Advice From a Nobody

A year has passed since my first novel Guardian Spirit was published. Do I still pinch myself just to make sure I?m not dreaming? Yes. Do I still have trouble calling myself an author? Yes. Do I know more about the publishing industry than I did a year ago? No.?Well maybe a little. I do know that it is a hard, competitive business.

This year of traveling to festivals, book clubs, schools and wherever else anyone will listen to me has been a challenging experience. All writers are not public speakers. I however don?t know when to shut up. That?s not to say I am a good speaker, its just saying I?m not afraid to stand in front of a crowd and speak my mind. The challenge is in hoping I will be an inspiration to others.

Someone asked me at a festival on Saturday: When did you become a writer? I answered, ?I?ve always been a writer, but have only recently come out of the closet.? Others too are emerging from their hiding places. Friends and acquaintances ask me questions like, how did you find a publisher? Where do you get your stories? Do you create an outline first? Would you read my stuff and tell me if you think it?s any good? The questions go on and on.

First of all let me say just because I have a traditionally published book doesn?t mean I?m an expert. But I would love to share a few miles of my journey with you. Hopefully I can push the next Earnest Hemmingway (by the way, I met relatives of the late Hemmingway at a festival the other day) to pursue his or her dream.

Here goes: First of all you have to have a story in you. Writers are a little more diverse than the average Joe. Our heads spin with characters and plots. We see sunsets and the color of trees a bit differently. We plan our day around writing down our stories. Do I outline my novels? No. I have a general idea about my story, the beginning, middle and the end. However when I start writing my characters take over and the entire concept may change. I let the characters in my novels speak their mind. If you sit down and struggle for words maybe you should just shut up and let the voices in your head take over.

A frequently asked question is: How did you find a publisher? Well a fairy certainly didn?t drop one off under a cabbage leaf. First of all I did my homework. I bought a really thick book called Writer?s Market and got to work. Inside those pages were examples of how to write a good synopsis, and the dos and don?ts of how to query a publisher. Most importantly there are hundreds of publishers listed in this book. Famous presses like Random House and small presses like my publisher, Lucky Press. I found out very quickly that to get your stuff read by the rich and famous you have to have an agent to get your manuscript through the door or you must have a long, lost uncle in the business that owes you a favor.

Bottom line, you have to work hard, be diligent, create a unique polished product and have ?thick skin. If you are the type to get discouraged when someone tells you no, then you might as well forget having a writing career. You get up every morning; send out a few queries and the next day you do the same, and the next day you do it again. There is nothing like the excitement of going to your mailbox, hopefully wishing that returned SASE envelope has good news in it. Truthfully, it probably never will. If someone likes your stuff they?ll email you or call you. If you see your own handwriting on that envelope addressed to you then you can expect a generic rejection letter. Which reads: We?re sorry your manuscript isn?t a fit for us right now. That isn?t to say your work isn?t good. We wish you luck in your search for a publisher? blah? blah?blah.

It?s all the luck of the draw. I hear stories all the time about novels that were sent out for years to agents and publishing companies, receiving nothing but rejection after rejection. Then one day someone actually reads it and the next thing you know they?re on the New York Times Best Sellers list. It happens, but not if you keep your work to yourself because you are afraid of rejection, or if you?re too lazy to market it. You have to have a whole lot of want-to to make it happen.

My favorite question is: Will you read my stuff and tell me what you think? I love to read, so of course I say yes. Sometimes I like what I?m reading, other times I love it, and sometimes I don?t like it at all. Am I honest with the person to whom their words I?ve been entrusted? Yes. Take advice from this nobody. Don?t let anyone tell you your writing isn?t any good. Sure I don?t enjoy everything I read, but someone else might love it. We all have different likes and enjoy all kinds of genres. I for one thought I didn?t like futuristic novels, but have read three really good ones lately.

As a writer and reader you have to step out of the box. You have to listen to the advice of others, then you have to say to yourself: Okay, that?s what they think now how do I feel about this? You have to listen to your heart and follow your own instincts. Why? Because? the voices of your characters are only in your head.

Oh, one more thing. Another popular question has been: When is your next novel coming out? Well all I can say to that is I?m starting to query agents this week, and of course I don?t know how many days, weeks or months of sending queries it will take. But, I can promise you one thing; no matter how many SASE rejections I get, I?ll keep trying. Keep your fingers crossed and maybe your legs too, because I don?t have a famous uncle in the publishing business who owes me. Blessings to all of us who write down the words that pour from our hearts.

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