Pre-S: Don’t forget to enter our Fabulous Holiday Contest. You could win something cool. And who doesn’t want to win something cool? I’d tell you, but I can’t even think of an example.
Our theme this week is “publishing advice.” Everywhere you look nowadays, you find advice about getting your book written, published, marketed. The internet has brought about a generation of supereducated query writers, folks who know to spell the agent’s name correctly, eschew the term “fiction novel”, and add something personal about the agent’s body of work. Heck, you could go from zero to hero just combing through the archives of the divine retired Miss Snark.
So why, then, are there just as many people as ever agonizing over the idea of being an author? Why aren’t there droves of success stories? There are plenty, to be sure. Every one of us Debs has her own story, the one that begins with the unlikely authoress finding her own toehold in the industry.
But we’ve all also been at that stage where you don’t have any idea whether you have what it takes to be published. You sit at the computer and enjoy every second of it except the part where you wonder if what you’re doing is actually any good—much less good enough.
Look, no book ever pleased everybody. No book that ever made a top-ten list somewhere didn’t make somebody else’s bottom-ten list. Nothing that has fascinated me hasn’t been tossed aside as unimaginably boring by some intelligent person somewhere. And we all, in our hearts, know this. We know that even if we may write a book that our mothers and best friends like, agents and editors may not even give it a second look.
That’s why I’m only offering two pieces of advice:
(1) Write anyway.
But this is only my first book and I’m not sure I have the patience to write three bad books before getting that magical one that will sell. But my fourth-grade teacher said I wasn’t a good writer. But I think what I write is too highbrow for the general public. But nobody cares what I have to say.
You want to be a writer?
(2) If you think selling your book will make you happy, hang up your mouse and do something else.
Let me be clear: Selling a book, and all of the moments that lead up to it, are amazing. Having an agent want to read more. Having an agent want to represent you. Having an encouraging response from an editor. Hearing that your book is going to all of those mysterious meetings, and for heaven’s sake, the sale itself—these are fun moments. They’re all worth celebrating.
But happy moments like this are like the bulbs on a strand of Christmas lights. You still have to navigate the dimmer stretches between the bright spots. And no matter how successful you become, or how many books you end up selling, or how many fan clubs you have, you will still find the dim stretches between the bright spots. Your bright spots may be brighter, but then again your dim stretches may be darker.
If you can’t be happy unpublished, being published won’t make you happy.
Once more, with feeling: If you can’t be happy unpublished, being published won’t make you happy.
I want so much for all of the great people I’ve met online to realize their dreams. I think that even within the shrinking, scary business model of publishing, there’s room for all sorts of people to succeed and have a great time doing it. Off the top of my head, I could name ten people I’d love to see in the Debutante classes of 2010 and 2011.
So maybe you consider the glass half full: Write anyway.
And maybe half empty: If you can’t be happy unpublished, being published won’t make you happy.
What’s a writer to do?
Easy: You write. Write a story about the day the half-full/half-empty glass was knocked off the table by the stranger who came to the door with a bouquet of flowers and a letter written fifty years ago.
Or about whatever. But you write. You may be insecure, but you write anyway.
And when you’re not writing, you remember to live your life, love your family, care for your neighbors, and give thanks for what you have.
Happy New Year to all of you, and a special shout-out to my dear blog friend Tom, who is dealing with a very tough blow right now as the holidays come to a close.
God bless you all. May your bright spots be brilliant and your dim stretches brief and not without hope.
PS – I won’t be responding to comments today because I’ll be on airplanes all day. Airplanes that I paid way too much to be on, and yet still had to pay $30 extra to sit in a middle seat next to my husband, even though I booked my tickets two weeks ago. And $17 to get my suitcase on the plane. And $2 for water. Grr! …But that’s another post, isn’t it?