Realizing The Dream – Some Unsolicited Advice On Getting From A to B
I apologize for not posting on Monday, but I’ve been getting over a stomach virus. Laying on my back immobilized is a great opportunity for pondering, thinking of things past, dreaming of things to come. Lately I’ve been remembering things about my journey to publication. Things that might be helpful to share here. I think we’re all at different stages in our writing journeys, but I hope that someone out there may benefit from this.
When I began writing in earnest, I honestly had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was that I loved to create stories, and some said they were good. Good enough to be published. And so I stepped, or rather, plunged, head first into the vast and choppy seas of publishing. And wouldn’t you know it, that darn lifejacket was sitting on the shore.
I laugh now when I think back to those days and how clueless I actually was about the whole thing. Naive might be a better description. I began querying editors before I even belonged to a writers group. I didn’t know what a critique partner was and I certainly didn’t have one or know why I needed one. All I really had going for me was a pinch of self-confidence and a passion to see my dreams come true.
Fortunately for me, several people entered my life around that time. One of them had recently moved to Bermuda, but used to be a literary agent back in the US. Go figure. Yes, she read my stuff. Yes, she laughed. Well, not to my face but I’m sure she did. Although she dealt with non-fiction, she knew enough about writing to point out a few major flaws in my manuscript. The neck-collar she was wearing gave testimony to the extraneous amount of head-hopping she endured during her hours of torturous reading. But she kindly pointed me down the right path and her advice was solid. I now knew what I needed to do. I had a plan.
I found a writers group. Several actually, but since I was writing romance, I joined Romance Writers of America. Later, when I decided I wanted to write for the Christian market, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers. And then I began the quest for a literary agent.
This is where those groups come in handy. If you’ve checked any market guides lately, you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of literary agencies out there. It’s mind boggling. Tempting to skip the step entirely and go it alone. Unfortunately you will find that most large publishers will not look at your stuff unless you have an agent. So this is your first step. Do your homework. Ask questions. A lot of questions. Of course if you’re already involved in a writing community you know who the good agents are. And you’ve probably heard about the bad ones.
Go to writers conferences. This was honestly the best money I ever spent on my writing career. It’s great to network over the internet, and these days its incredibly easy, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting with that agent you’re hoping to acquire or the editor at that publishing house you’d just love to write for.
Some dreams come true very quickly. Mine took about twenty years, give or take a few years when I wasn’t doing much writing due to being knee deep in diapers and then toddlers and…well, life in general. Kudos to you if you’re trying to do this with young kids in the house! I tried and failed too many times. Eventually I realized my dream could wait.
As a published author, I’m often asked what the hardest part about getting published was. I’d like to say all of it, but that’s not entirely true. The hardest part for me was believing in myself. Even after I had an agent. Even after countless writer friends and published authors told me I was good enough, that I could do this, that it would happen, I didn’t quite believe them. Oh, I wanted to. Desperately. But there was that small part of me, still suffering from personal and professional rejections over the years, that said it wasn’t true. Even today with one book on the shelf and doing reasonably well for a debut novel, another book contracted and another manuscript completed and in the hands of my agent, I still don’t quite believe it. I’m still tempted to give in to that thought that I’m going to wake up and realize they were all wrong. I’ll be that one-hit wonder, never to be heard from again.
Some days I need a little chutzpah. And on those days, I’m ever so grateful for you, my friends. My community of writers and readers who’ve been there too. What would we do without each other?
There is so much more that could go into this post, but I thought I’d leave off here and maybe we can have some discussion about it all. Where are you in your writing journey? What are you struggling with right now? Do you have any questions I can maybe help answer for you?
Remember, we’re all in this together.