentence was eventually cut, as was much of the first 4 chapters. As a matter of fact, in the year since that triumphant typing of ‘The End,” I have revised, edited, and in some places completely rewritten much of the manuscript. I received good and bad contest scores, good and bad advice, and good and bad feedback from agents.
I’ve learned so much about the art of telling a story, of holding readers’ interest, and navigating the waters of the publishing world. The first manuscript took years and many rewrites – and in fact I am about to embark on yet another revision—but the second ms I wrote in under 6 months. And, if you ask me, even as a first draft it is much better than my first book.
But I never gave up on that first novel, and after all those rewrites and revisions, this was the one that caught my agent’s attention. With invaluable advice from my her, I truly think I finally have the tools to make that first novel as good as I always wanted it to be. Even with the crazy amount of work looming in the month ahead, and the daunting task of actually becoming published, I’m still sitting here grinning, thinking, Wow, I can’t believe I finished a novel :) I can hardly wait until the day I can say, Wow, I can’t believe I wrote a published novel!
Have you ever set an impossible goal, and just went for it? Are you working towards one now? Whether it is writing a book, learning another language, completing a marathon, or even raising a relatively well-adjusted child ;) Tell me about it!
The recipe this week is born of decadent celebration :) I hope you enjoy this light yet rich, crunchy and smooth treat:
Sarah Bernhardt Cookies
(Slightly modified from recipe found here)
1 package macaroon cookies
3 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening
For filling: In double broiler over simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water, heat to medium high, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
Place yolks in metal stand mixer bowl. Set over a pan of simmering water (I used same pan still simmering from double broiler). Whisk yolks constantly until warm to the touch (about 2 or so minutes). Transfer bowl with yolks back to mixer stand and with the whisk attachment beat at medium speed. Slowly add hot sugar water. Turn speed to high and allow mixture to beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Turn speed down to medium and drizzle melted chocolate in slowly until well combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Place mixture in fridge to cool for about an hour.
Once cooled, place filling in piping bag with large tip. Pipe in swirls onto the bottom (flat side) of the macaroon cookies. Transfer to freezer until very firm (about an hour)
To Top: Melt chocolate in double broiler. Once smooth, stir in shortening and remove from heat. Allow to cool til just warm.
Remove cookies from freezer. Working quickly so filling doesn’t melt, place cookie on a wide fork over chocolate and spoon chocolate over the whole cookie. Place filling side up on a cooking rack over a cookie sheet and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Enjoy and share!