Friday, August 1, 2014

What's Your Dream? The Writer's Journey

SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran Book Cover"What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'."
That's one of my favorite lines from the movie, Pretty Woman.
As writers, our job is dreams. That's the currency of our journey. We dream up stories, breathe life into characters, and hope like heck that readers and editors appreciate it enough to keep us in business. Even if they don't, we keep on writing. Because That's. Who. We. Are.
Everyone wants to hear a success story, a triumph over the odds. Fortunately, I have one for you today. Not every day, of course, but today I do. Two, in fact. Will you humor me?
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell called this account of triumph a monomyth, or the Hero's Journey. He wrote: "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."  
Yep, that sums it. Interesting that the title of my book is Scent of Triumph.

The Writer's Journey

There is no one journey, no correct path. Every writer comes to the craft from a world of different experiences -- that's what makes each voice unique. 
For me, the journey to fiction publication (I'd already published nonfiction books and articles) started fifteen years ago when I fell in love with the character of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented French perfumer, and imagined what her life might have been like during World War II. She emerged in my mind as real as anyone I’d ever known. 
When I couldn't find an agent or publisher, I turned to self-publishing and let 'er rip. Slowly, the book found its readers, those who loved the story and spread the word among fellow readers.
I kept querying, kept editing and writing, and finally clicked with an agent (thank you, Jenny Bent), and publisher (thank you, St. Martin's Press). Here's what happened next...

The Writing Process

St. Martin's Press at the Flatiron Building in New YorkThroughout the revision process, we trimmed 40,000 words (I was a little wordy), and added 14,000. A good editor helps a writer hone in on the essence of the story. From pacing to point-of-view, and everything in between, no stone – er, word — was left unturned.
Had I known the extent of rewriting involved, I might have run screaming from the Flatiron Building in New York. But I emerged a stronger writer, one who could fearlessly toss the last several chapters and create a new scenario for the ending. Funny enough, the last chapter that emerged was virtually untouched during the edits.
One of my favorite additions to the original self-published manuscript of Scent of Triumph came when Jennifer Weis and assistant editors Molly Traver and Sylvan Creekmore suggested I add some quotes at the beginning of each chapter, which I envisioned in the form of a journal entry that a perfumer might keep to record impressions and ideas — rather like an idea journal a writer might keep (and which I do). I had a wonderful time researching this new feature and molding it to the story.
Every journal entry references something in the corresponding chapter; it might be a note in perfumery, an impression, a thought, an observance. Some might be metaphorical. This new feature allowed me to delve deeper into Danielle’s character, and to experience the world around her through her artist eyes. Again, this intense editorial process strengthened my work, and for that I am grateful.

Another Road Less Travelled

FLAWLESS.Hostile Beauty Book Cover by Jan MoranI promised two stories, so here is the second. Agent Jenny encouraged me to follow a hybrid path -- two roads converged, if you will... Two years ago I had no idea what that was. So, in addition to writing historical fiction for St. Martin's Press, I'm also writing contemporary fiction as an Indie.
Indie, yes, but hardly alone. I call this the author-preneur path, where one gathers pros along the way -- professional book industry editors, proofreaders, cover designers, book formatters, etc. Agent Jenny is selling foreign rights and other rights, while I handle ebooks (my forte) and print books (less than a forte).The writer becomes an entrepreneur, a publisher, a chief marketing officer, and a head-honcho-buck-stops-here CEO.
Which I really enjoy, too. Each path -- indie and traditional -- has its unique scenery along the way, but both paths lead to the same destination: The Reader.
Isn't that the point? We write to entertain, to enlighten, to educate -- regardless of the medium.
My new Hostile Beauty series -- Flawless is the first title -- grew out of a desire to write smart contemporary fiction for women. Real life business mixed with real life relationships. Harvard MBA sagas combined with love and best-friends-forever stuff. You know, like life -- only better. (Actually, that depends on your life.)

The Hero's Journey

To me, the gist of the hero's journey and the writer's journey is tell a fine tale and to sprinkle inspiration, hope, excitement, and encouragement throughout the story. My writing might not bring about world peace, but I hope it inspires those who like to read what I write. I write to entertain, to share life's experiences, and to offer respite from the vagaries of the day.
If you're writing, please know that there is more than one path to reach your destination. Take one step at a time. And I hope we meet on the journey. 
Because as Vivian in Pretty Woman said, "I think you have a lot of special gifts." 


Sue Coletta said...

What a great, uplifting post! I really enjoyed it.

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Great piece, Jan. I do have a question, though. when you day, 'Indie' do you mean self-publishing or publishing through an independent press?