On 2013: The Learning Year

The tail end of 2012 and all of 2013 was a whirlwind.

I went to Africa. I got engaged. I moved. I made lots of paintings. I got married. I  finished and queried one book (WAITRESS) and wrote another (DAMSELS)– both New Adult contemporaries. I got several requests for partials and fulls– and also my share of rejections. I got great feedback that I will never forget. I accepted that it’s okay if your first book isn’t “the one,” or even your second or third or tenth, as long as you keep writing. Then, on a whim, I wrote a third book (FIRSTS), a Young Adult contemporary. An idea popped into my head and the book pretty much wrote itself. (Wouldn’t it be nice if that could happen all of the time?) I completed it in approximately three weeks.

2013 was a year of learning for me. I learned how I write best, how to write faster, how to use my time more efficiently. I learned to be less critical of my writing, and I learned that putting ideas on paper is the only way to ensure they become something other than an idea. I used to be almost afraid to write because I thought I was bound to disappoint myself– nothing could live up to the expectations I set in my head. But now I realize that NOT writing would be the only way to do that. Because to get anything remotely resembling a novel, you have to start with words.

I found out last year that I’m a full-fledged pantser. When I wrote WAITRESS, I tried plotting and felt completely stifled. I made outlines and didn’t follow them, and found my characters getting up to things I didn’t plan. I got frustrated that I wasn’t following my own formula. So when an idea came to me for DAMSELS, I decided to just fly with it and not outline at all. I let the characters dictate what happened next. And it was a hell of a lot more fun for me. I didn’t always feel in control– and I liked it. I thought DAMSELS would be a possible trilogy or series, but I haven’t written the sequel yet– mostly because of FIRSTS and the urgency with which it infiltrated my mind.

I also read a lot last year. I read New Adult, Young Adult, thrillers, classics, non-fiction. I have always been a voracious reader, but last year I read with a purpose. I read critically, and I sought out those “it” factors that made me interested in a book. I thought a lot about what makes a book readable, and what it came down to for me wasn’t necessarily genre or style or voice (although voice is an undeniably huge factor). But what makes a book a great book, for me, is that I just can’t wait to find out what happens next. It’s the suspense, the tension, the stakes, the hook.

This year, I have several ideas that are practically beating against the inside of my brain. I used to worry about not being able to generate ideas for books, and I wondered how authors could keep coming up with fresh material time and time again. But I’m learning that it’s about going with your instinct and writing the story that only you can write.

So going into 2014, I set some goals for myself to build on what I learned in 2013. I’m going to research and query with the hopes of finding an agent, but I won’t make the mistake of waiting for something to happen without working on another project. I always want to feel excited by a project and my ability to grow, and I think part of that is always working on something besides what you’re querying. Mostly, I want to always remind myself exactly how much I love writing. I’m going to keep creating characters and their stories, because there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

This blog is another goal for 2014. One of the best things I did last year was join the online writing community. I met some awesome writers on Agent Query Connect, which is a terrific resource for aspiring writers. I also created a Twitter account and met more great people there. Twitter exposed me to the world of contests, which was both overwhelming and rewarding. I learned the art of creating pitches for my books in 140 characters or less– and if there’s one thing harder than writing a book, it’s writing a pitch. I submitted FIRSTS (previously titled FAST GIRL) to Brenda Drake‘s Pitch Wars last month and was lucky enough to be chosen as Lori Goldstein‘s  mentee and Evelyn Ehrlich‘s first alternate. Working with these talented ladies has been a truly wonderful experience, and FIRSTS– and my writing in general– has improved as a result.

I put off starting a blog because I questioned whether I had anything interesting or original to say, but 2014 is also going to be the year I put myself out there a bit more. I want to connect with even more amazing people in the writing community, and I want to support other writers. I want to make this a space where I share my thoughts and things that inspire me.

Happy 2014, and happy writing! If you have stumbled upon my site, I hope you come again.

— Laurie

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One thought on “On 2013: The Learning Year

  1. Pingback: One year later | Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

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