Monday, August 25, 2014
I didn’t think I could write.
Not fiction at any rate. Over the course of several years, I discovered I could write nonfiction. I’d successfully written and illustrated several how-to drawing books. When I visited the publisher, North Light Media, my editor said I had a great voice. I grinned, thanked her, and asked, “what’s ‘voice’?”
I decided to write a non-fiction book about signs of deception from a Biblical perspective. As a forensic artist and law enforcement instructor, I experienced and studied deception displayed by certain ‘victims’ of crime. Each chapter started with an illustration from my forensic work: a young man who claims to have been attacked by a ninja, a bank robbery case where the robber was the bank teller, a killer who murdered his wife and said it was two other men. I had great stories. But … I needed to fictionalize them. I discovered it wasn’t that hard.
I pondered the ease of working in fiction. I also thought about my childhood. I grew up, and still live, on a 685 acre ranch in the mountains of North Idaho. We had a lot of horses. Every chance I had, I would gallop madly through the woods on horseback imagining I was a French resistance fighter pursued by Germans, or Velvet Brown about to win the Grand National, or an early pioneer chased by an irate Cheyanne war party. I could be very creative in inventing reasons to roam through the woods on horseback.
So maybe I wasn’t so unimaginative…and I loved to read…I did write poetry in college…so what’s so hard about writing a novel?
Boy howdy, was I in for a learning curve! Show, not tell. Passive language. Plot points. No tension. Thin characters. You name it, I had to learn it. I really believed I was writing well. And I had an awesome mentor: NY Times best-selling author, Frank Peretti. But I was blind to the errors in my writing. I finally decided to study each writing point I should be doing automatically and study it until it was second nature. This took years. Ten to be exact. In between I suffered discouragement, tears, and occasional moments of above average writing.
The payoff finally came. Terry Burns of Hartline agency signed me a day after reading my finished manuscript. Thomas Nelson expressed interest twenty-seven minutes after receiving a book proposal. Five out of eight publishers receiving the proposal wanted the full, with two major publishers vying for publication rights in a three book deal at auction. Pretty heady stuff.
So, let me share some hard-learned advice: keep writing. There are only two types of writers: those who have been discouraged, and those who will be discouraged. Listen to other writers who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Keep growing and learning. Everyone starts down that long journey to publication the same way. And God Bless.
Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. She teaches forensic art courses to law enforcement professionals and is the author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing. Carrie began to write fiction while battling breast cancer and was mentored by New York Times best-selling author Frank Peretti. Now in remission, she continues to encourage other women struggling with cancer.