Some are obvious, but most will cost you nothing. Enjoy.
The only thing harder than writing, is sending your writing out to be judged by the masses, be that your beta readers, an agent, an editor, or worse, your mom. After years of submissions (including the revised manuscript I sent to my publisher yesterday) I still hesitate over the “send” button. But I’ve come to realize that there are a few things that make clicking send that much easier.
1) Know your stuff. If you are submitting to an agent or a publisher, this means knowing who you are sending it to and what they are looking for. It also means knowing how to write a query letter or synopsis , and basics like the difference between rhythm and rhyme (that’s for you picture book folks). If you don’t know this stuff, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you find out and implement it in your work first.
2) Rally your troops. Writing groups are good for that (I assume, since I’ve never belonged to a writing group for more than 1 day). Chat with other writers that you’ve befriended at conferences over your submission anxiety (assuming you’ve been nice and made friends). And failing all of those, you have your family to rely on to say things like “they’re going to call you back so fast your head will spin!” or “you’re going to be the next J.K. Rowling!” or some other totally inaccurate thing that shows they know nothing about the publishing industry, but have plenty of love for you.
3) Get comfy. We all have something we do to make ourselves feel better. It might be retail therapy at the local mall. “Ooh, look at the pretty watches!” Or food therapy at the local bakery. “Ooh, look at the pretty macaroons!” Or people watching on the interwebs or in person. “Ooh, look at that. It’s not pretty. Not pretty at all!” Whatever your comfort thing is, go do it. You’ll feel better which will get you to step 4.
4) Move the H on. No piece of writing is perfect. No reader is going to love all of it. In fact, readers will wildly disagree about what works and doesn’t in your writing. So know that this will happen, be prepared for it, but move on. Once you’ve put the work out there the criticism will come. What separates the pros from the amateurs is knowing how to deal with the criticism.
5) Do something else. Sitting there thinking about what you’ve sent out is going to drive you nuts. Better to move on to the next thing. It might be the next piece of writing, it might be the dinner you neglected to check on the stove, or scraping out the pan of the dinner that you forgot on the stove, or going out to buy a pizza before your children starve to death. While they’re yelling toppings at you, you’ll be too exasperated to even remember…um…what were we talking about?
1) You’re nobody until you get your first book published.
2) You’re nobody until you get your second book published, even though you think you’re somebody because you have one book in print.
Here’s why: There are TONS of writers out there. Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year in the U.S. alone. For example, in 2005 when my novel ANGEL’S GRACE was published, it was 1 of 172,000. As a first-time writer, without a name and little marketing effort, about 100 people probably knew about the book. And as a result, nearly four years later, I’m still working to sell it. Granted, you never stop trying to sell your books, but by now, I should have been on to my second. And why am I not on to my second? Here’s why:
I don’t write the same thing twice.
Madeleine L’Engle once said of publishers, “You do it in pink, then they want you to do it in blue.” My editor was frankly surprised to see the theme of my second novel, LOSING FAITH. Which is fine, but it’s so different from AG, that I hardly seem like the same author. My 3rd novel, the one I’m working on now, is different from the first two AGAIN. And for a publishing house, that means trouble. Where does one categorize this author? What marketing ploy is there for tying in the first? Problems, problems, from a pesky writer. The other issue I had was that people kind of wanted an AG sequel. (As such, I’ve started a new site specifically for AG fans here.) Then the horrible: Because I have not had a 2nd book come out in nearly 4 years, I am tasked with keeping the one book fresh for sale, to compete with the many hundreds of thousands of books that have been released since 2005.
So… what’s a writer to do? You revamp your website. For like the 1,000th time. I picked up a couple of books on Amazon to help me do that, and I’m currently trying to get that up and running… yet again.
If you thought that writing was just about creating stories, think again, baby. And have I even mentioned the school visits you have to do (fun), presentations at conferences (not as much fun), appearances at conferences (hardly any fun) and writing articles (sometimes fun) you have to do as well?
The writing life is a full-on, full-time business, that’s mostly about you producing books, but nearly as much about you doing a zillion things to promote them, INCLUDING writing books that are nearly the same as ones you’ve already done, but Award-worthy.
Sweet. I’ll get on that for book #4.
Novelist Rita Mae Brown said, “A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.” So in the absence of real inspiration, I’m using a deadline I have for “Being a Leader” to get me working.
I’ll be doing a short piece about Google and why it’s a model business even though no other businesses seem to want to follow. Google suffers from a disease called “trusting employees.” It’s terrible. They hire the best people they can find, and then leave them alone to do their jobs, and listen to them when they have ideas. It’s shocking, really. Fortunately no place I’ve ever worked has been so sick in the head… not in publishing, not in teaching (where the kids would really benefit from someone listening to their teachers), nowhere. So why aren’t other people following suit? It’s hard to be all-powerful if you give some power over to the people at the bottom.
Ah, power. Everybody wants it, and so few know how to use it….
It took me about 4 years to write my last novel. I have no idea where it is at the moment. Over a year ago I handed it to my editor, who deemed it “problematic” after holding on to it for months. So I rewrote for another 6 months, then handed it back to my agent, who was really excited about it. She passed it on to my editor again, and it’s been about 4 months now that I’ve been waiting for word.
The publishing industry is not for the weak, or the impatient. It requires stamina and a will of iron.
The thing is, my agent and I (and my best bud who read it before I sent the final revision to my agent) may be the only people on planet Earth who think this book is any good. Then what happens? Four years with nothing to show for myself. It’s no wonder some artists are self-destructive.
Writing involves an endless loop of waiting. Waiting for the words to come. Waiting for your agent to call. Waiting for your editor to read it. Waiting for the contract. Waiting to see what the cover looks like. Waiting for the book to go to print. Waiting for the release date. Waiting for the reviews. Waiting to see what kind of sales you make.
So it’s day 2 of blogging, except I have no idea who I’m blogging to since as yet, I’ve been embarrassed to let anyone know I’ve started this. It’s the end of the summer, and I honestly thought I’d have a fair draft of my new novel by now. Alas, all I have are a few scattered notes. I guess it was a mistake to think that I could be home with 2 small children all day every day and still write something. So I’m looking forward to September and the start of school.
The sad part is, I think my story is completely fed up with me. At first, the ideas were coming fast and furious, now I have to seek them out, coax them with offers of chocolate and the occasional glass of wine. So I’m reminded of something Salman Rushdie said… “Books, if you don’t put them first, tend to sulk. They retreat into a corner and refuse to work.”
Silly me for putting my family first. It’s the curse of the woman. Do men have these problems? I’m not certain, but I tend to think not.