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Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Writing Journey

imageI don't always talk about my writing, at least not in online form, because sometimes there's a blurry line between being a writer and working in the publishing industry. Plus, it's a little weird given that as much as I've been in the business and know about the business, I'm still waiting on that elusive book deal. The waiting can be hard. I've learned a lot from waiting, but I can also say in all honesty, that I'm really done waiting. But that's not for me to decide.

In terms of the wait, agent Rachelle Gardner just wrote a great post on the subject. It inspired me to talk a little about my waiting journey.

Here's what I've learned about waiting.

1. Publishing really is a crapshoot. I've seen books that have made it that leave you scratching your head as to why, and also books that are excellent that sit in someone's drawer for lack of publishing. As much as you want an explanation, you're just not going to get one. It's the same deal once a book is published. Excellent books miss the bestseller list, and really bad books make it. Why? The person who figures out the answer to that question will make gazillions in the industry.

So here's what you do about it. Write the best book you can. Learn from the experts. Keep improving. Be willing to let go of your expectations. Understand that the journey is going to look a lot different than what you thought it would be.  Every single one of my friends from when I first got started (except those who quit) are now published. I never imagined that it would take this long for me. But it has. And ultimately, I have to be okay with that. My time will come. Hopefully before I die.

2. Take the waiting time to learn. I'll never forget the early days of going to writer's conferences. I ran into a woman I knew, and she proceeded to tell me how much she thought going to conferences was a waste of time because it was always the same information and same people, and she never learned anything. That writer is still not published. I contrast that with the time I sat next to bestselling author Joan Johnston at a small writer's group. The workshop was geared mostly to beginners, with very basic information, but there was Joan, taking notes. At the break, she made a comment to me about how the presenter said something she hadn't thought of before. The lesson I learned- even the pros have things they still need to learn.

3. Keep writing. I know so many people who spent years on that one book. And then, when that one book sold, they had nothing to come next. They struggled with how to start another new book, and couldn't figure out how to get it written in a timely manner. I have completed somewhere between 15 and 20 books. I lost count, and that's okay, because I imagine some of those books aren't very good. But I know how to write one, and I know how to get it done. I've learned something new with every book. My fabulous agent, Chip MacGregor, says that eventually, we can go back and sell some of those old books, so maybe... someday.

4. It's okay to be frustrated. I get really upset at people who want to offer pithy statements about bucking up and not letting you be upset about disappointments in the process. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to screw a smile on my face as some Pollyanna gives me lame advice about my crushing blow. You suck it up, and when you can, do whatever it is you do when you're angry and hurt and frustrated. Go ahead and cry. Write a cathartic piece about your feelings. Use those emotions in a scene that you're writing. Sometimes, you just have to let the emotions be what they are. This does not mean you post a blog rant about the editor who rejected your masterpiece or send that same editor black roses. Make sure you have a small group of writer friends you can trust- talking about it with them can really help. My go-to group is willing to kick my butt when I need it (and sometimes when I don't see it!) but also love on me just as much.

That said, there is a point at which you do have to pull yourself out of it and move on. I found a rejection letter the other day for a book that, at the time, was the book of my heart. I was depressed for WEEKS over that rejection. I was sure the editor was some kind of horribly mean human being for not seeing the beauty in my brilliant piece of work. But now, 8 years later, I looked at that letter, and went, "huh. I didn't know that editor rejected one of my books." It would be nice to do something with that book someday. But in the meantime, I've written at least ten other books, and I've been able to move on.

5. Your journey is your journey. I can't tell you how many well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people want to compare your journey to someone else's. Heck, sometimes I want to compare my journey to someone else's. But that's not fair. The timing is just different for some people. Even once you sell a book or two or ten, you could have a dry spell of years without publishing a thing. Or you could consistently publish for the rest of your life. I don't know what it will look like for me or for anyone else. As hard as it is, and as much as I want to analyze it and find a formula, there just isn't one. So accept it. Accept your journey. Sure, you're going to be upset and disappointed from time to time, but accept that piece of it. Think of it as a journey to the new world- you don't know exactly where it is, or how long it's going to take. And maybe, though you're expecting to land in India, you'll end up discovering a whole new continent.

Are you a writer? What's your advice for people on the waiting portion of the journey?




KayK said...

I enjoyed reading your post and I have thought the same thing about some of the books that are published. You have to wonder sometimes how they got a book published.

Blogging A to Z http://www.AMomsPointOfView.com

DanicaFavorite said...

Thanks for stopping by Kay!