Originally published in the Black Diamonds of RWA chapter newsletter
Edited to update.
Looking Forward by Looking Back by Jill James
Sometimes it seems in the writing world everyone is looking forward. Deadlines for manuscripts written, asking what your next project will be, asking where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years. We are trained to say, “When I get published, not if I get published”. Always looking forward to the prize on the horizon.
Day by day, if we are serious about our craft, we will see improvement. But, will we recognize how far we have come if we don’t take time to look back at our beginnings? I’m sure everyone has heard a writer, maybe even you yourself, talk about that first awful manuscript, the one gathering dust bunnies under the bed, or languishing on a hard drive never to be seen. The question to ask is, are they as awful as you remember and are you brave enough to dig it out and compare it to today’s work?
Several years ago, I did just that. I dug out the then, ten-year-old children’s story I wrote for my son’s then-2nd grade class. “The Story of Sammy Bootlebutt”. I wrote and illustrated a story of Sammy the frog finding his place in the world. Even though my RWA chaptermates’s comments were encouraging, that wasn’t why I dragged it out of the closet. I wanted to show myself how far I’ve come. Sammy is an okay story, but simple. It was fun to write, but so are my stories I write today. Everything I’ve learned along the way goes into each story I write. Everything I’ve become along the way goes into each story I write.
All the classes, workshops, critiques, and conferences add up to where my writing is today. I’ve learned POV, GMC, layering, subtext, using back story to build characters, being organized, how to plot, using astrology for characters, world-building, and a dozen more workshops I’m sure I forgot. I’ve now published with a small press and by myself as a self-published author. Sometimes when I glance back I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. Take a few moments and take a trip down the ‘memory lane’ of your hidden stories and you might find a gem, you might find a dud, or you might be amazed too, at how far you’ve come.
So, we all need to “look forward” to where our writing will be in the future so we can “look back” to today and marvel how far we’ve come.
Happy New Year and may your 2020 be happy and prolific!!
Jill James, writer of contemporary, paranormal, and zompoc romance*