June 25, 2009

Your mother’s always right

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 6:13 pm

When I started trying to get my first novel published, my mother had some words of advice for me.

“I think you’re really talented,” she said. “And I think you’ve got passion, and drive. I think this is going to happen for you.”

We can all tell when a but is coming, can’t we? A big ole but was just hanging there.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight,” my mother went on. “I think this is going to take time. You’re coming at it as a total outsider. It’s going to take time to build connections, to establish yourself.”

My mom could probably see the protest building on my lips. So she hauled in other resources.

“Whoopi Goldberg says every overnight sensation is ten years in the making.”

When did my mother give me this advice? Oh, about ten years ago.

Man, I hope she was right on the timing!

But for sure she was right about the other parts. Maybe there are authors out there who sit down and write a novel and send it to one agent–or egads, one editor–and it is immediately snapped up and the author becomes a star. We hear about such people, although I am hard pressed to actually name one.

But for me at least, I have spent the last ten years doing the following:

Honing my craft. Learning to pace and plot a novel so it doesn’t reach 180,000 words. Learning to trust my reader so my writing and characterization can be subtle. Those were the biggies of craft for me; we all have different ones, I think. Peg Brantley has blogged about this on her excellent site.

Getting close enough to offers that when I contacted agents I had a proven track record of interest in my work. (More on that to come.)

Meeting and supporting authors so that I could learn what they were doing and try to emulate it.

Realizing that at the end of the day, aspirations to Oprah and claims of film potential aside, what I really want most to do is tell a story that the reader can get lost in.

Oh, and one other thing these past ten years have taught me.

Mom, you were right.


  1. Ah gee, Jenny. Thanks. {blushing}

    The thing with moms is they know so much they could write a book. Well, okay, I guess they have.

    The idea of film scares me a little. (Alot.) But Oprah? Yeah. That would be cool.

    Comment by Peg Brantley — June 26, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

  2. I think your mom is very smart. :) (After all, she did a fabulous job raising you, besides giving you really solid advice.)

    Comment by Judy — June 28, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  3. That is very sweet of you to say…she certainly raised me to, uh, have confidence in certain things. There’s nothing like this business to humble a person, right?

    Comment by jenny — June 28, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

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