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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Visions and Revisions

Surprise!

Yes. I radically changed the look of my blog.

Why?

Because I have a new perspective. God blessed me this week. He used two people to speak truth to me, and my eyes were opened. I'm filled with hope, joy, and a burgeoning sense of excitement.

~ ~ ~

One of the people who helped me is my friend and life coach. Four years ago, when my daughter had started high school and no longer needed me in the ways she had before, Karin helped me explore my interests and identify my long-time dream of being a writer.

As some of you know, I was given a tremendous Christmas gift this past December: an offer of representation from Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. I shared this exciting news with Karin, who rejoiced with me. This week I asked her to don her life coach hat once again and help me examine my priorities since I'm in a far different place than I was when we'd last worked together. One of my desires is to help other writers in whatever ways I can.

In the past I've been hesitant to share my struggles. To admit I wage a daily battle with self-doubt. To be real.

No more. Karin helped me see that exposing my vulnerabilities can be beneficial to me and to others.


When I interview my guests at Romance Writers on the Journey, I often ask them questions about discouragement and doubt. Their answers have inspired me. I've learned I'm not alone in my feelings of inadequacy. I've also seen how encouraging it can be to hear how my guests faced their challenges and what they learned as a result of them.

So, I'm going to shake off my self-constraints, be more honest about the ups and downs of my journey, and hope I can be a source of encouragement to others as so many have been to me.

~ ~ ~

The second person who spoke truth this week was my awesome agent. When Rachelle made her offer of representation, she told me my story needed work. She called this week to discuss the revisions.

I'd had six weeks to worry about what Rachelle's concerns were. And when it comes to worrying, sad to say, I'm an expert. My critique partner, Anne Barton, suggested I write down everything Rachelle might say, which I did. My Worst Case Scenario List included the need to work on characterization, believability, pacing, plot issues, and length–to name a few.

Rachelle called this past Monday, and we spent an hour going over her thoughts on my story. I learned that my List wasn't BIG enough. The story was in worse shape than I thought. In the course of our conversation, she showed me how I had started with a great conflict. However, I had inadvertently released the tension one fourth of the way into the story. She likened it to letting the air out of the balloon too soon.

The fix? Are you ready?

I have to rewrite the final three-quarters of the book. Actually, that's not exactly true. I have to write a new story, the one that goes with the new beginning I'd added.

What? Ditch 75,000 words and start over?

Yup! But not to worry. I'm fine with that. In fact, I'm honestly looking forward to it. Rachelle saw the major weaknesses in my story, which I had been unable to see, and conveyed them to me with a balance of compassion and directness I admire and appreciate. Because I want to produce the best story I possibly can, I'm more than willing to press "delete" and start over.

Those of you who remember that I spent a significant portion of last year rewriting this very story may wonder how I can face a massive rewrite and not be disheartened, dismayed, and depressed. I can do so because of my perspective. I have a new vision of what my story can become.

I spent five years working for a special education textbook publishing company some years ago, one of those as an assistant editor. When I began writing, I didn't entertain starry-eyed visions of selling my first book. I knew I had a great deal to learn and expected my path to publication to span several years.

Four years have passed since I began writing. Because I'm a teacher's wife, I will use an education analogy and liken this time to earning my bachelor's in creative writing. I've graduated and embarked on the next phase, that of working with my esteemed professor (aka my agent) and am now pursuing my Master's degree. My thesis project is my novel. Under the tutelage of my knowledgeable instructor, Dr. Gardner, I will learn how to take my writing to the next level.

I'm on a journey, one I knew would involve highs and lows. While some might view the news I received as a downer, I don't see it that way. I have a story Rachelle and I believe has potential to be something far greater than it is now; her knowledge, experience, and guidance; the support and assistance of my husband and critique partner, among many others; and a desire to put forth the effort required to produce a story worthy of submission.

In addition, I have a Savior who upholds me and Who has revealed to me repeatedly that I'm where He wants me to be. I look forward to seeing what He has in store and in sharing my progress (and my pitfalls) with you.

• • • • •

Have there been times in your life when someone spoke truth and gave you a new way of viewing a situation or circumstance? How did you respond? What did you learn from the experience?

21 comments:

Katie Ganshert said...

Keli! Thanks for sharing this. You are a blessing and an encouragement. I know you will rise to meet this challenge with grace, persistence, and tenacity. Just think what a beautiful story you will end up with!

sherrinda said...

Oh Keli, you are a treasure! You have been my biggest cheerleader and have encouraged me more than I could ever say.

May I just say that I love YOUR teachable spirit!!! I think if I had been told to rewrite 3/4 of my book, I would sit down, cry, and think I'm not a real writer!!! But then again, Rachelle...
THE Rachelle...offered you representation and believes in you. She knows you have what it takes and have the drive and the spirit to get the job done. You will succeed and your story will shine and fly off the racks! Woohoo!!!!!

I love your new blog look! It is so incredibly pretty and fits you perfectly. :)

Blessings and prayers are lifted up your way and you dive into your revisions. Keep us updated on your progress.

Krista Phillips said...

Wow! Rewriting 3/4 of your story IS a huge task, but you should more than up to it! I'm sitting here thinking what I would do, and I think it's about the same as you, although I would allow myself about one hour of wallowing before I hiked up the boot-straps and went to working.

Perspective is EVERYTHING, and your education analogy is spot on! That's exactly how I'm viewing this "pre-published" stage... it's learning!

Jody Hedlund said...

Keli,

Thank you for your honesty about what you're going through. I know when I've shared openly, that's when I get the most encouragement from my writing friends (including you!) and it helps me to keep going. And since I just did major rewrites, I can empathize with what you're going through. You can do it! It won't be like starting from scratch because you'll certainly be able to keep using some of what you've already written. You'll just have to figure out what to cut and what to keep!

Blessings! And we'll be here cheering you on!

Laura Frantz said...

Keli, I often think about all that God is doing in your life and this revision is another example of His best for you. He knows what you're capable of and will bring about the book of your heart. I've had to do a major rewrite myself and you know what? I ended up falling in love with the book in a far deeper way - and falling more in love with Him in the process! Praying for you - and so excited for you.

Rachelle said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Keli (and not hating me!). I think it's extremely helpful for writers to see what the path can look like. I believe in you and I know you can do this! Jody's comment was right on... there's a lot of good stuff in your manuscript, so you just have to figure out what to cut and what to keep!

Cindy said...

I love the new look of your blog--the flowers are beautiful!

Thank you for sharing this story with us. It's so encouraging to all us writers out here that you have such a positive perspective. There's a great deal to learn on this journey and if we can see it the way you're looking at it, then we'll become better writers and better people because of it.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I love this post. LOVE it. I think the reason I'm so drawn to it is because of your willingness to move toward improvement! My life goal. You are so open to becoming the best writer you can be--what a beautiful quality!!!

I have felt frustrated with revisions and battling insecurities. Your attitude is Christ-like (taking it on with humility and determination).

I also dig the new look.

In the About Me--what is your addiction at Taco Bell?

~ Wendy

Keli Gwyn said...

Katie, you know all about revisions. I'm sure I could learn oodles from you. If we lived closer, I'd treat you to lunch and invite you to tell me all you learned during your process. I sure hope your little fellow is feeling better. Unexplained fevers are scary.

Sherrinda, you're a gem! Thanks for the prayers. I feel 'em. And just for the record, I did shed a few tears, which is par for the course for me. I cry when I'm happy, sad, confused, excited . . . I had to teach our daughter what tears of joy were when she was two so she wouldn't worry about me since I cried every time she mastered a new skill. :) This time my tears were the result of embarrassment. I couldn't believe I'd been so blind. But, hey, we all have to learn, right? I'm enrolled in Revisions 102 and intend to be a star student.

Krista, I like your take on things. You strike me as a woman with her head on straight, and I admire that. Wallowing, if allowed to go on too long, is counter productive. If one faces the fear, accepts the facts, and forges ahead, she'll feel better faster. Worked for me. Of course, I do have the support of my amazing friends, which helps ever so much.

Jody, you've been such an inspiration to me. I admire your willingness to share your heart and your process. When I grow up, I wanna be like you. :) And thanks for the reminder that there is much in my story I can still use. Gwynly--my incredibly supportive hubby and plotting partner par excellence--and I have been discussing how I could rework some of the stronger scenes so they would fit the new beginning.

Laura, what a blessing you are to me with your tender, God-centered heart. One aspect of my journey is watching in awe all that the Lord has done and continues to do. He was with me as I absorbed the news regarding my revisions, and I felt a sense of peace. And look at how He's affirming me through all of you, my dear friends. What a gift!

Rachelle, thank you for taking time out of your very full schedule to visit my blog, leave a comment, and totally make my day. Your belief in me is priceless. And, wow, do you ever know your stuff! I'm so impressed with your insight, knowledge, and concern for your clients, including lil ol' me. :)

Cindy, thanks for your kind words. The journey we writers have chosen to take isn't an easy one, but it sure can be exciting at times. There's so much to learn, but I find the process fascinating. I remember marveling as my daughter acquired speech. I feel like that as I look at how far we've come. Sure, we are still WIPs, but sharing the journey with such awesome friends makes it lotsa fun.

Thanks to everyone for the compliments on the new look. I know those of you dropped by early saw a different version. It was nice, but I like the Victorian feel to this one, since my stories are set in that period. Now, if I could only figure out why I can't get the lovely post divider I found to work. I followed the directions, but it refuses to show up. Low-teach Keli wanders off muttering to herself and scratching her head . . .

Keli Gwyn said...

Wendy, thank you! Taking a risk and putting myself "out there" foibles, failings and all is new for me. Your words of affirmation touched my heart, and, yes, they brought a tear to my eye.

I hear you on the battle with frustration and insecurities. That pesky duo comes to play almost every day. Just last night I worked with my life coach friend on learning how important it is not to let those uninvited pests gain a foothold. Karin had me write a list of the blessings I receive when I remind myself of truth and don't give way to doubt. I'm far happier when I focus on the great gifts I've been given instead of my shortcomings. I know you have many gifts and are an amazing woman, so I'm sure your list would contain a host of benefits you receive when you ditch doubt.

Taco Bell. Ah, the mere mention of the words makes me salivate. I have three regular orders, all of which the staff know by heart: 1) A green (aka spicy) bean burrito with extra green sauce and extra cheese, 2) A tostada with extra cheese and add fiesta salsa, and 3) Two crunchy tacos with extra cheese and add fiesta salsa. OK. Gotta stop, or I'll end up drooling on my keyboard. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

I love the new look of your blog! So pretty!

You have such a great attitude. I know how discouraging this business can be, but when we take good advice, we learn and grow and get further. That's the key.

The best advice I've gotten has been from an agent. I take professional advice seriously and am thankful they're willing to give it out.

I bet you're going to have a lot of fun rewriting this book. Just like putting a puzzle together, except this time, you have the guide.

Best wishes!

Susan DiMickele said...

Thanks for you raw honesty. I look forward to further following your writing journey. Remember, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! All the best!

Anne Barton said...

Hi Keli! I love the new look. :)

Good luck as you begin the rewriting. You know I'm here to support you in whatever way I can.

Anne

Terri Tiffany said...

I am so glad you shared this with us. Both you and Jody give us such an accurate view and all of us need it. Me most!
I know you can do this even though it seems daunting.What better person than Rachelle to tell you?

Jessica said...

Hey Keli,
First, I LOVE your new blog look. It's gorgeous and it really does look like you. :-)
Second, I love that you do Romance Writers on the Journey. I can't always get over there because it takes some time for me to read, but when I do I'm always inspired and encouraged by others' successes. I love that you do such a wonderful job with that blog.
Third...I'm BlOWN away by your incredible attitude. I hope, hope that if I'm ever in the situation you're in I can respond with as much grace and humbleness and teachability as you. Wow. You inspire me with this post. I think you're awesome and am so grateful to have you as a blogger friend.
:-) I've no doubt that you'll succeed in these rewrites in an amazing way!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Keli,

What a brave woman you are! Wishing you a much easier time during this round of revisions!

Thanks for sharing your journey and your wisdom.

Sue
PS Love the new look!

Keli Gwyn said...

Jill, I love your analogy of the puzzle and guide. That's how I feel. I spent part of yesterday literally cutting apart a hard copy of my story into the pieces (scenes) and mulling over how to put it back together.

First, I examined the box cover (my conversation with Rachelle and her awesome revision notes) and said, "Oh, so that's how it was supposed to look." Now, I'm identifying which pieces don't belong. (There are a lot, and I'm battling some embarrassment for not having seen that.) I'm also setting aside those pieces that do fit. When I finish this phase, I'll take the old pieces, add new the ones I'll be creating, and set to work reassembling the story.

Keli Gwyn said...

Susan, thanks so much for stopping by and for the reminder that I have my loving Lord upholding me every step of the way.

Anne, I'm blessed to have your support, encouragement, and assistance. Far more valuable is your friendship. What a gift!

Terri, although the task ahead of me does seem daunting at times, I feel like I will get it right this time because I have an awesome partner in Rachelle. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: she knows her stuff!!!

Jessica, you dear, you're making me cry. Wowsers! Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. It's nice to know my efforts have made a difference. I've been given so much by so many, and I long to return the favor.

Sue, what fun it is to be called "brave." I don't feel that way much of the time. If you knew how often I doubt myself, you might not believe it. However, if bravery can be defined as forging ahead in spite of the one's fears, perhaps I have a smidgen. :)

Thanks again to everyone who has complimented the new look. All I did was choose it. The talent behind it is the owner of ShabbyBlogs.com. She does great work and is so generous to offer her creations for free.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Wow, Keli, your attitude is incredible. I know this is a lot of work and can seem daunting, but you can do it! I'm excited to see what God does in and through you and your story!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh my goodness, Keli. I have missed much.

Love the look of your blog, and I am so praying for you in this huge revision process. Rachelle sounds like an awesome hands-on agent. What a blessing for you, Keli.

Keli Gwyn said...

Kristen, when I first learned that I needed to rewrite 3/4 of my story, I had a brief period of thinking, "Not again." That quickly gave way to a feeling of excitement because this time I have the benefit of Rachelle's expertise. I'm eager to transform my story into one far stronger than it was.

Eileen, I'm quite happy with the new blog background I found. Love the Victorian feel.

Rachelle's years of experience as an editor are a blessing to me. She knows this business and wants me to have a well-crafted story before she submits it. She pointed out where I'd gone astray, offered suggestions on how to fix the problems, but left it to me to do so. She's trusting me to make the changes, although she's there if I have questions. I feel truly blessed to have her as my partner.