I haven't always been a writer.
Unlike so many other authors, I did not start writing stories as a young child. I honestly can't say it's something I've always known I wanted to do.
Oh, sure, I'd often say "I wish I could write a book." But it wasn't something I could actually foresee myself pursuing twenty years ago. And I didn't truly think it was something that would ever actually happen. (I say lots of things, like "I'm going to exercise three days a week" and "I'll keep my closets organized." I have good intentions, but never seem to follow through for long.)
I got married and became a mom when I was just starting college. My family and classes took up all my time. It was a hectic but also a very happy time. Sometimes I look at my sons, and I can't believe they are grown-up adults. Where did my little boys go? I look in the mirror and wonder: Where did those laugh lines come from?
I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't trade one moment of time spent with my husband and boys. Not one fraction of an instant in their lives, or mine. We've always been a close family, and I'm very proud of that.
So, it wasn't until my children were teenagers that I really started thinking about writing.
Somewhere along the way, I wish I could do this morphed into Can I do this?
I sat down and wrote a children's book. I'm a preschool teacher, so that seemed the logical genre for me. Though that book sits in a drawer in my mom's house and will likely never be published, it was my first attempt at writing, and I'm proud of it.
Other ideas began to take on a life of their own, and I slowly began to write more.
At this point, I did not share that I was attempting to write a book with anyone except my husband and sons. It seemed personal. Almost embarassing. I didn't talk about it. It was my 'big secret'.
During this time, I did lots of research, and took online classes about writing. I continued to write. Practicing. Sending out query letters to agents and publishing houses.
I learned what it takes to become a published author. And my characters took hold of me and wouldn't let go.
I'm still learning.
I may not have always been a writer (or at least I didn't know I was), but I've always been a reader. Reading has always been my favorite source of entertainment. I used to be able to finish a book in days.
Opening a book has always been my great escape, my magic door, my unsolved mystery.
These days, with a full-time job and writing taking up all my free time, I just don't have the time for reading that I used to. Often, when I finally do pick up a book, I'm so tired I can only seem to read a few pages before falling asleep.
And even more frustrating, I have found that my enjoyment in reading a good book has been altered. In all my research and learning about how to be a better writer, I've somehow lost the ability to simply lose myself in the story.
Instead, I find myself dissecting the story. Looking to see if the author is 'following all the rules of writing'.
Is the point of view on target, is there more telling and not enough showing? Are there words repeating, or too many adverbs? How about the dialogue? Is it believable? Typos?
Is it possible to be a writer, and toss out the rules while reading?
Why do writers have to be so critical of each other?
Whatever happened to letting the story just carry us away?
In teaching, what works for one teacher may not always work for another. We all have different personalities and our own unique teaching styles. Just because we do things differently, does not mean one of us is right and the other is wrong. It just means we have different ways of reaching the same goal.
Sometimes we forget the same holds true in writing. As authors, we are all different, and our writing styles should be, too. Which also means we may not always agree on every point. And it's okay.
I've read book reviews written by fellow writers. Sometimes, they're not written as professionally and constructively as they should be. One reviewer in a review I came across the other day actually said he was so swept up in the story that he couldn't put the book down and finished reading the book in one day. He couldn't wait for the second book in the series to see what happens next. And then he proceeded to rip apart the writing, going so far as to say the "writing sucked" adding that while reading he'd been "editing in his head." How badly could it have "sucked" if you can't wait to read Book 2? Ask yourself, if the story captured you and you couldn't put the book down, does any of that even matter? To me, a story that grabs hold of you like that deserves a 5 star rating. Reviewers should be rating books as readers, not as writers.
I'm certainly not looking to pick an argument with anyone, nor am I suggesting that my writing is anything but flawed. And I'm not saying there isn't bad writing out there.
But I feel disappointment that those of us who choose to write, the very people who know how difficult this business can be, can be the biggest critics when reading someone else's work.
Just because you would have written it differently, does not mean you are right and the author of the book is wrong. It just means we are different. With our own unique voices.
I need to remind myself of that the next time I pick up a book to read.
Back before I became a writer, when I was simply a reader, I didn't care about any of the technicalities of writing. I only loved the story.
Non-writers don't know about all of the 'rules of writing'. To them, it's all about the story.
I want that back. That ability to just ... read for enjoyment.
It's not a test. I do not have to give a grade at the end of the book.
As writers, we seem to put too much focus on 'the rules'. We've lost the ability to just be a reader.
I'm not suggesting that the rules aren't important, and we should all strive to use them as a guide in our own writing.
I'm simply saying that if we spot one copy-editing mistake in the text, or a scene that we might have written differently, that we try not be so judgemental.
As much as writing is in my blood, I sometimes long to go back to the time when I was simply a reader.
Remember your beginnings, and your story. The one that got you here in this position as an author. Everyone, no matter the profession, starts their journey as a beginner.
Let's support each other and offer encouragement. We're all on the same team, and all in this together.
We (myself included) need to learn to let it go and enjoy a good tale.
Kristen L. Jackson, Author of KEEPER OF THE WATCH release date 2/1/18
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