Why My First The End Was Such a Great Beginning

Exactly 5 years ago today I wrote ‘The End’ on my first finished manuscript. I remember having this indescribable breathless feeling, with the fullness of having done something significant on one hand and the emptiness of having no idea what to do next on the other. I remember just sitting there and staring at the manuscript on my screen and realizing it didn’t have a title.

I also didn’t have a pen name, or a brand, or a genre. I didn’t know what a query was or a pitch or a request or an RandR. All I knew was that I had a book, and no matter how much I loved it I knew from having taken creative writing classes that it was a first draft and that revisions would have to follow. I had heard something about writers’ groups being a good place to start and did a search for local writing groups and found there was such a thing as the Romance Writers of America and the local chapter met five minutes from my home.

I sent the most formal, pathetically tentative email to the contact person listed on Windy City RWA’s website and felt like I had won the lottery when she invited me to come to a meeting for free. The first three people I saw when I walked into the conference room were Tracey Devlyn, Adrienne Giordano and Kristin Daniels. Now, if you’ve seen these ladies, you’ll know why my first thought was. “Seriously? How does everyone here look like a romance novel heroine?” For a moment I wondered if being gorgeous was a requirement.

But then someone gave us a writing prompt and we did a writing exercise. The prompt had something to do with the heroine having a remote control she could use to control the hero. Everyone started scratching away at their writing pads while I panicked and pretended to write. And then these romance heroine lookalikes started reading out their scenes one by one. Scenes they had written down in a couple of minutes. Scenes that were so funny and clever they made me laugh out loud and struck terror in my heart. As if needing to be gorgeous wasn’t bad enough, how was I ever going to be able to write like this?

But this was also the meeting at which Tracey announced her first sale. There were flowers and chocolate and I heard my first First Sale Story. I learnt what The Call was. A real person who had written a real book and then sold it to a publisher for real was standing right in front of me. If there was ever a moment in my life when playing at being a writer turned into dreaming of being published that meeting was it.

The first thing I did after coming home from that meeting was open up my nameless manuscript and write down the title. The Bollywood Bride. I remember feeling like it fit. Just like I remember feeling like I had fit too. There was no logic to this feeling, the meeting had shown me how little I knew (I mean, everyone there knew the names of agents and editors, and the agencies and publishers they worked for), it had shown me how much of an outlier I was, and how very far there was to go. But it had also flashed my destination before me, and given me this sense that there was a path, and help along that path.

In the three years that followed, magically enough, the promise of that meeting was fulfilled in every possible way. Yes, there was a path, yes there was the most generous outpouring of help. That roomfull of women didn’t just look and write like stars, they lit up the night of my ignorance at every turn. As for the manuscript itself, nothing else about chiseling it into shape was as simple as finding that title. I rewrote it, wrestled it, begged for it to leave me alone, walked away from it, rediscovered it a million times over and loved it until it loved me back. The journey of starting to feel like I wasn’t playing at this writing thing that had started after I wrote The End made stops at innumerable more The Ends commemorating each one of the countless revisions. But the journey ended where I had wanted it to. And what could be better than that?

Today while I was contemplating the date and marveling at it’s significance to me, a younger writer I recently met at a conference emailed me saying she had decided not to write anymore because she felt like she would never find a publisher or readers. Of course I told her she was being an idiot and told her to snap out of it and just write. But I realized what a blessing it had been to write The End on a manuscript before starting the publishing journey, before worrying about who would buy it and who would sell it. Part of me mourns that I will never be able to write with that clueless abandon again even as another part of me feels relief that that degree of cluelessness is behind me. And while I wish that relief upon everyone who desires it, I wish even more that your The Ends come before the start of that journey.

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16 thoughts on “Why My First The End Was Such a Great Beginning

    • Goodness, Rutvika, I feel like I’ve shared everything there is to share, but there will be more (you can run but you can’t hide 🙂 )
      Hugs,
      Sonali

  1. Five years and look at all you’ve done in that time! Wow.
    I enjoyed reading about your first writer’s group meeting. I don’t always know how long people have been in the chapter or how long they’ve been writing. Our journeys are all so different.

    I also try to remind myself of those early goals. For so long I wanted to write a book, but it was so daunting a dream, I had no idea where to start, so I didn’t. Deciding to start writing and figure it out was huge for me. Finishing Nanowrimo was my first step (though no The End made it in), and then finishing another full manuscript with an actual ending was sort of surreal. It needed work, but I had a mostly functional story from nothing. That feeling is unforgettable!

    • Yes, it unforgettable, Staphanie! And you’re well on your way too. Congratulations on the sale, can’t wait to get my hands on your book!

      Hugs,
      Sonali

  2. I remember that first night and I was the facilitator of that workshop (my first). So proud of you and happy that you are my friend and inspiration. Regena Bryant

    • Amy, seriously, right, had I known what I know about publishing before that first book was finished, I would have been entirely stymied. Thank heavens for ignorance, right?

      Hugs,
      Sonali

  3. Sonali, what I remember the most about our first meeting is your big, warm smile. It’s something I still look forward to seeing every time we get together. Never lose the joy, my sweet and talented friend. Hugs

  4. I came to Windy City from a writing class over at the College of Dupage. Where I was trying out stories but receiving little guidance. After that first meeting, I knew I could find out everything I needed to know about romance writing, publishing, and other stuff I didn’t even know about yet. I’m glad you joined us in the craziness/fun/angst/and who knows what else in romance writing! Now if I could just figure out what the title is on my current manuscript!

    • Ann, you for one have answered every question with a million generous answers. So, thank you! As for titles. Ack! Good luck, I will do a blog post some day about titles and how “A Bollywood Affair” came about.
      Hugs,
      Sonali

  5. I remember that meeting! I’m so very thrilled for you and everything you’ve achieved. You are a true inspiration and one of the most genuine people I know. Enjoy the ride! MUHWAH!

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