TO GET PUBLISHED, YOU GOTTA BELIEVE
If you want to become a published author, YOU GOTTA BELIEVE.
1. You Gotta Believe in YOU. When you're in the trenches of that first or fifth book, when it's just you and the blank page, when it's two o'clock in the morning and everyone you know is sleeping and you follow people on Twitter who live in the UK just so someone you know will be awake at that hour, when you hit a wall in your manuscript, when you don't KNOW any other writers to talk to about your plot problems (and if you did could you trust them with your BABY?), when you’re trying to figure out if you should join SCBWI or RWA or SFFWA or AW … you gotta believe that what you’re striving for – publication - is a possibility. If you don’t believe in you, no one else will.
2. You Gotta Believe in YOUR INSTINCTS. If you’re a writer, I certainly hope you’re a reader. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read objectively. Reading changes when you become a writer. You’ll start to deeply value authors who can transport you from noticing the overuse of adverbs into the heart of their stories. You need to know what first person/third person present tense/past tense sounds like. You need to be able to recognize excellent world building versus poor world building. You need solid examples of how setting can breathe life into a story, and how dialogue can elevate a written conversation to something that sounds REAL. If you aren’t knowledgeable about how other people do it, you won’t know how to do it yourself. If your instincts tell you something is off about a story, ask yourself why. If something is right, ask yourself why. And then apply those lessons learned to your own work.
3. You Gotta Believe in the Power of REVISION. No one does it right the first time. No one does it right the second or third time, either. HOURGLASS went through at least eight MAJOR revisions before it sold. One of them was for my agent before I went on submission – I rewrote the whole second half. Guess what? AFTER I sold I rewrote the whole second half again. Someone very wise, and in the publishing biz, said this: “The writers who are willing to revise are the ones who have the longest careers.” I’m in for the long haul. And I believe that every time I touch a manuscript, I learn something.
4. You Gotta Believe the GOOD ADVICE INDUSTRY PROS GIVE YOU. This blog is an excellent place to start. You should also check out the blogs of Janet Reid, Nathan Bransford, Kristen Nelson, Rachelle Gardner and Michael Hyatt. Read author blogs like Maggie Stiefvater’s or Kiersten White’s. Read a book on craft. I suggest PLOT AND STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell, or BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott. Lurk on the Absolute Write forums. Check out the #kidlit and #yalitchat hash tags on Twitter. These suggestions are starting points, and they apply if you’re a newbie, done with your first manuscript, ready to query agents, on submission with publishers, or slated for publication. Be a sponge. Be open. Be positive, and be ready to learn. You can ALWAYS learn something.
5. You Gotta Believe in the POWER OF THE WRITTEN WORD. It’s super easy to get caught up in what other people are doing. Who got a six-figure deal, who sold at auction, who got a fancy agent, who made The Bestseller List, who has the most buzz, who has the most blog/Twitter followers, who’s getting the biggest push from their publisher, who’s cover is the sweetest. LISTEN. Are you listening? None of this is important. My Awesome Agent, Holly Root, has a spectacular saying. “Keep your eyes on your own test paper.” No one else’s journey is your journey. You cannot control ANYTHING other than THE WORDS YOU PUT ON THE PAGE.
If you don’t put the words on the page, nothing will happen for you at all. Focus on your job, which is being a WRITER and WRITING.
I hope if you’ve chosen to be a writer, it’s because you can’t NOT tell stories. I hope you’re driven, that there’s a passion behind your storytelling. I hope you let all the hot water in the shower run out or drive ten miles in the wrong direction because you are so caught up in thinking about your own creation. (Just don’t run stop signs. Trust me.)
Believe in yourself. Believe in hard work. Believe, and HOPE. And may your wildest dreams come true.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Today's WOW Wednesday guest post is from Myra McEntire, who has had her nose in a book since she could hold one. She was once caught reading in the shower (true story) and only stopped when her father disconnected the hot-water heater. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and two boys. Her young adult novel, HOURGLASS, will debut on May 24, 2011, with Egmont USA. Visit her online at http://www.myramcentire.com/ or follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MyraMcEntire.