Sparked by Words

Posts tagged ‘writing success’

Measuring Devices

Depending on perspective, I’m a total failure or a remarkable success.

I never completed my master’s program (studio art) but earned a bachelor’s degree (creative writing) and more than 60 units beyond. My marriage was often rocky and miserable (for both of us) but we just celebrated our 46th anniversary. Though I’m not a great artist, I worked three years in a commercial studio (sapped my soul) and was an outstanding art teacher for nearly three decades. We don’t travel often but have spent hours in the company of our four grandchildren who show us worlds we never imagined. Our bank account is small, our house needs repair, our cars are old, but everywhere I go, I meet friends.

Books and blogs that teach writing skills order us to sit our ass in the chair and write. To get the story done. They admonish that for many people the book never gets to The End. I’m not published (yet!) but have written three children’s books, three adult novels, and am working on the fourth. That’s a barge of queries, of failures and rejections, and of one serendipitous acceptance letter looming in my future, but six books completed. Finished. Done. The End.

Each sentence I write is the best I can scrape from my marrow but someone else has written a more lyrical line. Every character I imagine conveys a power the whole world recognizes as universal truth but another author has written a better story. My sons nod at my achievements but a stranger stands at the podium and autographs the front page of her published book.

The Pulitzer committee isn’t waiting for me. Not for me.

I’ve a long way to go but I know I’ll get there because I’ve already trudged up the rugged path called Effort and stood at the top of the wilderness called Merit. Up here the wind blows hard, trying to knock me over, to see the word Fail graffitied on the boulder under my feet.   I don’t look down where the view makes me dizzy. I gaze toward the horizon which has no end and squint to see the command Succeed puffed in clouds.

You measure me in years or miles or finish lines or trophies. I measure myself in chapters and plots and titles and revisions.

You don’t know my name. One day you may. One day you will.

I am Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt. I’ve written a book or two.



Image courtesy Pixabay





Letting Go a Dream


I began writing The Inlaid Table the last week of April, 2003 and completed it in early 2009 – the first time. It was my first adult novel, and it placed in the top 250 entries for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – ABNA – competition. Out of 5,000 entries I was thrilled to have done so well. Such heady achievement fortified me to continue to work on it, to seek early readers, and to query. My critique group provided support along with suggestions for improvement and sometimes sharp criticism.

Almost three months ago I suffered a serious injury to my right arm (it’s healing) and used the downtime to undertake an absolute final edit. Nothing could deter me. The final final version satisfied me. Until a few nights ago when I tossed through the early hours of a new day, anxious and battling with my conscience and my intellect, unable to sleep at all. I woke unrested and concluded I will no longer attempt to publish the book. Though I still love the characters and the story, I’ve decided this one will live on my computer and nowhere else. Sometimes you just have to let things go, and for this book, with literally thousands of hours devoted to researching, writing, and editing, it is out of publication contention.

It was a tough decision but one I had to make. The premise of the book is overdone and outdated. Over the last eight years, while I worked on Table and also wrote two other novels, both now complete, the ground for this story turned swampy with politics and emotions. There won’t be the readers I expected, and the book will generate controversy I never intended.

Yes, I cried. Yet other people face more vital, more dire situations than having spent so many years writing a book that will never get ink. I wiped those tears off my cheeks. It was not a complete failure though I probably should have sensed the impending implosion years earlier. I learned a lot from the experience, all the things one should expect from such an undertaking and a few things I never anticipated. The wisdom gained in any endeavor can be applied to trying to write, then concluding it isn’t the right manuscript, it’s not the dream to pursue.

Two of the best attributes of engaging in competitive sports are learning to win honorably and lose graciously. Accepting rules and standards allows games to be played on common ground. Dignity and confidence at trying new challenges are gains measured outside the score board. Persistence regales effort even in the face of failure. Cheering for individual excellence surpasses fawning over athletic super stars. Standing up after you’ve been thrown to the ground reminds you to be grateful you can stand at all.

In the same vein, I’ve grown as a person and as writer. I listen better, think more clearly, share fairly, try harder. I know the value of staying up late to work and getting up early to do the same. My ABNA moment gave me the confidence to go back and do a better job on something I’d thought was finished. I spent my 10,000 hours honing my craft, and my current writing exhibits more mastery than when I started writing Table in 2003.

My biggest regret is that I won’t get to publicly acknowledge the many people who helped me travel the path of writing the first book. Those folks gave me their very best effort with no more expectation than a thanks from me. So here it is: Thank you, dear family, friends, and believers. You made it possible for me to fail with dignity and to stand up again.

While I’ve given up on the dream of publishing The Inlaid Table, I have others to pursue, and I will. I remain determined to see my books to publication, whether via the cachet of the traditional print houses or the more likely, perhaps humbler, independent route.

There is value in letting go this dream. The next one is still viable.




Clip art courtesy: Google public domain mages, (girl with a bubble)


One Writer’s Inventions

To invent: a tool that will preserve my finger scribbles on the shower door and transfer them to my computer, all words intact rather than dripping down the glass, lost in the holes of my memory.


To invent: a clipboard that slips under my pillow and catches my dreams –  words, sounds, images, sensations – then transcribes them to my work in progress without twisting them into  gibberish fragments, convincing me they were nightmares all along.

To invent: a microphone that absorbs the sound of my voice as I hear it while singing in the shower and packages it in convenient download apps thus recording a modicum of talent in at least one area, instead of garbling the sound and convincing me I sound as bad as my family insists, shower acoustics or not.

To invent: an Exercycle that moves my body muscles and keeps me fit while drawing out my brain muscle into useful writing modes, so I can lose weight and look gorgeous for my back page photo on my newly published book. Don’t ask, book not in final form yet. Haven’t hired the photographer.

To invent: a mind reading tool that seizes escaping brain waves that would lodge in my head if I didn’t have to interact verbally with the people at the grocery store (please don’t overstuff the reusable bags because they tear – um, yeah, like that) the banker, (two hundred dollars, but as four twenties, six tens, eight fives, and all the rest ones, so I have some tip money handy) and the medical intake nurse (yep, I’ve gained a bit more weight, and no, I don’t want to go to the health center thirty miles away to learn to do what I know how to do but don’t want o do to improve my eating habits, can’t you please just give me a pill?) because in all that yakking time I’ve lost many wonderful and creative story lines.

To invent: one perfect logline that nails the essence of book number one in all its lyrical glory and erudite splendor and does so within the infinitely tiny and impossible parameters of logline requirements, (synopsis of story, important characters, fifty words or less, one or two sentences) therefore allowing me to move forward with other requirements for publishing my book.

Wait, I did that. I wrote the logline. It’s wonderful, succinct, and mesmerizing. It captured the flag.

Oh yeah, baby, you’re a writer now. Ba da bing, ba da bang.





Image: water drops courtesy: Google public domain images

Rounding the Bend, Hitting the Wall, Writing All the Way

More than ten years ago I began writing a book I’d intended to pen for decades. The premise of the book changed significantly so the one I finally wrote is less stodgy, more imaginative, and better researched. I finished it after four years, sent notices to friends and family, and kvelled at the sweet comments returned to me. Then I revised it again and again, trying to get closer to the heartbeat of my idea, making improvements at each iteration.

quill pen

Reviewers noted that the beginning was weak, slow and meandering. Over and over, I rewrote the beginning – first line, first paragraph, first chapter. I swapped a chapter for another, improved an earlier version, eliminated one “first chapter” attempt, and finally settled on what seemed to be perfect.

Slogging through the traditional agent querying process, getting no-thank-you’s or no response at all tainted my belief in my book. Everything I read, even unpublished, amateur work, seemed better than mine. Doubts about my ability kept me awake with worry about the path I’d chosen. Maybe I couldn’t write after all. I stopped talking about it with every stranger stuck in lines behind me at the bank and grocery store, and began work on my second book. Less flag waving for book two. I’d learned that telling the world I was writing a book elicited questions about what section they could find it at the bookstore. But I also kept at the first book, rewriting, evaluating, deleting, working through early morning hours to make it better.