I’ll be guilty of stating the obvious here, but the writing life can be tough. Writers need thick skin to survive rejections and brutal reviews, but we also need tender hearts or we won’t connect with our characters or with our readers. I was reminded of this ever-present tension when I mucked out my office last week and found an early draft of my new release, A Stillness of Chimes. The early version reminded me of my near-meltdown at a writers’ conference before I’d sold a novel anywhere.
Imagine a big room filled with published and unpublished writers, all hoping to impress a panel of agents who would read aloud from our opening paragraphs and then critique them. We’d submitted them anonymously, so we could cower in silence as the agents analyzed our offerings.
My opening lines had come to me out of the blue, months earlier, and they’d inspired a whole plot. I wasn’t sure if the story was romantic suspense, women’s fiction, or a hybrid, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t comedy. Yep, I’ve always had trouble sticking with one particular genre. I suffer mental whiplash as I go between screwball comedies and dark, moody-broody stories, and sometimes I accidentally blend the funny with the dark in the same story. This can cause problems.
When one of the agents read my lines aloud, someone in the back of the room started snickering. Soon everyone was laughing—everyone but me. I had poured my heart into my protagonist, a moody redhead who’s hiding some family secrets, and into her former beau, a small-town musician with a secret of his own. I didn’t want anyone laughing at Laura and Sean—or at me. I squirmed in my seat, wishing I could slip out of the room and have a good cry.
But then the agent said, “If this came across my desk, I would want to read the rest. It’s different.”
That was better than being laughed at, so I didn’t give up on those opening lines or on the story. I kept working on them. I wrote and sold two other novels first, but it’s finally time for Sean and Laura to meet the world.
A Stillness of Chimes is still a genre-straddler, but I think that’s what the story requires. We shouldn’t fear being different, and we shouldn’t fear harsh reviews or snickers from the back of the room. Criticism stings, but we can learn from it and improve our writing. I think the sting of criticism can make our hearts more vulnerable and tender, too, and tender hearts are better able to feel the joys and pains of others. Better able to love our characters through all the rewrites. Better able to believe in things we can’t see.
“Moseley captures readers’ attention from the first page with her stellar words and writing style. This story is part fast-paced puzzle, part romantic discovery. Mystery fans will especially adore this one.” – Romantic Times
When teacher Laura Gantt comes home to Prospect, Georgia to settle her recently-deceased mother’s household, the last thing she expects to encounter is a swirl of rumors about the father she lost to the lake twelve years ago—that he has reportedly been seen around town. Elliott Gantt’s body was never found and he was presumed dead….
Laura Gantt didn’t believe in ghosts, but sometimes she wondered if living across from a graveyard had warped her. Part Irish, all southern, descended from moonshiners and holy rollers, she’d always believed in things she couldn’t see. Her dad said it was just the old whisperings in their blood.
All morning, she’d heard soft, sure warnings. Some kind of trouble was on its way. The whisperings hinted it would come for Sean.
—from Chapter 1 of A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley.
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