When you first start writing a book, that’s all there is. Your bestseller, your first novel, the first step in a staircase to a wonderful, lustrous career as an author. Then you finish the first draft and you’re not sure where to go. Do I start editing? Will a publisher edit it for me? How do I submit it? These are but a few of the questions that run through your mind, or at least the ones that ran through mine.
After I completed the first draft of my book I started looking into publishing. I first found Nathan Bransford’s blog, and it was my first step to really understanding the publishing industry. (If any of you have questions, that is one of many great places to start. Some other ones I found most helpful can be found at the side of this page.) Nathan’s blog helped me understand just what I was getting myself into. It also linked me to a few dozen others that contributed, and before I knew it, I was using an RSS feed to read dozens of blogs every day. That one blog gave me everything I needed. From answering my questions, to great examples, and links to other helpful agents, blogs, and forums. I had a pretty good idea where I was and what I needed to do to get where I was going.
One of the ‘truths’ I learned that was most disheartening was discovering how few writers actually make it. I mean really make it. Writing for a living had been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember, but until I started writing my first book I had never taking any steps towards getting there. Once I finished my book, I was excited. I would dream of my computer, my next great novel, and a hot cup of coffee beside me every morning. That dream was quickly interrupted with a pinch of reality, maybe more than a pinch, a punch perhaps? It turns out, making a living as a writer isn’t that simple.
The second wash of reality came when I found out how hard it was to get published. So not only am I not going to make a living doing this, there’s a good chance nobody outside of my family is ever going to read it? That was a wake up call I didn’t want to process.
As you may know, the past few months have been pretty empty of blog posts, and null of writing. In fact I haven’t written anything but a sparse collection of these posts since my computer committed electro-suicide. But in continuing to read other blogs and taking time away from my first novel, the query process, and the hellish pressure I was putting myself under, I realized something: I missed writing. Idea’s were churning in my brain and I was dying to get back to typing, telling a story, putting life onto pages that came from none-other than my imagination. I love writing!
That’s when I realized my biggest nemesis this entire time has been myself. In putting the pressure on myself to be a successful author with a mutli contract deal after one book and a few query letters I forgot why I started writing the book: Because I love writing. I love the story I have to tell, and the other stories waiting impatiently at the back of my mind. I love watching things come together and sentences starting to flow. I love writing for the sake of writing, the sake of story telling.
All of this was hard for me to accept, and even harder for me to put into words. But I know now that I have to write, I need to do it for me. I do hope to get published, of course that dream is still alive, and I’d love to make a living doing it, but my expectations are on level ground now. Becoming a published writer is a difficult task in itself, but littering yourself in false hopes, and unrealistic dreams just makes things more difficult and it’s unfair to you.
If you’re out there trying to get through the door to the publishing world, make sure you’ve done your research. Aside from writing the best damn book you can, the next best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge. Know what you’re getting into and set a realistic goal. By no means should you stop dreaming, dream away, but don’t pin all your hopes to that one dream, that one book, or there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed.
I think as writers we need to be both realistic and dreamers. Writing a novel is a huge accomplishment. Whether it gets published or not, nobody can take that away from you. Dream that great story, the next big thing and if you don’t publish with this book, maybe the next, or the one after that. With every story you write ,you hone your craft. Keep pushing and eventually your writing will be the stuff the literary world can’t ignore and must get their hands on.
A question to the authors, or hope-to-be authors out there: What have you learned in your journey to publication? Was there a single moment or event that caught you off guard, or made you lose hope? Or perhaps something that piqued your interest? A single book, blog, or website that helped you be better prepared? And lastly, why do you write? Do you write for the possibility of a glamorous career and a healthy paycheck? Do you write simply to pay the bills? Or because your passion for words moves as such an unbearable speed you must write, or be forever lost in a world of untold stories?
Okay, maybe the last was a little over the top, but really, why?