Writers, don’t be discouraged!

Today I’m going to talk about something that would normally cause me to shiver in horror and run away: I’m going to discuss the first book I ever wrote, The Awakening Call.

Those of you who are longtime Champions know that I avoid talking about the first book I wrote like it is sick with the plague. I wrote it when I was about 13-years-old. It was a sci fi story that had a flavor of X-Men to it as a lot of my characters had mutant-esque powers. It’s awful, it’s clunky, and while I would prefer to forget about it I feel like it’s necessary to keep it on my computer so I remember how far I’ve come. So why am I bringing up something I would much rather forget?

First of all, I figure you guys can always use a laugh. But the main reason is that I want to encourage the budding writers out there. It’s unfortunate, but while many people want to write books, most of them don’t even finish their first book, much less write more than one. A lot of it is because writing a book is a test of determination and perseverance, but some give up because they feel discouraged. They feel that their work isn’t good enough, or that they don’t have a story of worth to tell.

Here’s the thing, first books are usually terrible. Writing a book is a lot like learning to draw or starting an instrument. It will take a lot of practice and patience before you are able to produce a high quality novel. You can see this in my own writing. My Robyn Hood books were my second and third books released on Amazon. If you compare them to either of the Snow Queen books, it gets really embarrassing.

The Snow Queen books are so much better because I have two editors that went over it, but also because in general I’m a better writer. But let’s really drive the point home and compare passages from my newest, unedited manuscript–Swan Lake–to the first book I ever wrote, The Awakening Call. Click the read more link to see the two books.

The Awakening Call (KM: Brace yourselves–seriously.)

A voice cracked over a loud speaker in the hallways.

            Bleep, “Will Officer and Luteniut Tehl report to commander Shea’s office.  Will Officer Artemis and Officer Lana report to Commander Smith’s office please, thank you.” Bleep. (KM: I kept the spelling errors in to show you how bad this was, even WITH spellcheck’s help.)

            Officer Tehl, also known as Artemis pushed a small button on his telicast and replied.  “On our way!”

            Artemis is a tall, handsome, silver haired man with piercing blue eyes in his late 40’s.  His wife, Officer Tehl, or Lana, was a tall slim black haired beauty in her mid 40’s. (KM: Wow, nothing like a good “Bash-you-over-the-head-with-a-description” to start off a book.)


            “Yes Lana?” Artemis asked turning around nearly colliding with his wife.

            Lana narrowed her green cat eyes, tossed her head and ordered.  “We should go this way, it’s faster.” She said pointing to a long hallway on the left. (KM: Why does Lana sound like she’s 13 when it’s established she’s supposed to be in her 40s? Because I was 13 when I wrote this.)

                        Together they walked down the long colorless hallway, their footsteps echoing on the empty walls.  Hundreds of doors cluttered the walls but Lana and Artemis walked on, ignoring them.  At last they reached the end of the hallway. (KM: The descriptions…they pain me)

            “Open.” Lana commanded the door.  It beeped, a few lights flashed, and then it opened.  Lana and Artemis walked into a white room with a big metal desk in the center of the room.  Behind the desk was a small mousy-looking woman with big, round, bottle cap glasses that magnified her eyes. They perched on her nose, as she peered down at them.

            “Commander Smith will see you now!” She squeaked.

            Artemis smiled, his white teeth glinting, and said.  “Thank you!”

            “Your welcome” She squeaked falling off her stool in surprise.

            Lana and Artemis made their way toward a tall gray door in the back of the room.  They straightened their gray Galaxy Command Uniforms that had a small 4 pointed star in the left shoulder, pushed their hands into the gel pad, waited while it read their fingerprints, than entered the room once the door swung open. (KM: If you’re still reading this by this point, you have my admiration.)

            The office was large and spacious.  The floor was covered in thick navy blue carpeting.  The walls were white with a few oil paintings scattered around.  There was a huge window in the back of the room that allowed the Commander to see out into space.  An oak desk was placed in the center of the room with two large comfortable blue leather chairs in front of it.  The commander was sitting in a large silk covered chair behind the desk.  She was paging through a file, unaware of her company.  She had short dirt brown hair with sharp brown eyes.  Her smile lines were barely visible even though she had just turned 45.  She had a kind, warm face with a tall muscular build.  This was Commander Smith, one of the nine commanders of the Galaxy Command Force, and Captain of The USS America, the huge space ship that Lana and Artemis were standing in now. 

Wow. That was worse than I expected. I’ll give you a moment to recover…Okay, let’s put that monstrosity behind us and move on to the first page of Swan Lake! (Disclaimer: This page of Swan Lake hasn’t yet been edited.)

Odette missed her fingers the most. That was probably the worst part about not being human—the inability to grasp things and pick them up. On second thought, she really missed her legs too, and her arms of course…so perhaps Odette just missed being human. Irritated, she dragged her orange beak through her white feathers as she floated on the lake’s surface and waited impatiently for the sun to set.

There’s much to do tonight. The first of the casks have arrived; they’ll need to be inspected. If they leak, it will be a disaster.

The setting sun was hidden by the thick forest that surrounded most of Swan Lake, but Odette could tell by the darkly stained sky that it wasn’t much more than a sliver on the horizon. She bobbed up and down in the water and watched a large white swan peck a fluffy gray fledgling—a cygnet—the only one of their flock.

Zina got back from her solo run to Torrens. I’ll need to hear her report and make arrangements to receive the rest of our payment from the client…

The water beneath Odette’s white swan body glowed. Droplets of water began to float, levitating in the air thanks to the magic that churned around her like a current. Bells clanged, and her wings were pulled back as water encircled her in a smooth cocoon. Light shone everywhere, and the pang of her body stretching out was a familiar comfort. Her feet—her wonderfully useful human feet—touched the sandy bottom of the lake, and the light faded.

Odette had swapped her white swan feathers for barely-tamed, dirty-water-blonde hair. Her eyes were no longer dark, but a bright hazel. She stood knee-high in water, surrounded by people where previously there had been swans.

Odette stretched her arms out in front of her, feeling the peculiarity of her human limbs compared to her swan wings. “Nadia.”

Nadia—a blank-faced woman with dark brown hair that hung over her eyes—nodded. “Role Call. Pyotr and Dima.”

Do you see what I mean? Even in it’s rough format, Swan Lake is a MUCH better read than The Awakening Call. Obviously I’m much older now than I was when I wrote The Awakening Call, but the quality of writing is so much higher, and it’s not all due to age, but also to practice. I have over twenty books available on Amazon, but I’ve written an additional eight or so that will never see the light of day. I don’t regret writing them because they made me a better writer.

So, writers, please don’t be discouraged! Do you see where I started, and you see where I am now? I know it’s hard to carry through and write an entire book, but it’s an extremely rewarding experience, and you won’t get better any other way.

Well, now that I’ve ripped that mandate off, I’m going to retire to lick my wounds a.k.a. re-bury the Awakening Call file. Champions, have a lovely week. Until next time!

14 comments on “Writers, don’t be discouraged!

  1. Reading that little part of the Awakening Call really makes me want to read the whole thing! I’m 13, and I love to write, too! That’s better than what I could do though!

    • To be fair I did edit this again when I was 14…which actually makes me feel worse. I’m gearing up to take another shot at the sci fi genre sometime in the next few years, but hopefully it will end up better than the Awakening Call. (By the by, I’m not convinced you can’t do better than this! 😉 Keep on writing and I’m positive you’ll run circles around it!)

  2. When I look back at my first attempt at a book, it makes me want to crawl under a rock. But in a few years I’ll probably look back at my first published books and cringe (though I’m really proud of them now) K M Shea, you are really, really brave showing us Awakening Call and I enjoyed it because it gives me hope that someday my writing will be as good as your Snow Queen books.

    • I can sympathize with the rock comment, and I have to agree that when I look back at the books I first published (Cough Robyn Hood Cough) I grimace. (That might be, though, because I didn’t have any editors or proof-readers back then, so they aren’t nearly as polished. If you had help in that area, you are already years ahead of where I was when I started!)
      I’m glad seeing the Awakening Call encouraged you! That’s exactly what I wanted–and it is the ONLY reason why I was willing to dredge it up. 😉

      • Hey, don’t stress! I love your Robyn Hood books. Even if the books are rough, at least it makes Robyn sound like she has real feelings!
        (Though I have to agree with you about the Awakening Call!)

      • Yes…I still have hopes of having one of my editors proofread it after I fix it up a bit. Poor Robyn is a bit neglected compared to the rest of my books. 😉

  3. Wow! Thank you for showing that! I like to write, but I’m really good yet. So it was cool to see part of The Awakening Call. 🙂 Also, reading Swan Lake made me even more excited about reading the whole thing. So hurry up! 😉 No, really, take your time. No pressure! You are a great author!

    • As you are excited about Swan Lake, I’m happy to share that Editor #2 is picking over it right now–that’s why I had to share the unedited version–and Swan Lake is on track for a June release. (I have to take another whack at it, then Editor #1 will go over it again…the whole thing is almost as back-and-forth as a tennis match!)

      Back to the post! Hopefully the vast improvement between the two manuscripts encouraged you. I know a lot of writers who are so self-critical they stop writing because they’re frustrated with their work, which is what I really want to end. If you write a short story–or a bigger project, a full-length novel–you are already among an elite group! Lots of people want to write a book/short story, but few ever start, much less finish. 🙂 So keep on writing, and enjoy the journey!

  4. I simply adore you! Thank you so much for sharing this. I don’t even dare remember what I did at 13 or even 20 🙂

    • Awww, thank you! You are too sweet! 🙂 I didn’t even show you the worst parts of the draft. But as much as recalling it makes me grimace, I’m so glad I did write it! Who knows where I would be if I hadn’t?

  5. Thank you for sharing this. Sometimes I look at what I am writing and just think I should delete it all. You give me hope and the courage to continue writing, if only for the reason of becoming better. I, as always, look forward to following the new adventures you will create.

    • I’m glad I could help! You have the right attitude–to keep on writing and improving–which, frankly, is the only way you can succeed. 😉 (After all, 100% of books that are not started remain unwritten.) Good luck, and don’t lose hope!

  6. Thank you for the advice! I found a disc the other day labeled “Alyssa’s Documents 2008” and was excited to boot it up on my PC. I had forgotten about a few books I had started and was surprised to see that one was even over a hundred pages. I started reading it to see if it was worth finishing, slowly growing increasingly embarrassed until, about twenty pages in, I had to delete it to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day again (or my husband ever seeing it). Now that I’ve read your advice I feel some regret over not keeping it…but seriously, that thing needed to be put down. Twilight did not do my young imagination any favors. Your books, however, have stirred up my writing bug again. I just finished Princess Ahira last night and, although it wasn’t as polished as your more recent books, it is by far my favorite. Thank you for doing what you do! I look forward to reading your novels to my daughter when she no longer requires pictures in her books.

    • I had a big lol moment at your Twilight line–don’t worry, my awful space story was terribly inspired by another space series as well. And now that you’re an adult you’ll find it much easier to write great characters because you understand more of the emotional complexity. (In my never-to-see-the-light-of-day/unpublished manuscripts you can literately see the year I stopped copping a teenager’s attitude and adult-ed a lot more based on the year they were written.)

      Also, I’m glad you like Princess Ahira! Though my beginning books (like Ahira) aren’t as polished or stylistically correct, I still love them, so I’m always tickled pink to hear when they’re someone’s favorite. 🙂

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