By Serita Stevens
One of my writing friends had become discouraged. “It’s not going anywhere. Maybe I should just give up.”
I told her to keep at it because you never know what tomorrow will bring. On many occasions, just as I was about to quit something, a miracle (or something like it) happened. Sometimes it was just a matter of letting it go and turning to something else for the moment, and sometimes it was timing.
Maybe it’s because I’m an Aquarius; they say it’s our “advanced” thinking that keeps us from accomplishing things in (what we believe is) a timely manner. Whatever it is, I’ve had to have patience and a lot of persistence with my ideas - and especially my writing.
Living in Chicago with my first husband, who seemed to be jealous of writing even though he said he wasn’t, I was pleased when he gave one of my manuscripts (a novel about Deborah the Prophetess based on the 4 Bible pages of Judges 4/5) to a literary writer friend of his father’s.
Her cruel words to me were “Honey, go home and do your housework.” I cried for a few days before I fisted up and said “Hell no.” I was not going to give up despite the lack of support from my husband or my own family.
While taking a class many years ago from the then Chicago writer in residence, someone asked "When do you give up?" His words to her were, "Honey if you can do so, you're stronger than me. If it's in your blood, then you’re screwed." Writing was in my blood and it could not be denied.
I penned 8 books before the 8th was published and I was able to later revise and rewrite 4 of the other 7 books. Going back to those original manuscripts, I saw how poorly those had been written and how I had improved. The book about Deborah was finally published in 1990 (a good 10 years after the first draft) by Leisure Books as Lighting and Fire.
Other ideas also took their time to mature. Sometimes I wasn't ready and other times, the market had changed before I could finish what I was writing.
Living in England while I obtained my masters in writing from Antioch, I became infatuated with the story of Boudicea, the Celtic queen who rebelled from Rome’s oppression in 60 AD and destroyed much of Roman Britain including London. I wrote a historical romance using the events as a background with her fictional niece falling in love with a Roman centurion. It’s been almost 28 years since the idea first percolated in me and will now finally appear in December, 2016, as Pagan Love by Oak Tree Press.
Persistence also proved to serve me with my Y.A. drama, based on my work with teens thrown into psychiatric wards merely because their parents couldn’t handle them. “Against Her Will” was finally published 2015 by Motivational Press when my new agent asked if I had any young adult material. I pulled out the half done manuscript, updated a bit and, because I was already deep into other deadlines, I worked with another client of hers to finish the book. (Collaboration with another writer is a subject for another blog!)
My western romantic suspense, “Deceptive Desires”, also published by Leisure has now been turned into a script – “Logan's Land” - with several options under its belt. Since westerns are currently not in favor for the movie market, it might have to wait a bit longer before showing its screen version, but the book will be re-released by Oak Tree Press in January, 2017.
One of my gothic novels – “The Shrieking Shadows of Penporth Island” - went to publishers 21 times - 8 times to the same house - Zebra Publishers- who finally put it out when the time, they felt was right. Again, persistence. I felt it was a good story and with a few minor tweaks continued to send it out.
My non-fiction book “The Forensic Nurse” (St Martin's Press) about how we as nurses help police solve crimes and written for the ordinary public to understand what we do, took years to find the right home. Then it was optioned for a TV series not once but several times, always with something spoiling the deal at the last moment. (In Hollywood, one must have attachments - stars and directors - push projects forward and the studios want A-list writers whom they already know can produce shows. So I don't know what went wrong. But finally when the last option expired, I took it on myself to write my own speculative pilot for “Nursing the Evidence” - and show bible, which, has attracted great attention. Fingers are still crossed on the future of that.
Now, in addition to my own writing, I teach at various universities and conferences and published a workbook based on my lectures – “The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books and Scripts (Motivational Press”.) While there are some differences in writing books and scripts, you basically need an exciting story that will entice the reader and make him care about your characters. I also assist writers with their stories, too.
I can't say it has been easy watching my friends snap up quick contracts or hear about people who are “discovered” overnight (when in reality I know that they struggled for several years), but I realized that when the time is right for something, an opening will appear.
One just has to keep on writing, and know that if it is meant to be, it will. If one thing doesn’t work, try turning the idea on its head. Write from the antagonist POV. Or turn to another story or another genre for a bit.