Sunday, August 9, 2009

Stay True To Your Dream

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence." --Frederick Douglass

Over the years I've become friends with many writers. Their books range from sweet inspiration to the hottest erotica yet each of these fabulous authors have one thing in common. The desire to see their name in print. However, the path to success is an individual one. Learning the craft goes hand in hand with tapping into that wonderful Unique Idea that kicks open the door to the lovely Land Of The Published. Unlike Dorothy, clinging to the doorway while your house gets caught up in a cyclone is not an option.

The quest for success can make us feel desperate. We begin the slow descent into compromise. Maybe if I include thirty-five sex scenes or scuba-diving vampires or a wiccan-rockstar-federal agent! Yup, that's the ticket! *sigh*

There are certain characteristics necessary to make it to the finish line.

Patience to get through the 350 or so pages plus revisions and way too many edits.

Persistence to complete however many manuscripts necessary and send out endless queries until The Call (or email) arrives.

Passion to continue to seek out new ideas and perfect each draft and continue to smile through the inevitable hours (and hours and hours) of promotion. Yet there's one more essential quality that must be firmly in place: Self-Respect.

"They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them." --Gandhi

Self-respect means staying true to your vision despite the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Self-respect also means making your own decisions, whether it's to stick to one path or explore another. Self-respect means keeping your eyes wide open and choosing friends, critique partners, agents, and editors who hold your best interests at heart. It also means recognizing your own worth, which is where those wonderful friends, CPs, agents and editors can come in handy!

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." ~Judy Garland

Some writers burst out of the gate and immediately sprint ahead to the finish line. For those who are still struggling this fact can either be an inspiration or really freaking depressing. *rueful grin* Yet the clear-eyed fact is this—if they can do it, so can you. Many successful authors wrote a number of books before finding success. I've mentioned Allison Brennan before and I'll probably do it again. She faced countless rejections before getting her fifth manuscript picked up. There were many more hours logged in before she hit the NY Times bestseller list.

If She Can Do It, So Can You.

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."Abraham Lincoln

Part of the journey to being a successful author is discovering Who You Are and exactly what books you wish to write. As 'toddlers' we often learn by mimicking those we admire. Somewhere down the line, each writer discovers what he or she yearns to write. Whether you know immediately which books will be tumbling from your imagination or find your path evolving, one question inevitably arises. Am I writing the Right Sort of Book?

Agent Jessica Faust addressed this topic in her post, Be True To You.

The pressure to fit in or be acceptable may force us into all sorts of gyrations. Sometimes the pressure comes in the form of others looking down their nose at you. Because you write romance. Because you write erotica. Or even because you don't! I remember struggling when some writers I knew suggested my intent to exclude sex scenes in my rom-com novels was something I needed to 'get over'. Obviously I had issues with sex or maybe I was a prude or these were my 'principles' or perhaps I was simply afraid to tackle the delicate subject. They were more than willing to help me get past this…issue and assist me in conforming to their expectations.

When I tried to explain that this was preference, my choice, and akin to choosing not to write Westerns or Historicals, the words fell on deaf ears. In their view, writing romantic comedy meant I had to conform to their expectations. As if choice was simply a broken zipper to be mended.

Another author I know faced the exact opposite reaction. Chapter members shook their heads and voiced their dismay about her choice to include sex scenes in her novel. It seems no matter which way you swim, there will always be someone on the other side of the river wagging a finger toward the 'proper' direction.

"Be proud of the person and the writer you are, take ownership of your strengths."Jessica Faust

It's time to stand up for our choices and feel proud, damn it! One common response to the eternal question "When Are You Going To Write A Real Book?" is simply, "When the fake books stop selling so well." *heh-heh*

For a giggle, check out Miss Snark's take on "When Are You Going To Write A Real Book?"

Now another view is the realization that one path may lead to another. Here's where the freedom of being unpublished allows you the luxury of making different choices. If one path doesn't pan out or starts to feel limited, why not explore another?

A truly gifted writer who is yet to be published (much to the astonishment of all who know her) is Amy Atwell. I highly recommend you read her article on branching out and exploring other avenues, Adjusting Courses.

No matter what genre of book you choose to write, no matter which boulevard you wander down, always remember to Stay True To Your Dream. No matter what the obstacle, no matter how long the wait, no matter how trying the effort, You Can Succeed. Within every person lies extraordinary potential. The secret? Stand up for the challenge. Embrace your destiny. However those fickle winds blow, be determined to take your ship out of the harbor and set sail.

"There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet." --William Frederick Halsy, Jr

Now you tell me. Have you ever experienced outside pressure to veer off your chosen course? Ever felt like you needed to duck your head because of your chosen genre? Do share!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.


Ann Victor said...

Hear! Hear! A pertinent and useful post Chiron! Most of my writing struggle over the past years has been around this issue - finding my "true" voice and remaining true to it, even though I know it's not what's selling at the moment and may never be published unless the market changes. But I've learnt the hard way that I'd rather write true to my soul than write to sell (not that I wouldn't also be *thrilled* to sell and make a fortune :):)!!)

I'm "borrowing" some of those quotes to print and stick in my "motivation jar" (which I draw from on the days I need to be kcik started into writing!)

Glynis said...

I decided to follow a course, I changed my style of writing 1/4 of the way through my WiP. I sat back and started to read it ready for editing, and horror, it was really not my work, it did not feel like me nor could I hear 'me' in my head while reading.
I threw it in the bin, and continued along in my own voice, if it is meant to be, it will be.
Great post, thanks.

Chiron said...

Hello Ann!

To me, the greatest irony is that unless you can knock out a polished book within a month or two, it's unlikely a writer can ever 'catch' the market.

By the time we get the idea, write, revise, and submit, the market is miles down the highway, and we're choking on the exhaust. *laughs*

Congrats on finding your voice and staying on your true course. The good news is the market DOES change. The weather shifts and the editors clamor to keep up. By continuing to write, there's a damn good chance you'll have the perfect book already written when the timing is right. Yay!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Ann!


Chiron said...

Wow, Glynis, that's quite a lesson.

It's funny, when we first start writing we're so amazed we tremble and scream at the mere thought of tossing out any words. As we stretch and grow we recognize The Good Stuff. *grin* Our Voice. Yup.

I'm with you. I actually said those words to my hubby the other night. "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."

The thought of compromising my voice is no longer an option.

Thanks so much for dropping by!


EA said...

If persistence isn't the name of the game, I don't know what is. Darn it if I haven't received my fair share of rejection letter. Authors must have thick skin. If not you can develop a true problem with self esteem.

Donna Marie Rogers said...

"Meant To Be", what appropriate words, Chiron. *G* Seriously, wonderful post!

KH said...

I always enjoy your blog. It keeps me going even if all I do is skim on a busy day.

Chiron said...

Hi there Evie!

I couldn't agree more. Persistence is key. Ditto to the thick skin. Yet I suspect that no matter how many books we write or how successful we become, a rejection or a bad review will still sting. Truly it's difficult to be completely objective with our 'babies'. There will be times when we feel the pain but move forward anyway. Because That's what writers do, eh?

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!!


Chiron said...

"Meant To Be" is a wonderful turn of phrase, isn't it?

*laughs* Maybe it's thinking about your delightful release that triggered that thought. *grin*

Thanks loads for visiting, Donna!!


Chiron said...

Hello Kathleen!

What a lovely thing to hear. You just made my day!

Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment!


Sandy said...

Nice post, Chiron.

Yes, I ran into this problem when I was writing The Catalyst. My chapter members kept telling me I had to make it a romance when in reality it wasn't. Fortunately, I ran into a mentor who knew what I was writing, and she told me to stick to my guns.

Once in a while, we don't use common sense when we stick to our guns.

I agree with you about Amy's talent. I've read some of her work, and it was great. In her case, it's only a matter of time.

Lovely post, Chiron.

Chiron said...

Hi Sandy,

Sometimes it's absolutely essential to get clear about what you're writing. Glad you had someone to offer you perspective.

Thanks so much for stopping by!