Friday, February 20, 2009

Taking the writing seriously

I made a commitment to myself not all that long ago to finally take my writing seriously, to finally do what it takes to get published. To this end, I joined an online writing critique group, started my own in-person critique group, and began writing consistently on a bit of a schedule. I am finding that keeping to my schedule is harder than I would like it to be. Distractions are not helping me produce!

However, the mental shift that taking one's writing seriously produces is interesting. For years I was content to read, do research, and try to publish in a half-hearted way. I got a lot of rejections. I am determined now not to let that happen anymore, which means I have to be willing to do some things I resisted doing before, mostly out of fear of success more than fear of failure. One of those things is listen to others who are already published. Let them guide my direction more than I did in the past. For example, with my first novel, which was never published, I had two agents. The first agent heard the pitch and then received my written proposal. She said the disparity between the pitch and the proposal was remarkable, and that she loved the pitch, but the proposal did not impress her. Instead of revising my proposal, though, I found a new agent in the hopes I'd like what she said. 

Unfortunately, she told me the manuscript needed a lot of work, and that I should send it to a professional editor. So, confronted with those responses plus a number of slush pile rejections, I gave up. Looking back on that now, I'm glad I did, since I was only 22 years old, and pursuing publication at that age for an historical novel that was being compared to Pearl Buck's writing just seems silly to me now. The novel had been extremely well-received at conferences and by editors, but the editors wanted me to have an agent, and the agents didn't want to handle someone so young without my being willing to pay my dues, take the business seriously, and do the work. All of this makes sense to me now of course, after many years of owning businesses, and this next time around, I intend to do the work. 

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