Setting Sail in New Winds


English: Vessal seen from below

English: Vessal seen from below (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

I admit it. I had lost energy. Where once I had a clear cut goal of getting my book published, I had lost my direction. Like a ship becalmed, I felt stuck. Like all of us at times in our lives, the wind had gone out of my sails.

That was part of the reason I went to the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. I was looking for affirmation. I wanted to nail the pitch I did for the agent. I hoped to reap praise from my manuscript review. I was looking for new winds to fill my sails.

So going was a motivational plan and it worked.  I went to great workshops and, as I told people there, my learning was exponential. I hit my pitch. The agent asked for a query and 50 pages. I felt re-energized.

Later this week, I promise, I will share some of the nitty-gritty things I learned. There were many but that is not this post. This post is about what I learned about myself.

I learned I wasn’t becalmed because I am not a salesman (the title of one workshop I didn’t attend); or because, as I told myself, as did lots of people there, writing queries, basically a pitch combined with a synopsis wrapped in an elevator speech, was a different kind of writing, implicitly, not my kind, or theirs. Great reasons, perhaps, but lame excuses. My most important learning was that I was stuck because I let myself be.

Southbound sailboats entering the Banana Cut o...

Southbound sailboats entering the Banana Cut on Lake Gatún have their sails set to get a boost from the trade winds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Rohn said, “It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind, that determines where you go.” Writing and editing a book are hard and I hated turning to face the next heavy wind. I wanted my creation loved just the way it was, like a parent wants admiration for their child. I wanted the winds to come and sweep me away to where I wanted to go. I wanted easy. Send in a query. Agent loves it. Sell the book. Publish it. Get the movie deal.

That happens to some people. Lightening strikes and they ride the energy. It happened to several presenters. But not all.

In life, most often, the prince on the white horse never arrives. No Rumpelstiltskin comes to spin our straw into gold. It’s up to us. We can neither curse the winds that blow against us, nor sit in the harbor waiting for perfect weather. We have to get underway. Then we need to trim our sails to catch the wind or go back to the shore.

Last week I made a promise to myself, with you as my witnesses, to roll up my sleeves and work. I did this weekend. I went to the pitch workshop and then worked for hours into the night redoing my pitch.  The writer/agent, Dawn Dowdle, who reviewed my first 10 pages doesn’t like fantasy and she hated my first two pages, my Prologue.  She did like Lis, my main character.  She also gave great insight on Point of View. Ethan Vaugh, the agent I pitched, thought my concept interesting, but almost choked on the length of the book. He also prefers other types of fantasy to my kind. But, boy, can he write dialogue (his workshop). I may not sell him my book, but if I do, I will learn from him. I am determined to make the attempt.

So editing is step one. I thought I was done with it until I had a book contract. I learned I can have my book, as it is, the book, as Stephen King says, that I wrote for myself. Or, in his words, I can “take out everything that is not the story” and have something that sells. Looking at the prevailing winds in book publishing, I can’t have both. I have decided to face the wind, firm hand on the rudder, but still make the journey.

So look for me on the high seas. The Call and I will set sail even if we spend a week or two refitting ourselves for the trip.  I don’t know where the trade winds will take me.  I don’t know where the winds in your life will take you. Still, I am choosing to ride them, setting my sails as best I can, regrets left behind. I hope you’ll be there by my side.

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About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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