writer's journey

All That Remains

Amidst drafting my current work-in-progress, I have found myself reevaluating my writing process. With DREAM CATCHERS still out in the query trenches, I have found this current project to be just as magical as it's always been. After nine years working on the Falling series, it feels like I finally know what BOOK ONE needs to be. And through this learning process, I've reminded myself how I've grown as a writer and how writing this book can be different than the last four years spent on the Dreamer Duology. 

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What I've discovered since being back in this fantastical world, is that writers can change many things: the process of plotting and writing, revision and editing. But as my best friend reminds, "you can't change your emotional truth." While she may have said this in reference to another moment and memory in time, I've continued to repeat the words through my mind like a mantra. Much can change. But when hurts and heartbreaks and heeded warnings are all that remains, it is best to remember them.

It is with this knowledge that I proceed into the drafting of the WIP, taking my burdens with me. It is the best gift and the greatest curse of writing that we may spill ourselves into fiction. Such remains a reality in this WIP. There is darkness and there are shadows within these new pages. But there is also goodness and light and hope; everything I know to temper the harsh reality of feeling too deeply about the world and its inhabitants.

As I continue to craft the beginning of this book, I won't try to change my emotional truths because to do so would deny the validity of feeling. But I will keep writing. I'll keep building a world of my own creation. I will plot and plan because that is the kind of writer I am. Unlike the early experience of writing DREAM CATCHERS,  I won't shy away or detach from writing the difficult scenes within this book, because those are the ones which ring and resonant with truth.

If anything, I have learned what works for me in the here and now instead of focusing on what I can't change about my lyrical style and voice. These are the things which I've never had to force, because they've always been there. I'm not sure it's worth dwelling on those things when there is so much power to be had in creating myself anew. So this time, I will write the chapters in a linear way. I will share them with my critique partner as I go. I will check in with the story from time to time to make sure character motivations are clear, that voices remain distinct, that what I am writing feels true to the story I'm trying to tell. But such are the fickle foes of writing.

Much as I would like to imagine writing to be magic, it is work. Alas, it is work that I so love. Maybe that emotional truth is the greatest of all because it reminds I will make this story into something real. And even as the world tries to break my spirit, as people depart and new ones emerge along this writing journey, I will cling to the dream of the Falling series and all it has done to make me into the writer I am today. 

Should you find yourself in the middle of burning bridges broken beyond repair, or breaking bad habits, writing or otherwise,  I hope you'll remember that even if you can't change your emotional truth, you can acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the joy, etc. and use it to grow. Become better. Remain true. 

All best,Kayla King.png

Exploring the Exceptional

This week, I've once again started editing DREAM CATCHERS. I printed the in-text notes from my wonderful critique partner, formulated a revision plan, met with a beta reader, and organized everything into a new binder to make this arduous process that much easier. After almost four years, I keep thinking this book might be "finished," but now is not that time. And that's okay. 

If the years spent in the MFA with this novel taught me anything, it's that it takes time to develop the best of stories. And this one still needs a little more time to be the best it can possibly be before I begin my third round of querying. Though I have a few things now that I didn't have eight months ago when I entered into the query trenches. 

When I started querying, there was a sense of fear for the unknown, but now that I've been through the query letters, crafting the synopsis, researching agents, hitting send, and waiting, always the waiting, I know this process is manageable. And along the way, I received a Twitter pitch request, a partial manuscript request, and even a full manuscript request from a potential agent. I've submitted to 25 agents and so far all have passed, but I know there will be someone who will love this story. 

This knowing is even more clear after receiving all of the feedback from my amazing critique partner and my first beta reader. My CP has gone above and beyond in not only supporting me, but my vision for this book. So many of her suggestions have found their way into my revision plan. She also made me two more beautiful graphics to showcase my story and my words! 

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Both images now adorn the front and back cover of my editing binder as reminders that someday my world might exist in other readers' minds. It's a wonderful feeling to have after living with this world on my own. The first beta reader to finish reading the book in full has been someone who's traveled along my writing journey for eight years now. My National Honor Society advisor from high school is someone who continues to support my writing. She helped me figure out how to best pursue my passion for writing, she read my poetry sample before I submitted my application to the writing program at Buffalo State College, she read more poetry, my first book, my first poetry collection, and now, DREAM CATCHERS. 

On Monday, I met with her, and we immediately launched into the main plot and subplots of my book. We discussed dreams and scenes and characters. She gave me more feedback, which I've incorporated into my revision plan. But the most amazing and peculiar moments from this meeting happened when she stopped to read her favorite scenes from my book. This was the first time I'd ever heard someone read the words I'd written. And in her reading, I understood those paragraphs must've resonated with her enough to prompt such a thing, and it helped remind me why this book will be important to the world someday. She reminded me why this book is important. 

After the hard work was done we talked about life and literature, my writing, this blog, and this website. And she showed me a note I'd written on a guest check slip from the restaurant with my website address. And she told me it remained on her fridge with a magnet that reminded her of me because of the quote: 

"She was perfectly comfortable being exceptional." 

This was enough to make me realize the person I've become; the person she's watched grow from a bookish high school student to the writer I am today. Knowing she thinks me to be exceptional helped me remember what I've done in writing this book, in setting myself up for rejection after rejection, in not quitting, but continuing to persevere: I suppose I am exceptional. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding my way back to believing again. Through meeting with this mentor and friend, through the friendship and support of my critique partner, and remembering my kingdom of those who've never stopped believing in me, I once again believe. That doesn't make the query trenches any less difficult, nor these edits any less extensive than I already knew they would need to be. This certainly doesn't make me any more exceptional than the dreamer I've always known I needed to be, but rather, reminds me I have everything I need to make this dream a reality. 

Haunted

I'm not sure I've put much thought into the things that haunt me. Too often, these things appear in my writing as if by chance, or perhaps fate, if you're so inclined to believe in such a thing. I'm sure it has more to do with the fact that the written word has always been easier for me than anything else. I look at the stories we all have to tell and often wonder what separates writers from other people.

Maybe this is because I am a writer. 

Two weeks from today will mark the twenty-eighth anniversary of the day my maternal grandmother was shot and left for dead. In what has come to be known as a warning tale for other relators and an end to realtor safety in our small town, is something that is more than just a tale told to pass the time. This is my history. This is my real life. 

This year, my grandmother's attacker, E. Beauford Cutner, is up for parole, and this fact not only terrifies her, but our entire family. While discussing petitions and reasons for why this criminal should not be granted the freedom he tried to take from my grandma all those years before, she marveled at the way I was able to explain my frustration and anguish over what is happening. And I know that the words I spoke were easier for me to speak to her than anyone else. I know she wishes I could write her story as it really happened, and while I'm no genie nor djinn, I would like to grant her such a wish. But I'm not sure she realizes her story, the amazing, resilient person she has become, is already there in my writing. 

I know it's not the same as writing a biography based on her bravery. While I would describe myself as a fiction writer, I find my own anguish and obsessions within my fiction. There is an essence of myself on every page because I am the writer and the creator and though I am not the characters, they are part of me. 

Within the DREAMER DUOLOGY, my current WIP, I am trying to figure out what happens to a world when safety is obliterated, when fear sets in, when lives are at stake.

I look back at the way my family survived my grandma's attack along with her; rebuilding the people they were to become the guardians and healers and protectors they needed to be: for themselves, for their children. I grew up in a house that valued text messages and phone calls to relay locations and destinations because my mother wanted us all to be safe. And I'm sure many parents would be the same way, but for us, it feels like we know evil exists in the world, and so, we all must be guarded against such things and persons. 

Now this kind of conscientious life has allowed me to create a character traversing a dangerous landscape. And there is a violent act that mirrors my own thoughts about what happened to my grandmother all those years ago. Though I was not yet born, the stories of this have been relinquished, and to me, sometimes, the stories mean more because that is a language I speak well. 

Helping my grandma organize her thoughts for her victim letter, which she will be presenting to the parole board soon, made me see that much of what she has to discuss is the idea of the unknown, the fear of the the what if; too many possibilities to name. And I realized that all writing deals with the unknown.

Writers take a blank page and fill it, often before they know what needs to be there to make the story feel right or perfect, which any writer will tell you never happens upon first draft. If anything, the what if is a feeling, a need to figure things out, and I know for me and my family, we are hoping to figure out what life will be like if this man does gain parole. 

Fortunately, we have time on our side. And I have my words to help me figure this all out. I am called to the page, much like other people are called to protect or to heal or to lead.

Writing is my life. 

My family is my life.

When I think about the way E. Beauford Cutner shot my grandma three times, in the head and the neck, leaving her for dead; the moment in which I might never have had the chance to meet this wonderul woman, I am haunted by what could have been. 

Like any writer, I am haunted by stories.

I am leaving this here as a way to explain to my grandmother, and maybe, even you, for not being able to write her story the way it deserves to be told. It is something I can't forget, something I can't fathom.

Too often, I think the difficult things fossilize within us until they're ready to escape. For now I hope the words I've taken from her experience, this unending work ethic she's given me, the times I've pondered the meaning of saftey and fear and fate, will all help me finish my novel. 

 

* 2018 update: E. Beauford Cutner is once again up for parole.

Please help us to keep this man where he belongs by signing our petiton HERE!

All best,Kayla King.png