Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Journey with Gillian - Mountain Climbing

My name is Gillian Adams. I write middle grade and young adult fantasy. Whenever I’m not off battling orcs, slaying dragons, or exploring the ins and outs of complex fantasy worlds, I live in the great state of Texas.

I’ve been a member of the Go Teen Writer’s Community for a little over a year now, so when Stephanie offered me the chance to write a monthly column, (Thank you, Stephanie!) I jumped at the opportunity.

The purpose of these “Journey with Gillian” posts—aside from the cool title, of course—is to share with you where I am in the writing journey and the lessons I’m learning along the way.

For me, writing started as soon as I could hold a pen. My older sister was always writing something . . . so naturally, I followed in her footsteps and fell in love with the scratch of pen on paper and the clack of a keyboard. But it wasn’t until after I participated in NaNoWriMo at the age of seventeen, that I realized how much I loved writing.

And it wasn’t until after another year had passed, that I decided to look into the whole publication process and figure out if I had what it took to be an author.

My plan of attack consisted of submitting a half-baked manuscript (I considered it quite well-done at the time) to an indie publisher. I sent him a query letter, and wonder of wonders, he requested the full manuscript and then accepted it for publication!

So, I signed my first contract, dusted off my hands, and puffed a sigh of relief. Whew. Got that done. Easier than it sounded too. I was going to be an author!

And then the first round of edits came back. Ouch. Talk about an explosion of red ink. Reading through those comments was painful . . . to say the least. But I learned a lot. The hard way. Wait . . . you’re not supposed to use those -ly adverbs all the time? Wait . . . that’s telling?

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I sat down and rewrote the entire manuscript, then shipped it off to my publisher again.

He loved the changes I made! I was elated. I had this down. I knew what I had done wrong the first time and knew how to fix it. This publishing business was going to be a piece of cake!


Summer rolled around and my publisher contacted me to let me know that the company was experiencing difficult times and would be unable to publish my book.

He was very gracious about it, but I was still heartbroken. Everything I had hoped for was falling apart. I thought I must have done something wrong. My writing wasn’t good enough—I wasn’t good enough.

When I started writing, I was so inexperienced that I didn’t know I was inexperienced. Now that I have a little more experience and a little more knowledge of the writing craft, I know how much MORE experience and MORE knowledge I need.

That’s the beautiful thing about writing . . . and about life in general. It’s a continuous journey. It’s like climbing a mountain. You reach one crest only to realize that there’s another ridge beyond. Another challenge to face. More to learn. More to experience.

It’s both a daunting and encouraging thought.

Daunting when you look back and realize that the distance you’ve traveled seems infinitesimally small compared to what still lies ahead.

Encouraging because you realize that you haven’t arrived. There is still room to grow, still room to improve. Your writing isn’t perfect, and it never will be.

Now, over two years after sending out that first query and signing that first contract, I have a new contract for that same manuscript with a different publisher, just signed with an agent, and am busy writing and editing several novels.

There is still so much I have to learn. There are many times when I feel painfully inexperienced. Okay, a lot of the time. But there is room to grow, and a mountain to climb, and I’m excited to see what lies beyond the next ridge.

How about you? Are you sometimes daunted by your own inexperience? Do you feel like you’ll never make it?

Take heart! You're not alone. We can scale the writing-mountain together.

Gillian blogs over at Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant where she writes about everything relating to books, writing, fantasy, and costumes. Her book Out of Darkness Rising will be published Fall 2013.


  1. Well, yes, of course. Sometimes. I think EVERY writer is. ;) Although really...not very often. Probably because of the tons and tons and tons of writers who say, "Don't feel like that! You are NOT the worst writer on earth!" etc. etc. It helps!

    Nice post! I'll be looking forward to your other ones!

    1. I always have to remind myself of that when I'm suffering from the editing blues. ;)

  2. Yes! Sometimes I feel that it's going to take years and years for me to write anything that a publisher/agent would want to read. Sometimes my writing feels stiff and just doesn't seem to work. But then I remember that I love writing, so I continue, because that's the important thing.

    You have a great story Gillian! I can't wait to read your book!


  3. I'm really glad you have a monthly column, Gillian! Inspirational post!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

  4. Me, me, me , me, meeee! I feel a lot like this, I know I have to improve, I don't know how but I want to. That frustrates and gets me down a lot. Especially latily. It makes me feel like I'll never be able to do it, it's a hump I don't know how to get over. I keep trying to make small improvements though.

    One of the things I've been tossing around is if I should really wait much longer than I ever imagined to pursue publication. Like waiting till I've written two or three books and feel more solid in what I know about the craft so when they say "this is telling." I say "in yeah, you're right." And chance it instead of panicking, "what's telling??? It's the end of the world."

    1. I know what you mean, Tonya! But those small improvements add up and everything you learn adds another layer to your writing skills.

      One of the biggest things that helped me was getting other people to read my book. It was super painful . . . and scary. But getting feedback pointed out all of my blind spots and the little mistakes I didn't even realize I was making.

      I wish I had waited until I knew more before I tried to jump into the publishing world. Looking back, I can see how God used that early accomplishment to keep me going - if my book hadn't been accepted, I probably would have just shrugged it off, figured I wasn't meant to be a writer, and tried something else. But at the same time, it would have helped a lot if I had taken the time to study up, improve my writing, and get some honest feedback first! I didn't even know places like Go Teen Writers existed back then. :)

      There's always the push to hurry up and get published right away, but I keep reminding myself that I'm in this for the long haul and I have to be willing to put the time into learning what I need to know!

  5. Very inspirational post Gillian. I'm much looking forward to your columns already!

    The first time I got feedback on a part of my writing, I thought everything fell apart as suddenly it seemed my writing was very very very far from perfect, and that hurt, but now it only helps a lot!

  6. You sound a lot like me! My older sister was the one who gave me the idea to write in the first place, because I always did everything she did. And yes, at the moment I am taking my first college writing class and have already broken into tears twice at the seeming impossibility of ever being "good enough". I can't wait to read more of your columns, Gillian!

    1. Sisters are awesome, aren't they? :) I have younger siblings as well, so it always makes me think about the ways I'm influencing them without even realizing it. Big responsibility!

  7. I can't even imagine the heartbreak involved in thinking you're going to have a novel published and then to have it taken away :(

    While, being published, I don't fear "not making it," I do go through times of fearing failure. Usually when I'm comparing myself to other writers. It's very hard to keep my blinders on and run my race, you know?

  8. Wonderful post, Gillian! I remember so very clearly the time in my life when I realized how much I didn't know. And part of me still misses the total confidence that I had BEFORE that realization, LOL. I used to think I could do absolutely anything with words. I still believe it's possible, but now I often doubt my ability to achieve it. But you've definitely passed the Socratic test of wisdom by knowing what you don't know. ;-) Looking forward to journeying with you!

  9. When I began writing years ago I was involved on a site where you could "publish" stories, so I did just that. I was so inexperienced! I find it hard to believe people read my stories at the time. While I'm no longer on the site, I have picked up on some useful tips and now I'm getting nice truck loads of knowledge off of here from all of these awesome posts! :D

    I do get that sinking feeling now and then, but I'm certainly not about to give up on my writing and I hope your post helps others to be encouraged as well, Gillian!

  10. I feel like I know that I am inexperienced, but I also think I haven't quite accepted it yet. I've reached the stage where it's been two months since my last rejection to a query and my one partial is, for all I know, at the bottom of an inbox somewhere even more months from being seen. The longer my manuscript sits just waiting, the more I feel like it needs to be massively edited for all the things wrong with it. I've taken a break from that now, and I'm using 100-4-100 to really work on making my writing better. I've been told I'm great with "real" sounding dialogue, but I know I have a problem with pacing. Practice can only help! Thanks for the post and welcome to GTW, Gillian!

    1. I find that I can edit myself to death! Sometimes being forced to take that break and work on something new is super helpful. Good luck with your writing! And thanks for the welcome! :)

  11. I honestly can't even imagine how heartbreaking that would be to become an author and then have that all taken away! But I liked the way you handled it! Great post Gillian!

  12. Great post! So cool that you'll be doing monthly columns :)

    I feel like there's tons of stuff I don't know, but right now I'm focused on just improving on where I am right now. If I do choose to pursue publication, it won't be for years, so I'm just trying to get better slowly and steadily so that one day I'll cross into the realm of publishable work :)

  13. Are you familiar with Tate Publishing? I was recently offered a contract for one of my manuscripts by that company, and, with 10 days to make a decision, confess to being oblivious about the process. I'd really appreciate any advice.

    1. Hey, Alison! Pretty sure I just sent you an email about that :)

    2. Yes, I received them shortly after sending this. :) Thanks!

  14. Congrats on getting an agent! And as they say on the Hannah Montana movie (love Hannah Montana!)

    "Life's a climb... but the view is great."

  15. This is a really encouraging story!!! Thanks for sharing with us, even though I had to admit that at first I thought it said that you were 'seven' years old, and not seventeen, and so I thought 'OMG I never thought a nine year would even have the chance of getting published, one epic writer', i'm laughing at that mistake right now... Makes more sense now, but still, pretty impressive:P

  16. Oh, Gillian, what a journey, girl! This is inspiring! Thank you for sharing. :)