Monday, December 28, 2009

Lessons Learned

Some of the best gifts I received this year didn't come wrapped up at my birthday or during the holidays.  As another productive writing year draws to an end, I've compiled a list of all the valuable things I learned about writing and publication.  Some, I've known all along and just needed them etched into my brain, and others were like a brilliant light bulb being turned on for the first time.

1. Writing Is The Easy Part.  I never thought I'd say this, especially after agonizing over characters, descriptions, passive voice, dialogue, tension, etc. for so long, but it's absolutely true.  If you have characters and a setting you love and know well, the writing flows freely.  Nothing quite like shutting yourself away for a few hours in a world of your own making.  And after all that, you get the chance to shape your writing into something than someone other than you or a dear, patient friend or family member would find coherent, and actually want to read.

2. No Matter How Many Times You've Edited or Revised, You Will Always Miss Something. Whether it's a missing word, misspelled words, repeated words, or just plainly and simply, the wrong word, when another would be so much better, there's always something that needs just a little tweaking. Accept it, get over it, and fix it, before submitting.

3. Publishing Is The Hard Part.  Getting the story, setting and characters that live only inside your head onto paper or the computer screen is great, but getting agents who believe in you and the story, editors to acquire your work and critics who love the book, too, is even better.  But it's still hard, with smaller advances being offered and publishers hesitant to take on new writers while hoping their current stable of authors keep the revenue flowing, which led me to my next realization.
4. Publishing Is A Business.  Don't Take It Personal. Repeat as needed: Publishers are in business to make money.      

5. Writers' Conferences Are Invaluable.  I've enjoyed every conference I've attended, simply because there's no better networking opportunity, with the chance to connect with top agents and editors, and fellow writers, sharing interests and goals.           

6. Friends Are Even More Invaluable, Especially If They're Also Writers.  And if they're writer friends in a critique group, who share your interests and provide comments and feedback you can rely on, WOO!  In the lonely world of writing, a network of support is critical for celebrating successes, easing disappointments, encouraging goals, sustaining your sanity and keeping you grounded.  Or, for when you just want to stop talking about the woes of writing for a while and hang out, have dinner and see a movie, or catch up on all the really important stuff you missed while you were glued to your writing.  So, thank you to all my friends, the writers and non-writers, who've known all my quirks and faults, but still stick by me.  Wishing all of you the best in 2010!

So, what did you learn this year?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Waiting Game

Last month, in the midst of my job's annual convention madness, I received a request for a full. "Yippee...oh, hell!" So, there was the mad dash to read through the entire manuscript in one weekend, applying everything I've learned in working with a freelance editor. Then finally, I pressed the Send button, which has to be the most thrilling / horrible moment in a writer's life -- all your hopes bubble up from deep inside you, before you experience total nausea and despair, when you realize you left out a key word or line from some chapter.

What follows is the Waiting Game. You wait for the delivery receipt that your mail has reached its intended destination, or the read receipt indicating that someone, hopefully the person you intended, at least clicked on your email. Whether or not it was read, who knows? Then you wait for the allotted time in which you've been told your manuscript will be reviewed; weeks or months invariably. If it's in November or December, you know the holidays are coming, so you should also anticipate that your waiting may be extended another two weeks beyond what you've been told. You're probably looking at a reply sometime in January the following year. The Waiting Game is just not fun.

Every moment you wait, you think of all the reasons the person to whom you sent your manuscript must be wondering, "Why did I bother to request this submission? This isn't what I wanted, at all." You wonder when he or she will get back to you with the awful truth: you suck and you will never publish anything. You go back to the manuscript and realize everything's wrong with it.

To pass time, you consider drinking yourself into oblivion with punch or eggnog laced with a little something extra, cause after all the holidays are near. You also wonder if it would be best to trash the entire manuscript now, toss the computer out of the window, and just give up writing altogether. Or, you think whether you should just write to the person, apologizing profusely for offering him or her such drivel, vowing that someone, not you, pressed the Send button before you were actually ready to send it off, or swearing that though your full name is on the manuscript, and your last name is part of the header of every page, no, that is most certainly not your work, and must be someone's version of an awful joke.

Email becomes the center of your universe. You're furiously scanning your Blackberry, your PC at home, your workstation, every minute of every hour, just knowing that yes, today, today will be the day when someone emails you about the manuscript you sent off in those long weeks or months. Until then, you just wait some more.

Waiting.  Waiting....

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...