I’m a novelist and a writing mentor who helps aspiring novelists go pro. I love it when I help a client find what’s amazing about his or her story and develop the courage and the skill to confidently share it with the world.
There are two reasons I don’t say my mission is to help writers get published. Believe me, everyone I know who has any marketing savvy insists I need to say that, but here’s the thing — publishing, whether self or traditional, is not the holy grail you think it is. I’ll tell you why:
1. You don’t need to wait for an agent or publisher to tell you you’re a writer. Really, I’m not just trying to make you feel better. You absolutely must start living as a writer today, even while you’re still pursuing that book deal. The publishing world moves excruciatingly slowly, so even if an agent and publisher fell into your lap this afternoon, it’ll probably be at least a year, or more likely two, before it hits bookstores. If you write, you’re a writer, so embrace your calling already!
2. This may come as a shock, but even after your book is published, you probably won’t feel much more confident in your writerhood than you do now. Reviews aren’t always glowing, and believe it or not, even some of your loved ones will be lukewarm about your novel. I can’t count the published authors I know who obsess over sales (I spent a minute in that boat), or beat themselves for not finishing their next book yet (I’m fighting this feeling now, but thankfully winning), or who despite wildly phenomenal success, feel like frauds (never been there but if I reached that level of acclaim I might!). I also know writers who are the consummate professionals even though their novels aren’t published yet. Because of their skill and dedication, I know their time in the sun is just around the corner.
Yikes, does that sound depressing?! It doesn’t have to be that way. Start accepting yourself now, and the entire roller coaster will be a hell of a lot more fun.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of all the extremist rhetoric about publishing. The defeatists need to get a grip. People still read. Publishers are still acquiring books. Authors are selling directly to readers, too. But those chipper snake oil peddlers? Equally toxic. If someone tells you writing and publishing a book is easy, either they've never done it, or they're selling you something (follow my simple 1-2-3 formula and you’ll be rolling in cash!). These people aren't writers. They're marketers.
Here's what I think. We don't just want to write books. We want to write good books. We don't just want to make a buck, we want to lead fulfilling writers’ lives. Well, that life is not built on a frenzied use of social media, nor is it built on gaming the system. It's built on craft, community, and a wholehearted embrace of our voices.
"A darkly funny, compulsively readable debut novel about two young flight attendants coming of age at 35,000 feet." - St. Martin's Press, 2013
What is your dream? What's getting in your way? I've been a gatekeeper (gasp!), a grad-level writing instructor, and a once-struggling novelist, so I have felt your pain. Now I'm here for you with professional feedback and support.
1. Nurture your mindset
2. Commit to your craft
Read the literary award winners, read the bestsellers, and then read terrible books to remind yourself you do indeed have talent. Even better, read unpublished books by friends or critique partners. It’s astounding what you can learn from books that are “almost there.”
Should you include another point-of-view? Should you open with more action? Should you change the ending? Don’t agonize over it. Try it. (Always save the original!)
4. Build a writing community
There is a reason successful writers know a lot of other successful writers, and it has nothing to do with conspiracy. It has everything to do with dedication. How to build a community without "networking."