My first answer was dance. Yes. I danced. All around the kitchen, up the stairs, through the dining room, and then on the sidewalk outside the Ashton Diner where I met my friend and cheerleader, Michelle, and then later in the gym locker room. I danced. I laughed. I shouted in glee.
After five years from first thought to ‘THE END,’ I deserved to dance, even with two left feet and all of the grace God gave a goose. Heck, as a certain Princess Bride once said to her Wesley, “If you like, I can fly!!!”
My second answer was to back it up. On my computer. On a flash drive. On the cloud. Then print it, mail it, and shove it in a drawer for safekeeping. Done. Good.
After that it was time to make copies so that my first readers, loyal fan-fiction buddies, and those who have no choice but to read and give comments (like my daughter) for their critiques.
There might have been some celebratory wine drinking between two and three. And after four.
This is huge. Gigantic. From my first notion, from a dream I had of a man struggling through a snowstorm towards a red glass castle, to my first notes dictated to my daughter on a long car ride from Florida, to my 2012 NaNoWriMo victory that helped me get the story straight in my head, it has been a long, frustrating, exhilarating journey. There have been flat tires. Medical issues that have stolen my energy. Sinking depression that has swallowed up my confidence. The ups and downs of a moody creative type turned into vast mountains and deadly swamps that my little furry feet could only conquer with the helpful hands of friends and relatives.
Along the way, I hurried back to fan fiction many times. It was a way to center myself. To remind myself that, yes, I could so write. I could plot. I could develop character. I could do it and people would not hate it. There are a few stories hanging out there, unfinished, even now. I’ll finish them. I’ll put my very best into them, just like I did my novel. Why? Because all of my readers deserve it. They deserve great characterizations, dialogue that echoes perfectly, and plots that make sense. They deserve my time and attention just as much as those hopeful future readers of my original fiction do.
Because people are people and readers are readers. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about being a writer or reader of fan fiction, no matter who pretends there is. We read. We write. The same people who pick up the latest Patterson or Bujold will also pick up a fan zine or a web story and get enjoyment there.
So, after my house is cleaned (thank you my poor, dusty husband!) and after my fan fics are polished up and posted, then what?
Then I will write my Query Letter – a one page letter which brings more trepidation and dread than knowing I have many more books in Matthias’ series to finish. Then I will attend a Writers’ Conference, find an agent, and get my words into my readers’ hands. Somehow. Some way.
I didn’t write this so that it could sit on my shelf as a paperweight.
Is it going to be easy? Well, why should it be? Nothing about this journey has been easy, so I’m not expecting that now. But my skin must be thickened, and my heart must be steadied against all criticism, harsh words, nasty reviews, and rejection. I have a wonderful passel of friends to pat me on the head, give me another glass of wine, and shove me back into the fight when things go badly. Thank God.
On to the next mountain, Samwise! Where are those dratted eagles when you need them?