A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
After Chapter Twenty
Twenty years ago I was home with two young sons. I ran a small organic farm, taught prepared childbirth classes, worked as a doula, read cozy murder mysteries, and did freelance writing and editing. It was a good life, except for my cranky husband.
When my younger son started kindergarten and I had every morning to myself for the first time in seven years, I began to write the kind of mystery I loved to read. I implemented Write What You Know with a vengeance: I invented a small organic farm and a single (not what I knew) female farmer, with murder by pitchfork in the greenhouse in a small semi-rural town. I joined a critique group and read scenes to them weekly, learning and improving as I went. I loved my writing mornings.
May rolled around when I was two-thirds of the way through the mystery. I’m not a plotter, and didn’t have a clue who the villain was or how to finish it. And I had to get back to farming, so I saved the file on a floppy disk (did I mention this was twenty years ago?) and began seeding and transplanting.
By that fall, I realized my marriage was on the rocks and would end sooner or later. I was going to need a lot more income than that provided by a small farm I co-owned with aforementioned difficult husband, so I re-entered hi-tech as a full-time technical writer.
But commuting in the greater Boston area to a full-time writing job AND raising two wonderful, smart, busy boys meant I didn’t have time for writing a novel. I couldn’t carry the plot and characters of a novel in my head for the small windows of writing time that opened in my life: an hour Saturday mornings, a Thursday evening when I didn’t fall asleep reading a boy to sleep, a plane trip. Some can do this. I couldn’t.
So I started writing short stories. I played with flash fiction and won a Christmas contest in the local papers. I wrote a wistful tale of middle-aged romance that made it into a juried anthology. I created a story of international erotica set in West Africa. And I wrote many short crime stories that still sit unpublished in my Submissions folder, but I kept studying and learning, taking online classes through Sisters in Crime, joining an excellent in-person critique group, and attending conferences and workshops on the craft of writing. Oh, and I got divorced, too.
When a job layoff coincided with my sons being out in the world (one in college, and one graduated and self -supporting) and me having found a much nicer man to share my life with, I started writing novel-length fiction again. I was lucky enough to find another job after a few months, but by then I was in the habit of writing and kept it up. Now it’s almost six years later. I’ve survived dozens of rejections from agents and publishers, many weekends of head-down writing instead of relaxing and having fun, day after day of nail-biting waiting for news. But it was all worth it. I now have an agent, three mystery series under contract and another in development, a half dozen short crime stories published, and the courage to quit my day job last year to write fiction full time. And those awesome sons are two of my best early readers and most enthusiastic supporters.
Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.