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For All You Late Bloomers

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things. A singer. A dancer. Primarily, Wonder Woman or one of Charlie’s Angels. But never, ever a writer. My mother gave me the idea of going into advertising when I was young because I had memorized all the various commercial jingles from television. (I know—I was highly qualified.) My father encouraged me to go into “business” or “finance” because that’s where the money was.

Money sounded good, so I attempted to follow my father’s advice. My first major in college was accounting. That didn’t last long. Since this was the ’80s and “greed was good,” I then decided to try my hand at finance. I liked that even less than accounting. Finally I landed in marketing, and the seed that my mother planted bloomed into a career in advertising. However, here’s the thing: my advertising career was nothing like what I saw on “Bewitched” or “Melrose Place.” It wasn’t as exciting or creative as I had hoped. No one could wiggle their nose to make things magically work out. (That usually required being at work for 24 hours straight.) And no one had sex on the desks (at least, no one that I knew had sex on the desks). But, at least it was a job.

The first few years were spent doing back office grunt work. However, I did manage to work my way up into doing front office grunt work. And while I did pretty well and (sometimes) enjoyed my work (depending largely on the level of insanity of my coworkers and clients), it’s not like I had found “my calling.” Mostly, I found a paycheck, which is what most of us find in our work and that was just fine with me.

Then I had a baby and I decided to take a break from advertising since the hours weren’t really conducive to having a family. (One of my bosses had a “daytime” nanny AND a “nighttime” nanny.) I didn’t see how I could keep up my current schedule (leaving my house by 7:15 AM and usually getting home sometime around or after 7:30 PM) and ever see my kid. So I settled, very happily I might add, into being an at home mom.

A few years into my new career as a mother, when my kids went to school, I found myself with more time on my hands and a desire to do . . . well, something. I wasn’t sure what. And then I started writing. First for just my friends and family. But then, because social media now gave me a platform to write for others, I started to put my work out there. And, I realized, I liked it. And, I was pretty good at it.

And so, I became a writer.

Last week I turned 45 years old, and the best gift I gave to myself was not being afraid of trying something new because I was “too old” or because I might not succeed. And, now, after a few years of hard work, I’m happy to present, Divine Bloodlines available in paperback on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Divine-Bloodlines-Christina-Surretsky/dp/1502879379/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1418672990&sr=8-2&keywords=Divine+Bloodlines

(The Kindle Edition will be coming soon!)

If you read the book I truly hope you enjoy it. But, whether you read it or not, my real hope is that, if you are a late bloomer like me, you won’t give up on finding what you want to be when you grow up. Even if you’re grown up.

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The End

I just finished my first manuscript. For about the 55th time. The first time I wrote, “The End,” I was like, Oh my God! I’m done! I can’t believe I’m done! That was somewhere around two or three years ago, I think. I lost track.

After I completed my manuscript that initial time, I was excited to be finished. Excited that I had actually written my first book. Then I read it and I realized, even though I was finished, I wasn’t. Oh, sure, there were various typos and such, but I wondered if the story could be better.

The next step was giving it to other people to read: my very good friend; one of my sisters; and two of my nieces (who, affectionately became “Aunt Chris’s Book Club”). Giving a manuscript to someone is a lot like setting up close friends on a blind date: you really hope they hit it off because if they don’t, it’s going to be awkward later on.

Luckily, my matchmaking (and writing) skills, seemed to work out. They all loved the manuscript, but all also gave me useful feedback about what parts worked for them and what parts didn’t. So I revised it again. And again. And I got it in what I hoped was good enough shape to send out to an actual editor. I had the good fortune early on in the process to make a contact with an editor at a publishing house and she offered to read my manuscript once it was done. (THAT is a long story and a whole other blog.) After a few more rounds of reading and revisions, I thought, “This is it. I’m done.” And I sent it off to her.

She read it. She really liked it. Unfortunately, not enough to publish it. But enough to give me some very good feedback that really made me think about the flow of the story and how different events happened. So I revised. Again. And I gave it back to Aunt Chris’s Book Club, and got more feedback. And – you guessed it – revised it again.

By this point, I was no longer naïve enough to believe I was anywhere close to being finished. I got in touch with a former writing teacher and hired him to edit the book. Not proofread it, but really edit it, beyond the helpful but more general comments I had received up until that point.

And edit it he did. The first time I received marked up pages in the mail, I thought, “Well, I definitely got my money’s worth.” There was ink on every page. EVERY page. He commented on everything. Things he loved. Things he didn’t. Typos. Inconsistencies. Overused words and phrases. Plot structure. Character development. Dialogue. Everything. Each time I’d get pages in the mail, I’d read his comments, but I didn’t do anything because I knew I needed to look at all the comments as a whole before moving forward.

When I finally got the last marked up page in the mail, the page where it said, “The End,” I looked at the entirety of my marked up manuscript. Then I had a stiff drink. And then I proceeded to procrastinate for the next several weeks (or months – I may have had several stiff drinks) before doing anything with it. Because, I knew, yet again, “The End” was not “The End” but just the beginning of yet another major overhaul.

Eventually my ambition guilt finally took hold, and I started revising the manuscript. Some comments I agreed with and made changes to accommodate them. Some I didn’t. And then there were aspects of the story that didn’t bother my editor or any of my readers but from the very beginning they just didn’t sit right with me. Certain characters and where they fit into the story and how they affected its flow. I ended up cutting out major characters and scenes that had been with my story from the beginning. It was hard, but I think I finally understood that bible quote: “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” I doubt they were talking about a manuscript, but who knows? (Those guys WERE prolific writers.)

When I was finally “finished” with my manuscript (again), it went back to my beta readers for the umpteenth time. (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate these people?) And they all loved the changes! Great, so you think I’d be finished right? Wrong. Because, after the seemingly never ending process of revisions, I just never felt finished. I’d read it and find something to revise. And then read it again, and find something else to revise. Each time thinking I was done, and each time realizing I wasn’t.

Until today. Oh, I knew I had been getting close. I knew when I finally fixed all the major plot points that had been bothering me. And different pieces of dialogue that I didn’t love. And even the names of certain inconsequential characters. But this last time, when I found myself trying decide if I wanted to use the word “disgusted” or “repulsed” I kind of realized, you know, either one of those words will work. Now step away from the manuscript. You are done.

So I did. And I sent it off to my trusty editor to proofread. And I know, this time, when I see the ink, it will be so I can change things like “there” vs. “their,” or start a new paragraph or fix some quotation marks. And once I make those changes, I know it really will be, “The End.”

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