The Journey to Publication, Writing

Inspired and Rearing to Go: Lessons Learned at Conference

As I write this, I’ve only been home from the RWA National conference for one full day, so my brain is still probably a bit mushy. But, I wanted to share some of the lessons that seemed to come across throughout the many workshops and talks I heard. Some of it you may have heard before, but I find sometimes, you just need to hear it again every so often to remind yourself of its validity.

  1. Be Flexible. This means flexible in how you accept and give critique, as well as flexible in what it means to be successful or fulfill your dreams; have you always felt that traditional publication was the best way? Who says? Perhaps e-books could be a great path you’re neglecting. Either way, be flexible enough to allow yourself freedom to see the opportunities instead of viewing the world through self-imposed blinders.
  2. Be Kind. Author Robyn Carr, in her luncheon speech, said that she felt about 50% of her success could be attributed to being patient and kind, whereas her agent felt it was more like 90%. We can help ourselves and control some of our success merely by being consistent, turning work in on or before deadline, and being kind and patient. To paraphrase Ms. Carr, we often think that the squeaky-wheel gets ahead with snark and breaking the rules; usually, the squeaky-wheel just gets replaced. We also have a tendency to be especially unkind to ourselves; often no one is meaner to you that your own inner voice. Treat yourself as you would your closest friend, with care and love.
  3. Be Consistent. This means consistent in the tone and type of books you deliver so you don’t disappoint your readers, as well as being consistent in your branding and interactions.
  4. Be Optimistic. While just a short time ago (and sometimes still if you look now), the news about the publishing world is all doom and gloom, this doesn’t have to be the case. Rather, as Stephanie Laurens described in her speech, this is an incredibly exciting time for writers. New modes of transmission – how we get our stories to readers – are opening up all the time, and so long as we continue to tell the best story we can, things are looking up for us. Indeed, so long as we continue to cherish and push for a positive version of our own success, how can it be otherwise?
  5. Be Innovative. As new worlds and methods of transmission of our words mature, and the internet and social networking become ever more a part of our lives, there are so many opportunities for innovation. We can be innovative in how we interact with readers and consumers, and we can continue to innovate in our writing itself, writing the book we most want to read.
  6. Be Brave. Sometimes this means continuing to submit or to put ourselves out there (especially if we’re still trying to go the traditional publication route), but it also takes incredible courage to put your work out there in the first place, no matter how you choose to do it. Be brave in continuing to write the story that you love, written because you had fun and you love it – because if you don’t, no one else will either.
  7. Be Professional. Writing may be an art, but publication is a business. The sooner you remember this – and demonstrate a business-like attitude in your dealings with other professionals, the better your chance at success. Use things like the S.W.O.T. Business Assessment, goal setting, and formal business plans to help you achieve your dreams.
  8. Be Realistic. Yes, you’re reaching for your dreams, but what are those? If you don’t ever become a NY Times Bestseller, will it be enough for you? Certainly we like to continue to expand our goals and visions, but what will it take for you to believe in your own success? If you don’t ever achieve your most lofty of goals, will that be okay? Reach for the stars, but decide what it means if you don’t quite reach them.
  9. Be Self-Aware. We often like to consider the readers’ and characters’ emotions and reactions, but what of our own? If you’re not feeling it as the writer, your reader won’t either. Translate your own emotions to the reader through use of language, tone, imagery, and subtext.
  10. Have Fun. This business is hard, no matter what your path or decisions. Maintaining a sense of humor will help. Again, paraphrasing Robyn Carr: “Take your writing seriously; yourself – not so much.”

So, what other lessons have you been learning recently? Is my list missing a few? Please, do share and comment below. Otherwise, have a great week, and happy writing!

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.