Writing Milestones–One Large, One Small

Good news for most writers comes, rarely at best. So I was particularly pleased and grateful to achieve two noteworthy goals in the past few weeks. Not quite Champagne-worthy (I’ll save the Dom Perignon for when my first novel is published.), but worth bragging about just a tiny bit.

The small milestone was finishing the first draft of my second novel. It’s sequel to the first, starring your favorite Neo-Renaissance hero and mine, Matt Lanier. Note: in the event either of these books get published, characters’ names are not guaranteed to stay as is. I’m all for finding that perfect name for a genius, bass-playing, technologically ignorant, wine-drinking, wilderness survival expert with keen hearing and powers of observation. Maybe I should have a naming contest! The name, chosen by me or some other expert who thinks they know everything there is to know about fiction writing, wins a terrific prize for the submitter, maybe something like having a character in the book named after them. O-o-oh, that could be fun.

Anyway, *Spoiler Alert, swear word coming*, this particularly classic “shi**y first draft” (And yes, it’s a valid literary term. Just ask any novelist. I think it originated with overworked agents read through slush piles of mediocre manuscripts) weighs in at something north of 150,000 words. Ugh! Only need to trim that sucker by 40-50 % by the end of round two. I’ll admit I overwrote big time in order to get a certain amount of angst out of my system. As a whole, my craft has improved, but I’m hoping that my third novel will be better the first time through, better plotted, more coherent, and won’t take 18 months to finish. Mark my words. Look for an announcement that the first draft of novel three is finished by the end of 2014. I. HAVE. SPOKEN. I. HAVE. COMMITTED. (Or, I should be committed.)

Large milestone: As of the Spring 2014 issue of the Boundary Waters Journal, I am officially a published writer, and better yet, soon to be paid! *Cue the confetti, notify the local newspaper, book me on Oprah (oops, forgot, she retired).* The cool thing is, getting published by a magazine is rewarding three times. First, when the editor offers to buy your piece, there’s that warm fuzzy feeling similar to what Sally Field had at the Oscars’ in 1985 You Like Me .

Then there’s the elation that comes when the issue finally goes to print and arrives in your mailbox. Seeing your byline in a legitimate publication, which the BWJ is, feels surreal. I had to look at my name in the table of contents about six times, then checked it at the top of the article several times.Then I had to read the actual story to make sure it was the one I had written. Some deep-down part of me didn’t quite trust that some sort of wilderness ghost writer had taken my idea and “improved it” beyond my recognition.

The third warm fuzzy will occur when the paycheck shows up in my mailbox. I may frame a copy as a reminder of what is possible. I’d consider buying that bottle of Dom Perignon with the money, but what I got paid won’t even cover half of the canoe trip expenses–which isn’t much since I own all of my canoe/camping equipment except for the solo canoe.

My question: What’s your good news, small victory, or big triumph? Don’t be shy. It’s spring, golf season has started, life isĀ  bursting forth, so let’s celebrate our good fortune and the fruits of our labors. If you don’t have a victory to share, tell me about a goal you’ve set for yourself this year that you have committed to achieve.

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