Friday, January 14, 2011

When You Can, Pay, er...Send It Forward

Recently a writing pal got the call.  It's pretty much the same thing that minor league ball players feel when they get the call to the big league.  Or at least I imagine it is.  

She finished her book and started the query process and after a-lot of time and effort found the one agent that saw the same thing in her writing that I did.  She's got talent.

My friend has been very vocal on twitter that she had a little help from her friends.  Mainly me.  Now I know what you are thinking, "Come on, Kel, is this another pat on the back blog for you?"  Well of course it could be as this is my blog and I can write about anything I want to.  But in this case, no. 

It just so happens late on a work night I was just in the right place at the right time and was the one that responded to the call that came through via twitter.  She was despondent and down.  She had worked on this manuscript, for what seemed like forever to her, and she was done with it.  Maybe it really was time to hit the delete key and say goodbye to this piece of nothing that she had suddenly convinced herself was no longer any good. 

Now as writers we all hit walls.  The writing, re-writing, editing, weeding-out, tweaking process can be brutal and it was very obvious she hadn't just hit her wall, her wall had hit her back.  So I raised my hand and offered a fresh set of eyes.  I wasn't sure she would embrace that, but she did.  She grabbed onto the offer and sent me the manuscript the same night.  I think for her that was almost like hitting the delete key, just a little bit.  

She could put it out of her mind, even if for one night, secure in the knowledge that someone new was going to take a look.

I wasted no time.  Even thought she sent it to me very late and I had to work the next day I just couldn't help myself.  I really wanted to see this train wreck that she had put to paper and find how just how horrible it was so I could help put her out of her misery.  I am not going to say that I read the whole thing in one sitting but it was pretty close.  But the next night when I got home, I was right back to it.  

I read the story completely through like I would do any book.  Just for the enjoyment of it.  And you know what?  It wasn't a train wreck at all.  It was a story that captivated me completely.  On my second read through I made notes on my impressions of the story on what did or did not work for me and finally sent it back to her.  

I don't know if the notes helped her or not and really that isn't what's important.  What is important is when one of my writer friends fell down I was lucky enough to be there to help her back up.  It wasn't my comments or even that I read her story, it was just enough that I offered.  That I validated for her, that yes, you really are a writer and someone wants to read your story.  

This was quite a few months and a couple of revisions ago and I am so proud to tell you that she has found representation for her story and hopefully soon we will see it on the bookshelves at the local bookstore.  I promise her when that happens I will be there with bells on to buy my copy of it and to take pictures so she can see how her novel looks, sitting on the shelf next to the rest of the Young Adult books she will be company with.

The point of this posting today is social networking has given us a great gift in being able to connect with people who have a common love of something.  So when you see one has hit their wall, don't rubberneck and keep on driving by.  Stop, find out whats wrong and see if you can lend a helping hand, because you never know if you're going to be the next one to hit that wall.  I just promise to keep my fingers crossed that when you hit yours, it doesn't it you back.


Karla Nellenbach said...

Nicely siad, Kelly. I, myself, love to beta read for fellow writers. Not only does it feel wonderful to know that you are helping a friend in need, but the process of reading and critiquing others' work helps you to identify problems in your own writing and helps you grow as a writer. At least, this has been my experience :)

Linda G. said...

Feels good, doesn't it? I couldn't do without my betas and CPs, and I hope they feel the same way about me. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

If there's one thing I've learned by blogging is to definitely pay it forward. You don't know how many times I've needed help and miraculously someone shows up with an offer. And I offer help all the time. IT's the least I can do.

Candyland said...

Oh yes. It is a great group to be a part of. We all help each other get *there*

Michele Shaw said...

Kelly, You are a great supporter! I try to do the same for all the great writers I am privileged to know. I hope you will call on me if I can ever be of help:)

Patty Blount said...

*sniffles* Oh my God... I'm bawling my eyes out. You saved me that night. I wasn't just hovering over that Delete key. I was going to quit completely. Done, like stick-a-fork-in-me DONE.

I'd already written and queried the book once but I made a critical mistake with it. I had twenty-year-old characters with a YA premise. Last year, "New Adult" wasn't even a buzz word yet, so this story had nowhere to go. I took it all the way back to outline and started again, this time, with high school characters.

Like most of my projects, this one started off like a bullet train and quickly lost steam. It broke my heart. I knew it was a solid premise. I knew casting a former bully as the hero was a unique hook. What I DIDN'T know was that I could write it.

The self-doubt wasn't just crippling me; it was kicking the crap out of me while I was already down. My sons and my husband were tired of hearing about it already and didn't really want to engage in yet another conversation so they placated me with "Yes, dears" and "Yes, moms".

It wasn't what I needed.

I needed someone who isn't related to me, doesn't know me - Patty, the friend, mom, daughter, sister, whatever... someone who could safely say "This really does suck" if she means it. I needed someone without any ties to me, who had no reason to lie, to sugarcoat the harsh truth, or to blow sunshine up my skirt.

When Kelly said it was good, I could - and did - actually believe her.

I finished the story. And after a few dozen rejections, I finally heard those words we writers dream of hearing. And when I hung up the phone, the person I thought about was Kelly Breakey.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Great story - thanks to both of you for sharing it!

abby mumford said...

i love this story! and this partnership! and the novel in question! and you both! exclamation points all around!