Jason Chabot’s debut novel: BELOW: THE BROKENSKY CHRONICLE, Book #1 JUST LAUNCHED!!!
And we’re lucky to have him right here giving us some really good insights into the writing process – thanks, Jason.
When the Concept Trumps the Credentials
What a privilege to write a guest blog for Alice Kuipers’s website, filled with her fantastic writing tips and thought-provoking ideas. I recommend checking back often. Writers should always have resources like this handy in order to stimulate the creative process, learn more about their craft, find motivation, and generally feel connected to the literary world. Along that same vein, for those who aspire to become an author, I want to inspire you by sharing my own experience.
For you see, I was an accountant by profession – a number cruncher who could boast over three hundred key strokes a minute on my adding machine. Every day I prepared budgets, journal entries, payroll cheques, and bank reconciliations, and was forever rattling off debits and credits as if I was speaking another language. But my passion lay elsewhere. I felt compelled to share a story that had been brewing in my head for a very long time.
And so my alter ego as a writer was born.
I had only my evenings and weekends free to write, and after long days at the office, it proved difficult to come home and return to the keyboard. Though at times I felt chained to a computer, my imagination thankfully allowed me to drift away to other realms – whether it was soaring through the clouds to Above, or plummeting to the barren wasteland of Below. Writing became the artistic outlet I craved.
After two years, I finished my manuscript. I loved what I had created, and was sure others would too. However, the odds were against me finding an agent. Submissions to an agency require a query letter, and I remember reading how-to books about the publishing world which said my letter must include a bio, listing my writing credentials, otherwise I wouldn’t be taken seriously. That recommendation always made me sweat! I was sure I was doomed. What could I possibly say when I had never belonged to a writers’ group, had never taken a creative writing class, and had no literary connections whatsoever?
Well, I decided to keep the bio short – very short! – and to carefully craft my query letter to showcase my writing skills. But just as important, I focused on my story’s concept. I wanted to hook a potential agent’s interest with my first line, to get them so excited they’d leap from their desk and not even bother to read to the bottom of the page where they would discover what I lacked in experience.
My letter succeeded. In less than half an hour of sending the email, I received a response from my agent, Daniel Lazar at Writers House, asking to see the manuscript. I was thrilled beyond belief, and I cancelled all of my appointments for the following three weeks, anticipating that I would be whisked off to New York at a moment’s notice. As it turned, there was no reason to leave Vancouver. Instead, it was time for the real work to begin. I needed a crash course in editing so I could tell the biggest story with the least amount of words, and this took another two years to complete. During that time, I learned a great deal about the fascinating yet challenging process of becoming a published author, and I owe a debt of gratitude to my agent and my editor, Hadley Dyer, at HarperCollins Canada. With their guidance, I now have a book that I’m extremely proud for people to read.
But how can this help you? I have three pieces of advice.
#1 – Develop the Idea
Yes, so easy to say, but difficult to make happen. However, take the time to create a concept that is fresh, stimulating, relevant, and above all, something you feel passionate about. You’ll know you’ve found it when it gets you jumping up from your desk with excitement. Consider topics that make you feel joy, anger, or sadness, and play these against exceptional settings or characters. Take a subject and consider it from a different angle, then push the notion as far as possible to make it unique and compelling.
#2 – Work Hard
For many people, free time is a luxury. But snagging an hour or two, whenever you can, really adds up over the months, and you’ll find you carve out the time when there’s a story idea you just can’t stop thinking about. Though my work schedule as an accountant was very gruelling, I took every moment I could find to hone my skills. The concept of my story kept me engaged, and motivated me to research the techniques for better creative writing. I did everything I could to edit and polish my work, and I learned to be open to critiques that allowed my novel to flourish.
#3 – Believe
Believe in yourself and your concept. Believe even after those rough days when you feel too tired or frustrated to continue. Not only will this make you do whatever is necessary to create a successful story, but others will also be swept up with your confidence and enthusiasm.
Ultimately, ideas transform this world, and with so many life experiences to draw from, just think of the possibilities. I don’t doubt people who say they have a great story to tell, yet so few invest the time and effort to see their ideas realized. But having a concept that gives you inspiration will pull you through the rough patches, will make you commit to hard work, and allow others to see the value of your idea. Because great ideas are always worthy of being published.
Make it happen!
Jason Chabot the author of the trilogy The Broken Sky Chronicles (HarperCollins Canada, June 2014). He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours degree from the University of British Columbia and has been a chartered accountant in Vancouver since 2000. He’s a tall one, reaching a height of six feet, seven inches, and besides creative writing, he enjoys playing classical piano, as well as ballroom and Latin American dancing. To learn more about Jason, please visit his website (www.JasonChabot.com) or follow him on Twitter (@JChabotAuthor).