Please welcome debut author Maan Gabriel to Writer Unboxed today! We stumbled upon one of Maan’s blog posts via Twitter and fell in fast love with her style and messaging, and so reached out to see about reprinting an essay here at WU. Lucky for us, she agreed. More about Maan from her bio:
Maan Gabriel is mom, wife, dreamer, writer – finally unleashing her inner artist and lover of fairy tales. She earned her BA in communications from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and MPS in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. She has lived in Manila, Brussels, Dakar and Mexico City. During the day, she works in strategic communications and currently calls suburban Washington D.C. home with her husband and son. After Perfect, her first novel, is out Fall of 2021.
Please join us in welcoming her here today, and enjoy the post!
Write With Your Heart. Edit Like a Bitch
My debut, After Perfect, is coming out in the Fall of 2021. To say that I’m excited is an understatement – I’m beyond ecstatic and over the moon. This is one of my impossible dreams fulfilled. I’ve worked on this book for over four years and I did it as a form of healing as I go through menopause. As my doctor said, fate cheated on me because I was only 39 when I started going through the changes in my body, which rocked my mental and emotional state. Writing helped me navigate this very unsettling phase. The joy of being a woman, am I right? And yet, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
After Perfect is my paranoia at its worst. I had to put my fears into writing to establish something tangible that I can relate to. My marriage was not on the rocks, far from it, but it was out of fear of losing the love of my life that drove me to write everything down. The what ifs.
And so, I asked myself? How do I steer this fear?
As a first timer, I didn’t know the rules and techniques of fiction writing. Add to that, English is not my first language and so I had to be extremely watchful about my grammar use. These two things combined were massive obstacles to write freely. But I did it anyway because my heart yearned to be heard.
I wrote with no rules.
Two years into writing, I started attending writing conferences and began reaching out to writers’ groups. The reviews I received were upsetting and pitiful so I initiated my search for an editor. The ones I picked out from social media were all ready to take my money, the ones referred by friends didn’t take me. Again, it was a painful and devastating blow. At one point, I was about ready to give up. Even family were skeptical about this bold endeavor and suggested that the best I can do to get this off my chest was to self-publish. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against self-publishing but I needed validation before I could even think about doing all this on my own. The rules and logistics of self-publishing are not for the faint of heart either so I commend self-published authors. You guys are the real deals to have the courage and the will to learn the specifics of this very intricate industry.
Did the first chapter shake me? Did it grab my attention? As a writer, of course it did because it was my heart speaking. But as a reader, I had to painfully admit that I didn’t quite understand what it was trying to convey.
I had to edit like a bitch.
I tightened my prose and deleted unnecessary overflow. I had to kill my darlings as they say in the editing world – a painful process in which you have to discard your personal favorite and self-indulgent passages to make your literary work better. These are truths a writer should embrace.
I also taught myself to stop being overly sensitive and value my critique partners and beta readers’ opinions. They are there to make sure to point out what we have missed. As a writer, it’s easy for us to get lost in our emotions and so it’s critical that we have cohorts to remind us of the many ways to improve our story, and with that our writing. You don’t need to take them all, but it’s good to see how readers react to your words.
Learning doesn’t end for us writers after the first published work. I may have gained a wealth of knowledge on my first attempt at fiction writing, but it doesn’t stop here. Every project is a step toward greatness. As long as we’re open to criticisms, acknowledge our weaknesses and highlight our strengths, continue to learn and understand the skills to get better – I think we’ll be just fine.