So here I am, a writer, and soon (hopefully) to be a published author. The thoughts I want to share with you here are two-fold. But first I’ll share a bit of my journey so far as a writer.
Growing up in a generation before electronics, we spent a lot of time playing outside. I tell you this to give you insight into what led, in part, to my love of writing. (Though I thoroughly believe that I was born a writer – but that’s a post for another day). When we gathered outside to play my friends usually turned to me. Why you might ask? Because it was my job much of the time to come up with what we would do. I took that job joyously and we would plunge into tales of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, or dragons, knights, and damsels in distress. Our Schwinn bicycles, complete with banana seats and tall sissy bars, became trusty steeds. Sticks morphed into six-shooters, bows-and-arrows, or swords. Thus armed we acted out the stories in my head.
Time passed and playing outside gave way to hours squirreled away in my room (ah the years of teenaged angst). It was during those hours alone (when my nose wasn’t buried in a book) that the stories we’d once acted out made their way to paper. I never shared them, I was much too shy for that, but I lived for the times when I could lose myself in either a world created by my hand or the hand of another author.
Sadly, I let life take me away from writing for years. It took a tragedy I will never recover from to lead me back into my calling. You see, one day in late January/early February 2009, two thing happened. The first was bad, but not terrible – I lost my job of five years. I firmly believe that the universe let that happen so that I would have the time to come to some kind of terms with what happened a little over a week later – my three-year-old grandson Bret died in a tragic automobile accident. That was one of those defining occurrences that give a distinct split to who I was before and who I became after.
It took a couple months to pull myself out of my haze of grief. But then with a job search during one of the worst economic downturns in history yielding no employment, I found myself with too much time on my hands. It was then my old love resurfaced. Within seconds of my idea to take up writing again, my mind was flooded with characters clambering to be included and a little fictitious town laid out before me. So in I plunged. In the almost ten months it took me to find another job, I wrote three novels.
Now I’ll get to what I originally began this post to say.
First point: Writing and the Rules
When I hit the keyboard all those years ago to begin what would become The Candice McGregor Mysteries series, I had a basic (though somewhat well-defined) understanding of the rules of writing based on a good education and hundreds, if not thousands, of books read (another topic for another post). It was only about five years later – after a couple relatives asked to read my books, and after prying the book from my terrified fingers, asked why the heck I wasn’t published – that I joined several writing groups and learned that there are A LOT of rules about writing I was completely oblivious to.
Here you might expect me to get on my soap box and preach the gospel of proper writing. But that is NOT what’s going to happen. You see, I found that the more I learned, the less I loved what I was doing. I spent hours agonizing about whether or not I was showing and not telling. If I should use said or something else in dialogue. If my characters had depth or my story arced in the right place.
I’m not going to say you don’t need to know the rules of writing, because you do, if for no other reason than to understand how you can break them well. But after you learn them, put them away on a shelf in the farthest back alcove of your mind you can, slam the door shut, and put a heavy lock on the door and then write. Let it flow. Love your character, immerse yourself in your settings, and tell your story. Don’t worry if it should be a comma, a semicolon, or a period. Don’t fret about ‘oh my gosh – is that telling or showing???’ – just write. Then when you type those two amazing words – The End (disclaimer >>> Don’t really put them at the end because like, nobody really does that) – THEN you go back to that alcove, take off that darn heavy lock, pull out all those pesky rules, and polish up your amazing story.
All that leads me to my second point.
Do NOT publish your book right away. (I hear your collective gasps and beg you to consider what I say next)
With the advent of self-publishing, you can polish your story (or think you have), create, or have someone else create, a cover that will draw people in – because yes, some people do judge a book by its cover – and press a few buttons, and bless the world with the amazing piece of art you’ve created. But I have a caution. Because I didn’t start writing to publish, it was several years before I revisited my original three books armed with my newfound understanding of the rules and regulations for fiction writing. And while I will stress here that I DO NOT believe in following all the rules religiously, there are some that simply cannot be pooh-poohed. Those three novels are proof of that. When I compare the now polished – and edited by an outside editor – books, the differences blow me away. And even if you go into a book full of knowledge, please, please, let your book sit for a few months before you push that button to launch your baby out into the world. So much perspective can be gained by simply stowing it away long enough to be able to revisit it without the rose colored glasses of new love.
So there you have it, a glimpse into my journey so far as well as a glimpse into my crazy mind. Light and love and well wishes to all you wonderful writers who have heeded the call of your heart to embark on a task that few will ever understand.
About Rylee Black:
I’m a wife, mother of four – two (a girl and a boy) I gave birth to two (amazing girls) I was blessed with through marriage- and sixteen grandkids – I think…at last count anyway. By day I’m a staff accountant at a major aggregate/asphalt paving/ cement company. By night and weekend, I live my dream of writing. When I’m not writing, reading, or working, I enjoy spending time with family or playing outdoors (this part doesn’t happen as often as it should sadly enough), and pursuing a newfound dedication to fitness and eating well.
I’m originally an Air Force brat whose dad’s final stop in his military journey was Lompoc, CA – the place I call ‘home’. Lompoc is neighbor to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and a federal prison, and has the distinction of once being billed as a flower capital. Marriage took me from sunny CA to Grand Junction, CO in 1991. Divorce and remarriage kept me there. Grand Junction. is a beautiful high desert town at the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers surrounded by the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa, and the Bookcliff mountains. Both these states I call home provide unlimited inspiration to my writing.