Writing/Editing Tips

What I Wish I’d Known – Part 7

Dealing with the Emotions of Being an Author – It’s what you do.

In an earlier post, I talked about how writing it hard work.  It is.  It takes a lot of dedicated effort, diligence, and persistence, even in the face of failure and resistance.  Every author will tell you that they invest bits of themselves into their writing.  They’re invested in the product they are creating and the characters, people, places, and situations they are crafting.

Because of that, there are deep, abiding emotions involved in this craft that we call writing.

I’m not going to list them all, but there are so many different emotions authors face every day, every time they turn on their computer to write, or open a file from an alpha or beta reader.  We all want what we write to be appreciated and enjoyed.  We all want for the stuff we’ve worked so hard on to actually mean something.  We all have the fear that we’ll get rejected and we’ll fail.  We need to recognize these emotions within ourselves and learn how to deal with them because, simply put, they’re not going away.

Michaelbrent Collings, bestselling horror author and all around purveyor and starlight champion of indie authors everywhere, said it this way:

“Every time I write a book – and I mean EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. – there’s a point where I realize I’m not going to be able to figure the story out, where I know that this is the one where I write total crap and everyone realizes how badly I really suck. Where I understand that THIS is the book that will make me a failure.

I push on. And so far I’ve managed to beat that feeling back long enough to make a liar out of it. But it is among the worst feelings of all, because it is the feeling that I’m not only doomed to fail, and I know it, but I also know that I will fail in a worthless endeavor.

And then, when I’m done, I go and do it again. On purpose.

Sigh. Apparently Momma raised at least one dumb kid.”

He’s right – and he has written literally dozens of bestsellers.  It’s an emotional, difficult process for all of us.  Every time.  And it doesn’t get any easier the more books you write.  I’m only up to 2 published books and 1 on the way and I’m probably more nervous now than I was with my first book.  Why?  Because I’ve set my own bar and I have to be better than that bar the next time around.  I have to raise the bar each time.  And I am my own worst critic.

J. Scott Savage recently said the following. He is the author of several middle grade fantasy novels and recently launched his Mysteries of Cove series.

“Just a reminder that there will always be better writers than you. I will never have James Dashner’s crazy imagination, Brandon Sanderson’s world building, or Annette Luthy Lyon’s prose. But I will always be able to write the best J Scott Savage books. And that’s completely okay. People read your stories precisely because they are YOUR stories. Spend less time worrying about whether or not you are as good as someone else, and instead focus on being the best you.”

So keep writing.  Yes, you’ll be terrified, nervous, scared, nauseated, frightened, and insecure.  You’ll have days, moments, weeks, or even months where you’re convinced that nothing you do will work out.  You’ll have projects that you think will get the best of you.  There will be days where your crippling social anxiety will live up to its name.

But you’ll get through it.  You will overcome it.  You will keep writing and getting better and improving.  You will do it.  Because you are an author.  That’s what you do.

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What I Wish I’d Known – Part 1

It’s Not all About Writing

When I started writing seriously again (that’s a different story – I’ll tell that one later) and had completed my first “real” manuscript I, like so many new writers, thought that the greater part of my work was done.  It was a good book, it had excellent characters, and all I needed to do was get the written words in front of some people and they’d love it, savor it, and want nothing more than to publish it.  With that surety buoying me up, I went to a conference, paid some extra money to meet with the editor of my choice in person, and went into my pitch session with utmost confidence.

I came out of the pitch session in tears, ready to quit the writing world for good, and with no hope that anyone, anywhere, would ever want to read a single word I’d ever write again.  A little melodramatic, I know, but I’m a writer.  I’m allowed a little melodrama every now and then.  Anyway, this experience lead me to some serious introspection.  That book was shelved, I started writing something completely different (actually about as different as you can get), and I went back to the grindstone with my preconceptions shattered and a realization that writing alone is not enough.

You have to know how to explain what you’ve written.  You have to pitch stuff correctly to the right people, in the right way, and at the right time.  It’s kind of like trying to ride a pogo stick, on a tight rope, while firing a machinegun at a 10-inch target 100 yards away.  Can you hit the target?  Eventually.  It’s just going to take a lot of bullets for one to hit home.

So I wrote some more, took some classes on how to pitch stuff well and realized that my writing itself needed some additional work.  I finished that manuscript and set it aside and worked on various other projects.  I got a job in sales, which helped me learn how to pitch stuff, how to talk to people, how to fake smile even when I’m nervous or the situation is unpleasant, and even how to be in a really awesome writing group.  I went back to that same conference again the next year, though this time with no illusions as to my writing prowess being better than anyone else’s.  I wasn’t about to try another pitch session (I’m still not, honestly). I didn’t have either the polished manuscript or a good pitch for anything I’d written.

As luck would have it, for me, that was the right place and the right time.  An editor sat down next to me, I made some sarcastic remark – as I frequently do – and a couple months later I had a contract for a book.  I honestly don’t really remember what I said or how the conversation really went.  In fact, I think I pitched a different book than the one that actually got accepted for publication.  But what I realized is that it’s the conversations, the ability to speak and relate to people that was the key factor I’d been missing the first time.

There is no magical formula for how to say the right thing at the right time outside of just to talk.  Editors, agents, authors, fans, and everyone else for that matter, are all just people.  If you can make a connection with them, they’ll listen to your tagline for your book.  Writing (and life in general) is about the connections you make.  Don’t get so focused on writing the book that you forget that becoming published and, honestly, becoming an author in any form, is about making connections and learning to explain what you’ve written as part of who you are.  You never know when opportunity will knock.  Don’t miss it.

Categories: What I Wish I'd Known, Writing/Editing Tips | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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