This week, Dee’s back to tell us about her recollection of the moon landing and what it can teach us about writing…
I was listening to a speech by some politician when he mentioned landing on the moon in the course of our efforts to get to Mars. In July, we’d quietly celebrated the 51st anniversary of the first landing on the moon. Those of us old enough to remember the event are generally hard pressed to recount to others the feelings evoked by those slightly grainy, black and white visuals of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface, and the lonely orbit of Mike Collins. When I taught, I routinely took my classes to the Virginia Science Museum in Richmond. The kids would stand at the kiosk showing a video of the moon landing and almost yawn.
And why not, I guess. At a time when space shuttles were commonplace and powerful computers fit into watches, they couldn’t imagine a world of so little technology or one where we aspired to the moon when their minds were already turned to the far reaches of the universe.
In July of 1969 I had just graduated from high school in Orlando (a child prodigy. I must have been, graduating at age 4) where my dad was stationed. We went out into the front yard and watched the glare of light that was really a rocket carrying the three astronauts. For days we stayed glued to the TV, listening to the dialogue between the crew and control central in Houston. Oh, and then to see those wondrous pictures of men actually stepping on the moon! Our hearts lodged in our throats. We sat speechless, in amazement. Some of us cried, most prayed, but we watched, all over the world, a world which suddenly seemed much smaller. At night we stared up at the glowing ball in the sky and imagined Neil and Buzz loping and bouncing across its surface. Science fiction had come to life.
We held our breaths until the men emerged from the tiny splashdown capsule. What a thrill! America had done what no one else had (and still hasn’t), and all in the course of ten short years. To say we were proud would be an understatement. But we also shared the pride of accomplishment with the world. Neil Armstrong took “a giant leap for mankind,” and it was not hyperbole. We showed the world what could be done, but we joined with the world to continue space exploration in ways like the Hubble telescope, the shuttle, and the space lab and station.
There are a lot of things we as writers can learn from the first moon landing. First, never think anything is impossible. When John Kennedy announced we would land on the moon by the end of the 1960s, many scoffed. We persevered, even after terrible setbacks like the deaths of three astronauts. So even if you worry you might not have a shot at being published, keep on with that book–especially the book of your heart.
Second, have a plan–a story plan, a writing plan, a publishing plan—something to help you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. No one would have reached the moon without a defined start, middle and end game. You have to know where you’re going in order to know you’ve arrived, in space and in book writing.
Third, the astronauts knew when to say, “Houston, we have a problem.” (Yes, I know that’s Apollo 13 and not the moon mission of Apollo 11, but the idea is the same.) If you’re stuck, find a critique partner, a spouse, a sister, someone to brainstorm with. Even people who don’t write can listen and advance ideas that might help. Often, just voicing the sticking point out loud is all a writer needs.
Fourth, persevere even when the going is slow or even tedious. If NASA had lost interest when the dull, repetitive work had to be done to make the mission successful, we would still be lusting after those moon rocks. Writing isn’t always exciting and fun, but you have to keep at it.
Fifth, don’t think once your book is finished that you are. Once the Apollo 11 capsule was lifted from the ocean and set onto the deck of the rescue aircraft carrier, the men still faced days of quarantine and briefing. When you finish your book you have self-editing, critique partner suggestions and submissions to publishers and/or agents—which can be a chore. And of course, then comes the marketing! Repeat this rhyme: It’s not always fun but it has to be done.
Sixth, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and take risks. Everyone who saw the movie Hidden Figures sat in amazement that such talented women could be overlooked just because of their gender and color. But back then, that’s the way it was. Don’t allow narrow thinking to make you overlook exciting new ideas for your writing—those ideas might save your bacon right when you need that extra help.
Finally, when you truly have completed the work, celebrate the accomplishment. You might not have a ticker-tape parade down the streets of New York like the astronauts, but enjoy a treat of your choice and metaphorically pat yourself on the back. In its own way, completing a book is as exciting as landing on the moon.
And who knows? Your book might be your own “leap for mankind,” a bestselling romance that makes hearts sing, a thriller that makes readers double check their doors at nights, or a non-fiction that inspires people to improve their lives. Like the men and women who brave the unknown of space, you never know until you try. And like we did the astronauts in 1969, all of us will cheer you on.
A few years ago, Dee S. Knight began writing, making getting up in the morning fun. During the day, her characters killed people, fell in love, became drunk with power, or sober with responsibility. And they had sex, lots of sex.
After a while, Dee split her personality into thirds. She writes as Anne Krist for sweeter romances, and Jenna Stewart for ménage and shifter stories. All three of her personas are found on the Nomad Authors website. And all three offer some of the best romance you can find! Also, once a month, look for Dee’s Charity Sunday blog posts, where your comment can support a selected charity.
Where to find her (them):
Sweet ‘n Sassy Divas: http://bit.ly/1ChWN3K