Step One: Stay Cool
"Never throw up on an editor." --Ellen Datlow
Always sound advice.
When the opportunity arises to shake the hand of a potential editor or agent, or even your Absolute Favorite Author who's standing RIGHT THERE, be cool, baby. There's keen interest and then there is the salivating, screaming, frenzied, "I Am Your Biggest Fan EVER" energy that's just one step away from the title character in a Stephen King novel.
This counts in the cyber-world as well. Be real, be professional, and remember that no matter how intimidating it can be to reach out to a potential editor or agent, they are living, breathing people just like you and me. At least, that's what I'm told and until I find their deadly crypt hidden deep in the shadowy mountains, I believe it.
Step Two: Write
"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good." --William Faulkner
The yearning to write burns in many a heart. Yet for most the passion is more akin a desire to be published—to reap the rewards and bask in the glory of the ultimate personal achievement.
"Why, yes," she murmured, ducking her head in a show of modesty. "I am indeed the author of The Best Damn Book Ever Written."
Hmm… yes. However, back to the process of writing. The pounding away on the keyboard, the staring in growing frustration at the blank computer screen, the endless hours of
"I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop." --- Clarence Budington Kelland
The core of being a writer is… writing. Every chance you get.
"Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up." --Jane Yolen
Step Three: Revise.
"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out." ~Author Unknown
Join a critique group or form your own. Send your work to trusted writers and beg them to show no mercy. Try to pick ones whose mastery of the written word far surpasses your own (fresh-baked brownies can be very persuasive).
As Nathaniel Horne says: "Easy reading is damn hard writing."
What every writer learns (after two or three novels) is this: Writers Can't See Their Own Mistakes. At least, not at first. Maybe not ever.
What may seem to us like the perfect set-up is to our critique partners Too Much Back-story.
"Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with." --Nancy Ann Dibble
No matter how much you love your writing or dread the idea of criticism, if you want to be successful, you need to utilize the sharp eyes of other writers.
Step Four: Submit
"The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home." --- John Campbell
I know, I know. Sending out queries is a test in courage. Seems so simple to type a letter and then either hit 'send' or slap it in an envelope and mail it off.
Simple it is not. While the act itself requires less effort than composing your novel, the pressure of getting the query exactly right can leave you shaking and drenched in sweat. Authors are known awaken suddenly, shoving aside the tangle of blankets, mind racing with one thought—Did I spell the agent's name right? Oh GOD, I didn't really address that to Miss Snark, did I?!?
Courage, my friend. We all go through it. The fear stemming from the mere anticipation of rejection. And sadly, the painful sting of reality that all too often reinforces the fear. Which leads to our next step.
Step Five: Hang in There!
"This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address." --- Barbara Kingsolver
Over the last few weeks, I've shared how some of the most successful writers faced their own round of rejections before seizing the golden trophy otherwise known as 'publication'. Often there's only one thing standing between an author and a life of success—persistence. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Repeat.
Once you have finished and submitted your first book the first fork in the road appears. For those lucky few who snag an agent or book contract right off, the path is clear. For the rest of us, the choice is there. Continue on or detour off into another direction? If the decision is 'damn the rejections, full speed ahead' then Congratulations! You Are An Author.
Welcome to the wacky, crazy life of writing:
When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.' --Neil Gaiman
Ah, yes, the life of a writer.
It's like that old joke:
An author is hailed by a friend who is clearly agitated. The words tumble from his friend's mouth, "It's terrible. Your agent called, then a plane crashed into your house triggering an explosion which hit a gas main and caused the whole town to burst into flames and—"
The author interrupts. "Wait a minute. Back up. Did you say my agent called?"
The New Year has arrived. Let's make it count!
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