A Muse Winner & Some Observations From the Trenches
First, Veronica helped me pull a name out of a rabbit hat and the winner of Kaliopi the Muse is:
|Congratulations Katherine! Kaliopi is looking forward to bombarding you with brilliant notions.|
And now on to the topic of Pushing Through…
I’m almost finished revising a book that feels like it could be “the one.” But this is a subjective business and there’s really no way of knowing when you’ll finally push through that final barrier and realize the dream of becoming a published author.
I know there are plenty of other writers out there who share my dream (not to mention several writer friends who have been “this close” for years) so I thought I’d offer some observations from the trenches and invite those of you toiling beside me to share yours.
* There’s no such thing as a day off when you’re a writer. Go ahead and try to turn your writer brain off. It's always paying attention.
* Reading slush/interning at a literary agency provides an excellent education on the subjectivity of the business. And how not to write a query letter (under no circumstances should glitter ever be involved).
* Treat writing like a start-up business, not a hobby. Expect to invest a great deal of time in your business. Time you might rather spend eating Haagen Dazs and watching reality TV.
* Develop a terminal case of the “what ifs.” As a writer, “What if?” is one of the best questions you can ask.
* Nothing is ever wasted. Whether you’re stuck in line at the DMV, or preparing to fly “hock style” on a trapeze, it’s all fodder for a future writing project.
|"Hock style" as in “ham hock” not “hawk.” Which I didn't realize until after I'd started picturing myself swooping through the air like a bird of prey.|
* As a writer, you can justify time spent learning about any subject that interests you, whether it’s Tudor castles or Goliath bird-eating spiders.
|Not a Goliath bird-eating spider.|
* Eavesdropping is totally acceptable when you call it “improving your ear for dialogue.”
* Don’t go to writers’ conferences expecting to get discovered.
* Go to conferences and workshops to learn how to better your craft, make connections and revel in the opportunity to be surrounded by people who love books.
* Don’t write what you think will sell.
* Write what excites you, or challenges you, or won’t let you be until you get it down on the page.
* Don’t put do-or-die financial pressure on yourself. That way madness lies.
* Go to as many author events as you can. It makes the dream feel real.
|My mom with Neil Gaiman. I took her to meet him for her birthday. She now has very high expectations for book events.|
* Support authors in every stage of the journey, not just the rockstars. You just might discover the next rockstar. And you’ll have every right to be smug about it.
* Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just don’t.
* Beware the green-eyed monster. There will always be someone better/more successful than you can ever hope to be.
* Don’t expect your career to be like anyone else’s. There is no prescribed set of steps that will guarantee you success, however you define “success.”
* Find critique partners who get your work. They are worth their weight in hardcovers.
* You absolutely need critical feedback on your work, but how you get it is up to you. Meet with a critique group every week? Every two weeks? Write a rough draft and then send it to beta readers? Meet in person? Online? You’ve got options.
* Don’t be afraid to move on/try something else if it’s not working- your critique group, your WIP, your POV, etc. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for your business.
* Be aware of what’s already out there, but don’t obsess over being derivative. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
* Read, read, read. And read widely.
* Pay attention to ergonomics and develop good work habits now. Repetitive stress injuries suck.
* Don’t believe people who claim you’re not a real writer unless you write every day, or who claim you can’t write a quality novel unless you do it their way.
* Keep an idea file. In whatever way works for you, i.e. an actual file with physical scraps of paper, entries in a notebook, a file on your computer, a board on Pinterest, etc.
* Don’t expect to ever figure out the secret of writing a novel. Every single one will be different and challenging in its own way.
* Don’t give up.
How about you? Have any observations to share from your time in the trenches?