Today's WOW Guest, Sean Beaudoin, just released his latest novel, the rude zombie opus The Infects. His stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including: The Onion, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Spirit, the inflight magazine of Southwest Airlines. His next book, Wise Young Fool, will be out August 2013. He frequently ends his bio with an ironic or self-deprecating personal comment.
Catch him on his website: SeanBeaudoin.com
His Blog: SeanBeaudoin.com/blog
Or on Twitter: @SeanBeaudoin
Let Yourself Be Terrible - Tips to Surviving the Road to Publication
By Sean Beaudoin
My advice to aspiring authors is always the same, because I genuinely believe it to be true: your success can be measured by the length of time you are willing to be terrible at writing without giving up. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t write numerous lousy manuscripts before selling their first good one. I wrote literally dozens of horrible short stories, hundreds of execrable poems, and innumerable first chapters of novels that no sane person should ever be forced to read. You can’t just pick up a saxophone for the first time, book a gig, and start busting out funky chops. You have to be willing to be way out of tune for a while. The amount of time depends on the person, but the number of highly accomplished contemporary authors in their twenties can be counted on two thumbs. So, I would say to any aspiring writer: either give up now and save yourself a whole lot of anguish, or be willing to hang on tight through the long, dreary, atonal bits.
The thing about writing is, all the authors I know have to do it. It’s not a choice. It’s just too easy not to write, so the people who hang in on the ropes and absorb all the body blows are the ones that really want to be there. Whether it’s because they’re dying to be famous, or they have something important to say, or the muse sings sweetly to them all night long, or they dream of the lottery blockbuster, or they’re simply exorcising demons, it’s an obsession as much as a vocation.
Writing is mentally taxing, emotionally exhausting, and requires a rare and unusual skill set: namely the ability to keep doing it long after all your friends and family have stopped believing in you and spend the majority of every Christmas vacation asking when you’re going to get a real job. It’s hard to land an agent, hard to get published, hard to get reviewed, hard to garner renown, and hard to live with the mental image of every book that goes unsold, let alone remaindered and pulped. Further, it’s almost impossible to make a significant living through writing. There’s probably 200 people in the United States who do. Everyone else is working a third job, teaching, hotel clerking, waitressing, or living in collegiate-style poverty
I don’t say all this to dissuade anyone. I say it because it’s true, and anyone who’s considering doing it full time should know what you’re getting into. I was either incredibly naïve or just plain dumb when I first got involved with the publishing industry, and there are many rude and dire things that I wish that someone had taken the time to tell me.
Finally, I guess that writing--which I used to think was about wearing a cool shirt and shaking hands and going to the right parties--is really all about personal discipline. Sure, it requires inspiration and talent and The Muse and all that low-falutin’ stuff as well. But writing over the long term means conquering self-doubt, as well as the inherent tendency to shirk what doesn’t come easily. Gaining a level of creative self-control is exhilarating, in a way I imagine other people reach through ballet or yoga or meditation. Sitting down and focusing unreservedly for many hours at a stretch, and then having a few quality pages to show for it at the end of the day, is the best possible intoxicant. When the words are coming, and they feel right, and you’re not really even trying because it’s all just coming out like rich creamery butter, is one of the best feelings in the world.
I don’t have any advice because I’m not qualified to give any. But I do have a warning: Make sure you really, really love it.