The Journey to Publication, Writing

A Dream of a Dream

I can’t really remember how long I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author. At least since junior high when I wrote my first novel which was…well, let’s just say “awhile” ago so I don’t look too old. 😉

But as I prepare to actually launch my first book into the world in…hmm, just under a month today, actually, I’ve thought a lot about what it means achieve that dream. Or if all I’d ever really had was a dream of a dream.

I’ve never been short on imagination, which is probably part of what led me to writing in the first place. So I think I must have had a vision or dream of what it meant to be published. Lots of it was probably deluded, which fortunately isn’t uncommon among new writers. 😉 But as I came to better understand the industry–and that those dreams of huge advance checks, accolades, early success, etc were all fairly unlikely, I started to develop a different vision.

I pictured working with an editor, how I’d always turn in my book on schedule, be easy to work with while still knowing when it was worth disagreeing. I probably wouldn’t be a top author, especially not early on, but I’d slowly keep building my readership and moving up at one publishing house, and then hopefully branch out to others, like self-publishing and becoming a hybrid-author, aided by the business-savvy guidance of my agent.

Confession: I think I felt I needed someone else’s approval before I was able to make my dream a reality. The same kind of approval you get in school, when you get good grades and your parent-teacher nights are mostly them saying nice things about you. And I think I kind of expected / wanted that. That approval would become a kind of validation that yes, my writing was good, someone wanted it–and someone other than friends or people who were otherwise personally associated with me. 😉

Yet, that’s not what happened. I’ve had different marks of validation: I was fortunate enough to final in RWA’s the Golden Heart® Contest. I’d had interest and enthusiasm from agents and editors. But in the end, no sales.  I found I’d reached a point of frustration where it didn’t seem to matter what I did, it was out of my hands. But worse, I was letting outside forces determine the worth of my writing…and my worth.

Fortunately, traditional publishing isn’t the only way to get published these days. And many other authors–excellent writers and braver than me–have turned to independent publishing years before I did, which allowed me to ask them for advice and guidance before diving in myself. All of which allowed me to create a different version of my dream.

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I still worked with an editor, but it was someone I selected and hired. I still turned in my book on time, but I was mostly turning it in to myself, since I now determined the entire schedule. I didn’t have to wait to see what the art department came up with for my cover, since I decided which artist to hire and we worked together to create a cover I adore.  I formatted my books and put them up for sale. And as of last week, I formatted the print version, and for the first time got excited about my book being in readers’ hands. And holding my printed and bound book in MY hands.

I still want to pursue a traditional publishing path as well, since I still want to be a hybrid author (and not just because it sounds like something cool–half-traditional, half-indy – almost a werewolf!) 😉 I’ve just realized that maybe what I had before was a dream of a dream, with all the naive and indefinite fuzziness that requires. But now I’m moving toward something much more tangible. I’m walking that path instead of just picturing it. And you know what? The sky is clear, the fog is clearing, and I’m feeling pretty good.

Have you ever had that? A dream of a dream that turned out so much differently in reality? I love to read comments. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by to read. And remember: if we look hard enough, there’s always magic in the world.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Sink or Shine: If life is a grindstone, can it obliterate you?

“Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.” – T.L. Holdcroft.

 

Let’s face it: sometimes life is hard. Choosing to take action, to take risks, to take the road less traveled … well, you have to know the path will not always be easy. Even if you don’t

Flowers in my garden - a good place to run away to.
Flowers in my garden – a good place to run away to.

take risks, life always has its ups and downs.

The journey towards publication and self-defined success is no different. For some – especially when seen from the outside – the path will seem easier, more direct. For others, ridiculously hard. For ourselves? I think we like to dream our path will somehow be made easier, but know it probably won’t be. And maybe it shouldn’t be – or maybe that’s just my parents’ mentality talking.

Sometimes, you will hate your job – no matter what you do for a living. Your boss is cruel and sadistic. Someone else got the promotion. Your friends seem to have easy cash-flow while you scrimp and save.

But here’s the thing: it’s your choice. All of it.

Or at least, how you choose to react to it.

There are some people who we think have it all. They have been given every opportunity. Perhaps luck and circumstance dealt them a great hand. And then these same people gripe and whine, are never satisfied – and never will be. They may not even realize their good fortune because things have always been so good, they take that for granted, too. Until they choose to change their outlook, things will never be better for them, as life is in the eye of the beholder, and quality thereof entirely subjective.

Life can indeed be a grindstone. But you only get ground down if you let it. If you’re not made of sterner stuff. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, try to overcome weakness, and try to move forward in a positive (or at least useful) manner.

Reality says that sometimes things will be difficult. Beginnings, Middles, and Endings – as in plot – are inevitable. But how we deal with them makes all the difference.  The greater pressure we’re subjected to, the greater the opportunity for strength.  We can be like gemstones, made stronger because of what we’ve survived. We WILL shine because of our perseverance, our strength, our outlook.

Or, we can wilt and say we’re soapstone. Let the grinding stone obliterate us.

Which would you rather be?

Thanks for reading – stick with those goals! Have a great week.

The Journey to Publication

Crisis and Catharsis: Or, Just Keep Writing, You’re On Your Way

It’s been a heck of a wonky-week. I’ve been reading new craft books, and testing out a new potential CP. CP looks terrific, but both the books and the CP delievered the news (unintentionally, both of them) that what I was taking for subtly is just lack of clarity. Oh, and the plotting isn’t working either because apparently I’ve been doing it all wrong (that I figured out myself after the craft book).

In the end, what this means is that I’ll be able to improve my writing on both a micro and macro level. What it means right now is that I feel pretty down on myself. I mean, really, how didn’t I see this before? What was I thinking? How could I have been so stupid? I must be the worst writer, ever.

Those questions, though, are useless. As they are whenever the evil-voice inside our heads starts beating us up. Because this is just a test, just another step on our journey. And the kind of things we say to ourselves – we would never say such terrible things to another loving being, so why the heck do we put up with saying them to ourselves?

Since it was the crisis portion of plotting I finally realized I was mishandling, it also occurred to me that it was what I was facing in my writing-life, too. But the crisis isn’t the end of everything; just the end of one thing. A mini-apocalypse, if you will, out of which you emerge stronger and changed, headed towards the climax. Because my life (and yours) is not a novel, it means there will be more than one crisis that we’ll face throughout our lives. It will hit us, whack us down like a two-by-four to the face, and it’s our job to shake it off, stand up, and keep on going. Because there’s something better ahead. Because the crisis is just one signpost on a much longer road. The view is blurry ahead, but if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we’ll get there.

And don’t worry – the bruises will heal.

Take care, happy writing, and hopefully you duck before the two-by-four gets you. Thanks for reading.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

How Long is Too Long: The Illusion of Time in the Journey to Publication

I am always running out of time. It doesn’t seem to matter what I need to do, I never have enough time to do it. I’ve told my husband that we have so many things on our “to-do” list that if the length of the list determines the length of our lives, we can never die, because we can never possibly get everything done.

But time also affects my relationship to my writing. I wonder, why do I only have eight specified hours of time for writing per week, when the baby is being babysat? How long will it take me to finish revisions? How long will it take me to write a first draft of the next book? Can I do it faster, in less time? And of course, how long will it be before I’m published?

Time seems endless and sometimes cruel. It continues to march on, whether we try to stop it, whether we try to focus and savor every minute, or wait impatiently for the designated hour to approach. And as months pass too quickly, and years begin to do the same, time seems to be shifting away like sand through fingertips. I run out of time as I frantically try to chase after it, wishing I could hold back the hands of the clock, slow down the ticking, just get a few more hours each day. I wish for shortcuts, for secret paths to cut through the necessity of waiting, watching as more time escapes.

But here’s the thing. Time doesn’t care. It doesn’t care that we don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything we want done. And it doesn’t care how many years, how many books, it takes us to be published. It just is. Or, as some may suggest, time isn’t anything at all, other than something humans have created to divvy up our days, months, and years.

So if we accept that time is only a tool, an artificial creation by man, than that means it’s foolish to let it control us: we use tools, not the other way around. So therefore, time is useful to writing in remembering deadlines, in measuring your productivity if that’s important to you, in establishing internal time within the plots of your books. But time is otherwise meaningless to our writing. And it could hurt it.

Why do you write? Do you write because you have nothing better to do? Do you write because you decided to write for three hours a day, seven days a week, and because you’ll be published in three and a half years from the day you first started writing? Of course not. You have no idea when “The Call” will come, other than working with perseverance and consistency, and a belief that it will come, but when isn’t up to you, and doesn’t particularly matter to your writing.

What matters is getting one word after another onto the page. What matters is writing, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. And you write not to pass the time, but because your writing is important, because each time you write, you’re a bit outside of time. You decide and determine the time within your plots, you determine how quickly or how slowly you write, and your writing will exist after you, too.

So, as you write, don’t let the clock mock you, don’t let the calendar pages or the changing number of the year depress you. Use the clock so you remember to eat, remember to pick up your child from school. You will be published. When is uncertain, but you can’t let it worry you. For some it will take longer than others, and worrying about which group you fall into will only stilt your writing. What is certain is that in your writing, you always have enough time, you can freeze and start the clock whenever you choose, and you always remember that you control time, not the other way around.

What is time to you? How does it frustrate or help you? Let me know. Otherwise, thanks for reading, and have a great week.