Kelly Scriven

Exploring worlds of my own creation

Readers in Real Life

“If you want to publish, then at some point we’re going to read it.”

Yep. Oh goodness, yep. I was at lunch with friends, and we were talking about my writing. More specifically, we were talking about why they had never read my writing.

It has been years since I have shared my writing with anyone beyond the anonymous Internet. I’ve shared some fanfiction on sites, to good feedback, but have not had an actual, physical person in my life read my writing in over a decade. Somewhere along the way, I got scared. Shy. Insecure.

But if I’m going to actually make my writing a book, paper and glue and physically hold it in my hands, someone is going to find it and read it. Someone I know. Someone who might love it, someone who might hate it. Sharing this world in my head with anonymous people is one thing, but sharing it with those I see in my day to day life feels…strange and unfamiliar.

Imagine holding conversations over lunch about my characters, my world, my story. It’s ludicrous. It’s incredible.

I looked myself in the mirror and realized that I want that. It is scary, putting this piece of my soul out there, but also exhilarating. I want to one day hand a book to someone and say, “I wrote this!”

This fall, I plan to start querying my first book out. It can be a long and tiring process, but it is step one, and a step I am getting more and more anxious to take. With a little luck and a lot of work, that moment where I hand my book to someone could happen next year.

I want it. Bad.

Beta

I know that the path I follow is one that hundreds – thousands – have walked before. It’s still a bit of a thrill, though, as I start out for myself. I have written forever, but revision is a whole new monster to me. It was daunting. Honestly, it was overwhelming and terrifying to me. I wrote and was happy to leave the works as they were.

Naive, wasn’t I?

Beta reading was, perhaps, the more terrifying part of revision to me. It probably is for most writers. The idea of taking this labor of love that you have spent weeks or months on (in my case, years) and putting it before other people can be daunting. A lot of people compare it to handing your baby over, but let’s be honest, I do that all the time. My babies go to school, they go to friends’ houses, they go to camps. They go with my blessing.

I haven’t let anyone read my writing in years.

Beta readers are so important to the process though. When you revise, you’re reading your work over and over again. Then, you’re reading it again. You know exactly what you mean, what you intend, and you can become blind to how it came out on paper.

Readers, good readers, will help you see past that.

I sent my novel out with complete terror, sure that they would come back and tell me how awful it was. Redundant. Cliche. Getting beta readers was the very best thing that could have happened to my confidence, because when the feedback came, none of my worst nightmares came true.

They liked it.

More importantly, they wanted to help me make it even better.

I’ve polished the first chapter of my (latest) completed novel so far with the feedback I got from my beta readers. They helped me see some of the things that had felt off without me knowing why. They helped me make parts stronger. They gave me some feedback that I dismissed, and I did so without any doubts.

Working with beta readers has made me feel more like an author than I ever have before. I am so grateful I took the leap, and so grateful to every one of them for their help on this journey. I have a lot more novel to polish, but I’m excited for it now – excited to hear back from my beta readers, and excited to tackle the challenge.

If you’re considering having other readers look at your work – do it. It’s terrifying, and exhilerating, and will only make you and your writing stronger.

A Debt is Owed

He’s coming.

The thought ripped through her, making it hard to breathe. Turning the knob, she eased the door shut, careful not to wake the children who slept peacefully on the other side. Once it was closed, she spun on heel and raced to the stairs. She leapt down them two at a time, grabbing the railing to spin herself down the last few steps and into the hallway beyond.

She flew through the kitchen, the last of the coals still glowing in the stove, and burst into the back yard.

A shadow shifted in front of her.

“You’re late.” His voice dripped with annoyance as the shadows manifested into a tall figure in a black cloak. She could only see his mouth and jaw beneath the hood, pale as moonlight.

She shrugged. “Nightmare,” she said in way of explanation, nodding up toward the twins’ bedroom. His thin lips curled into a smile.

“Of course,” he crooned. “Ever the devoted mother. Have you decided?” He stepped even closer to her, standing so close she could feel his breath ruffle the hair on her head. She took a quick step backward, putting her hands on her hips.

“I refuse.” She spat the words, thrusting her jaw forward and hoping her fear didn’t slip out. Red flashed under the hood of his cloak, his eyes glinting.

“You understand, of course, what this means,” he growled. “A debt is owed.”

“And it will be paid,” she assured him, “but not by my family. Find another way.”

His hand lifted from his side slightly, and she felt invisible fingers brush her hair behind her ear. The shadows swirled around her, blocking out the light until she could see nothing but shades of black and grey.

“Oh,” he whispered into her ear, “I have a way. Two ways, in fact.”

Her heart froze. On instinct, she reached up to grab at his throat, but the darkness scattered around her, leaving only her moonlit yard. He was gone.

“Oh gods,” she whispered, looking up at the bedroom window where her two children lay fast asleep. “What have I done?”

Stories

The world is made up of stories. We live our stories every day. Sometimes our stories are methodical and slow. Sometimes they are frantic and full of chaos. Usually, they exist somewhere in between.

We consume stories in every form. Books, TV shows, and movies; gossip, people watching, and networking. Each person’s social media profile is a story, carefully crafted to show and tell the world only the parts a person wants to show. They clean before they snap for Instagram. They gloss over the argument they had with their spouse when talking about the amazing date night they had. We are made of stories.

If you think about it, we are all authors. Some of us just like to write stories that aren’t our own – and that is where some incredible magic, and a whole lot of hard work, happens.

I have so many stories I want to share with the world. I cannot wait to take the next steps to get there. One day, I will hold a novel in my hand with my name on it. I just need to find the path to get there.

I am excited to share that journey with you.

Pathway

A break in the wooden fence opened to a single pathway that led from the main thoroughfare. Grey, uniform stone covered in mottled shadow that shifted with the gentle breeze. On either side, trees had been planted so that their canopies arced overhead, just out of reach. Branches tangled together, various shades of green and brown that wove together intricately. It was impossible to tell where one tree ended and another began.

Stepping into the shadow was like stepping into a different world. The light dimmed, softly playing on the brush that covered the ground on either side of the path. Bushes and grasses grew wild, sharp points and broad leaves mixing together to block any view of the dirt below. They were full of life, thriving in the shade and saved from the harsh summer heat by the canopy of branches above.

She could stay here forever, if not for the rushing water of the fountains up ahead.

Freewrite: Eleven

He laughs with his whole body.

Sitting on the couch, he pulls his lanky legs up to his chin and stares at me with bright blue eyes. His knees are knobby, his arms gangly, the first glimpse of puberty found in his awkwardly long limbs. A scattering of freckles dusts the lean cheeks that once were full of baby fat and dimples. This is eleven, and it is a door through which I can glimpse just a hint of the man he will become.

“Moooooom!” The word is full of dismay and joy in equal parts, torn between embarrassment at my antics and the joy that bubbles up from within. He locks his attention on me and waits with barely contained patience. I make him wait just a little longer, and his keen eyes flash.

“Bed for time,” I tell him in a serious tone. His body shakes again as the laughter comes. His face cracks open in a grin, his arms flail just a little, and he jumps from the couch to place his hands on his slender hips. His body is thin and long, his height suddenly towering.

“You said it wrong!”

I did, son. I did. And the gift of your laughter, your joy, will have me saying it wrong again and again – even if you should have been in bed long ago.

These moments are everything.

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