It took me eight year to get my new novel, How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, from an idea to a book you can hold in your hand. I would not have been able to do that without help along the way.
When I first sat down to write, I intended to put together a series of essays based on my experiences as a cancer patient. It was awful - dry, maudlin, a bit academic. I couldn’t capture the human struggles of the people I met in essays, so I wrote the story of four women that meet in a hospital waiting room. That was the first draft of what would eventually become How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. The novel went through a dozen or so drafts over the intervening years because I had to learn how to write a novel, while actually writing that novel.
One of the best things I did during that time was to join several critique groups. These groups were invaluable in my journey from a woman scribbling in the storage room to a published author. Some of these groups were terrible; the people enjoyed making new writers feel small in order to feed their own egos. They were also valuable learning experiences. Sitting around a table with people that rip each other apart taught me how to be a generous critique partner and value honest, constructive criticism. Those groups also toughened me up for the inevitable periods of rejection that are part of a writing life. The people I met in those groups were like personal trainers that pushed me to run that extra mile or perform another set of sit ups. I didn’t enjoy the process, but I improved.
Bad critique groups made me appreciate a good critique group when I found it. I am currently a member of a wonderful group. The nine of us meet on Sunday afternoons for lunch and discussion. These people have read and reread pieces of my novels until they knew my characters almost as well as I do. It is a rare treat to watch your critique group get into heated arguments about why one of your characters would or would not do something. They are invested in my work and I in theirs. They have been a great support throughout the process of revising the novel and getting it ready for publication.
The most recent group that has helped me along the path the publication is the staff of Light Messages Publishing. They are a family-owned press that publishes novels with thought provoking messages. When I sent them my manuscript, they immediately connected with my characters and their friendship. It has been a joy to work with Elizabeth Turnbull and the rest of the staff. The editorial process was remarkably painless and I feel like part of a team when we talk.
Someone recently asked me what advice I would give a new writer to help them along the road to publication. My first response would be – don’t go it alone. Find some writer friends, either in real life or on the internet, and work together. The road to publication can be a long rough ride. Bring snacks and a friend.
'How to Climb the Eiffel Tower' Blurb
Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.
About Elizabeth Hein
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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