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How to make your dreams come true - And stay almost sane in the process

by SJ Covey 10 months ago in humanity
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I have over 7,000 heroes, I never met them. But, without them I wouldn't be here now. I mean I wouldn't be here... on Vocal.

How to make your dreams come true - And stay almost sane in the process
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Dear Heroes,

I don't write much non-fiction, perhaps this is because I enjoy being lost in the worlds and characters I create. Anyone who tells you writing is fun is sadistic and you should keep a safe distance from them.

Before us we have a couple of possibilities, the author is a serial killer in waiting and enjoys the fact they can do this on paper. Be this digital means or old school, and they literally can get away with murder.

Hopefully all us authors are not serial killers in waiting!

By Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

The other potential is the author enjoys punishing themselves, and had they been around in medieval times, they would be part of a religious sect which inflicted harm on themselves, to show their adoration of their deity. 

Yes, yes, I am an author and no I did not say this is fun!

I began procrastinating my first novel in around 2018. Having zero knowledge of the industry, nor any idea to investigate anything, because, had I done so I may have left the novel exactly where it was--in my brain.

For roughly eighteen months I create Pinterest boards of characters, items, locations and clothing. (Which you can witness here,) perhaps I pin one or two others, you understand exactly what Pinterest is like for distraction. I believe this Christmas, I pinned a lot of gift wrapping techniques with videos which I never have nor will attempt to recreate.

By Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Character sheets are my next quest of procrastination which I successful fall foul to. Five pages of characteristics, quirks, likes and dislikes per character. You can guess where this is going, I am putting off opening my MacBook and typing Chapter 1.

January 2020 bursts in along with whispers of a virus which no-one pays any attention too. We are far too busy planning our goals for the year, and booking exotic foreign holidays we will not have the opportunity to go on.

My goal is to write.

By Josephine Bredehoft on Unsplash

Chapter 1 begins, once I start I can't stop.

Every spare moment I sit at my MacBook furiously typing away as the plot starts to uncover itself and the ideas start to form on the pages in front of me. I scribble in notebooks while sitting on a tram enjoying my hour and a half commute to work and back. 

Time I spend in the gym I give with reluctance as I sit in the changing room jotting the ideas which come to me in my yoga class or as I swim. With not enough hours in the day to fulfil my need to write, and I am going to bed later each evening, and getting up earlier to add some words before work.

March arrives and the murmurs of COVID19 have grown into much more than whispers and conspiracy theories. In my full time non writing job I am plotting how we will man the office with half staff, and do a deep clean on switch day. Before the second half of my team come in for the following two weeks. This seems a pointless waste of time and energy as surely this will all blow over. 

Holding a strange interview for a member of staff where I am forbidden to offer her a customary handshake at the start of the meeting. Unbeknownst the interviewee contacts the agency the next day to say she has symptoms.  

Shelley calls me to inform me of this, and following protocols, I tell HR who tell me to go home immediately, don't speak to anyone, don't take anything other than your laptop, don't pass go and don't collect £200.

Back then I was not alone in thinking this will blow over in a couple of months tops. How wrong we were. Being the positive Polly I am I wonder how I can turn this to my advantage. The lightening bolt hits me as I'm sitting down for dinner. Continue to wake up at the same time, and use this time to write, also use the time you would be travelling home to write.

And write I do. 

By Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

By the 19th April 2020 I post on Facebook and Twitter a picture of my finished novel complete at 131,746 words. I am so proud of myself, I tell anyone and everyone. They then ask me questions.

"What is the book about? What is your story called? What genre is your novel?"

This may sound ridiculous, but I didn't know this. I wrote, and I've finished writing. Now what? My go to platform of choice is Twitter, and I reintroduce myself discovering an amazing writing community who is supportive, informative, and they don't laugh at me wanting to call myself an author. I ask lots of questions, and find out some interesting things.

I need beta readers, I head to Facebook and some volunteers come forward. The first person to give me feedback says no way will she commit her time to so many words and I shouldn't expect anyone to. Wow! Talk about soften the blow,

Other beta readers are much more encouraging and I realise I need to re-think a few things, the tone and style of my writing plus my main characters age suggests my genre is young adult. I need to edit which I do, over and over 8 rewrites later I am at 76,000 words which something else I learn is this is within the accepted limits for my genre.

This is where my 7,000 heroes jump to the rescue. Teaching me what querying is. They explain how to write a query letter, I attend webinars and engulf myself in all things author-ness. Who to approach, and books to buy which list agents and publishers who are open to submissions. What software to use, (I use HubSpot to track my submissions which I cross-check against a spreadsheet.)

With my hero's help as beta readers and supportive friends. By September 2020 my book is complete with a name The Order Of The Dragon -- The Witches Shield, (this changes later, I will explain why.)

Editing is boring, editing is necessary. Query writing is soul-destroying, unless you possess the thick skin of a rhino. Constant rejections with various depths of feedback, which although is par for the course on some days this becomes overwhelming. I succumb to the tears which engulf me in a mixture of exhaustion, failure and upset at not fulfilling my dreams.

During these days a close circle of fellow authors I have become close friends with through this journey are on hand to say the things non-writers are quite able to say. Their words don't pack the same punch as someone who is going through what I am, or they have previously. We boost each other's spirits and if not for them the following events will never come to pass. 

By Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

We have the more positive days of, "each no brings me closer to a yes." The small celebrations we share when one of us gets a story published or some recognition of the hard work it takes doing what we do. 

A lot of my friends are already published authors, and a mixture of self published and traditional. Good reviews are celebrated, bad reviews are picked apart by our fellow scribes and the recipient bolstered by the others. The heroes don their capes and leap to the rescue pointing out the grammatical errors within said reviews.

Unable to fly, or leap a building in a single bound, their talents lie elsewhere and I thank them for this often. One of these talents is encouragement and sharing ideas, consider how lonely writing is. Lost in our own worlds with characters we shall never meet, places we may never go, and answers we may never receive.  

In October 2020, and still in lock down I begin to take part in VSS which is introduced to me by heroes. VSS is a Twitter hashtag #VSS365 I believe is the original. Many variations have come to fruition over time, one of my personal favourites is only with us for the month of Halloween, my favourite holiday season, and 1 weekend every month. #VSSmurder. Participants are so creative and frequently leave me wanting more to the story than Twitters 280 character limits.

I never expect this is something I can do I have never written a short story I am convinced this is so much harder for an over writer like me. I surprise myself and with hero encouragement extend some very short stories into longer short stories giving me more items to submit and have rejected. Vocal comes to my rescue, again I am introduced by a hero and find a home for my creations.  

60,000 words for book 2 are also completed in October, which I place to one side to take part in National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo.) Pointed out by a hero. In November. I meet more heroes during this experience and complete the most complex and emotional 50,000 words I have written to date. 

Next some of my hero's invite me to collaborate on a book of short stories with them and what an experience this is, proofreading each other's work and collaborating with like-minded individuals. The short stories I continue writing, the submissions, I continue to receive rejections.  

I have a major wobble and want to give up and pack everything in. They pick me up these heroes some strangers, some family, some lifelong friends. We all need to surround ourselves with cheerleaders.

March arrives and I receive messenger notifications, emails and texts which upon opening tell me I have won the first competition I have entered one of my short stories into. Yes you guessed right, a hero gave me the nudge to enter. There is a fair amount of squealing and my first piece of work is published in April.  

The Best original horror short story, the character is based on another hero's character which my character is obsessed with and I dream up as a bit of a giggle. Inspired I restart the query process which I have parked for a few months to regrow my thick skin.

My competition nudging hero pops up again and asks, "SJ have you seen this call for submissions, this sounds right up your street." I trust her implicitly as an incredible Beta reader. I roll my sleeves up and 3 hard weeks begin of a final read through of the full manuscript to ensure no glaring errors or plot holes are within the story.  

This is when I have another legendary wobble, the name of my book. The character is a witch, this is true but I realise this isn't what the book is about. The book is a coming of age story. A supernatural element is the vein running through the story. This is a character driven story, as such I don't wish to mislead or misrepresent with the title.

There is no dragon, this relates to the name of a secret order, I spend hours listening and reading about how important the title of a book is, this makes me more nervous. My trusty blank piece of paper is before me and I plot my mind map writing words and themes of my book. I nail it, checking with others what their thoughts are. We are all in agreement--'The Order, FamiLIES,' is born.

Yes it takes me 3 weeks, by the end I have a full manuscript correctly formatted to the publisher's specification with a cover letter and synopsis. This is no ordinary submission, this is a call for a trilogy. I also attach to the email along with the synopsis of book 1 and the manuscript, a synopsis for book 2, book 3 and the prequel which was my NaNoWriMo entry in November 2020.  

Having also written a spin off short story with 2 characters from the prequel I include this synopsis as well. The synopsis of the series is the final attachment and I press send. The date is 24th June on the 27th June an email confirms receipt of my submission.

Life carries on, I continue to receive rejections, and it feels like thousands of them. It isn't. I am engrossed editing book 2 and ideas for sub-plots are firing for book 3 which I intend to set in Egypt a place dear to my heart. My plan is to finish editing book 2 before November, so I am ready for NaNo to enter the challenge again to write 50,000 words in a month. Work is busy and I appreciate this will be tough so break down a schedule of what I will need to do each day.

The 10th of August, we are still in lock down, and I am still working from home. Missing colleagues and human interaction yet loving spending every day with not only the imaginary characters in my books but a real one too. My dog Bauer is a dog in the book, obviously he's incredible.  

Reaching for my phone to write my daily gratitudes in my journal and check what the VSS words are I spot an email notification with the words Hello Sarah we would like to contract the series... Is all I read as I scream profanities giving my husband a mini heart attack.

"What's wrong, what's happened?" He asks as I appear to have developed Tourettes as I repeatedly drop F bombs in disbelief. Tears are filling my eyes, I can't read the now open email and thrust my phone towards him, hands shaking. Snatching the phone back at the last moment, I want to read this to him, and I do. They want all 3 books in the series, the prequel and the short story.

I cannot describe what I am experiencing, I am so happy words cannot describe. A niggle creeps in bolstered along by my imposter syndrome waving his arms in the air like he just doesn't care and I don't tell anyone, how can I say anything to my heroes. I don't want to look like I am gloating and I don't want to nor, can I do this without them.  

I am fully aware without them I will have given up long ago. Eventually I build up the courage to share my news. Yes, you know them better than me. They are all pleased for me, and we all share in the success and continue as we always have, helping each other supporting the bad days and encouraging along the way.

Some of my heroes collaborate and we write an anthology of short stories all in different styles and focuses around an object which changes shape and passes through the stories. You can get a free ebook of it on Amazon, The Decagon Key as long as you promise to review it.

What happens after the dream deal? The hard work begins, don't give up on your dreams. My goal was to write a book, next to publish a book, now? For my book to be a bestseller, and after this? To see my book come to life in a film or TV series, with my heroes right alongside me. One of the first things I need to do is a dedication page for book one, of about 100 words. I give thanks, by name to so many of my heroes who deserve a special mention 2 pages later this goes way over 100 words. Oops! 

If you enjoyed my story I would love you to click on the heart either at the start or below. There is also the option to subscribe if you would like to read more of my stories. Thank you so much for taking the time to read with me today.


About the author

SJ Covey

The Order, SJ's NA series is coming soon.

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