Home       About Jill       Jill's Blog       Books       Critique Boutique       Extras       Contact

Monday, May 21, 2012

WSG 12: When the Journey Is Long

Writer's Survival Guide 12: When the Journey Is Long

Aspiring writers hope for a short path to publication, but for many, the journey drags on...and on.

Road
Photo by geodesic

A long journey can make the strongest writer turn into a limp pile of spaghetti noodles. If we're going to survive, we need to realize every writer has a different journey. Some are short, some are long. We can't choose; all we can do is meet each new challenge with as much strength as possible.

Think of it as a car ride across the country. We know our destination; we have maps and a vehicle to help get us there; we just don't know how far we'll have to travel or how long it will take.

Long writer journeys consist of:

1. Initial excitement. We're doing it! We've dreamt about this trip for a long time, and we've finally buckled up and we're on our way.

2. Ooo, shiny things! There's so much to see. We're trying plotting techniques, considering blogging, meeting other writers, having fun putting words down--it's all fun and exhilarating!

3. Oops, wrong way. We thought we were on Route 59, but we accidentally made a left turn on Nowhere Highway. Maybe we realize the genre we're writing doesn't suit us. Maybe we enter a few contests or get a critique partner and find out we have more work ahead of us than we thought. Regardless, we have to backtrack and figure out the right way to continue our journey.

4. Phew, on the main drag again. We've adjusted, we're making steady progress, and our writing is improving. Yay!

5. Out of gas. Something happens--maybe our laptop crashes and we lose 100 pages of a novel. Or we query agents and get all rejections. At this point, there's a catalyst that halts us and keeps us from making any progress.

6. Triple A arrives and we're on our way, but hobbling. Whatever stopped us no longer feels as devastating as it initially did. We decide to forge ahead, but we're not as strong, not as excited, not as hopeful.

7. A trio of brand-new sports cars zoom past, leaving us choking on their fumes. This is the point where we start to see our friends get ahead. They're announcing agent contracts, book deals, contest wins. We're happy for them, but we start to wonder what we're doing wrong--and what they're doing right.

8. A service station. Successes keep us in shape. Maybe we final in a contest, or our blog gains momentum, or we're getting interest from agents. We've gotten the push to keep us moving.

9. Bald tires. We've written more than one, maybe several books at this point, and while we know our writing has improved, we still don't have a contract. Our confidence thins, and there's a strong possibility it will pop if we hit one more bump.

10. We hop on the toll road. Toll roads are well kept and they get us to our destination quicker and with less wear-and-tear. This is the point where we pay for professional help, either by hiring a freelance editor or paying big bucks to attend a conference where we can pitch to publishing professionals in person. It doesn't guarantee a faster ride, but we feel better, knowing we're doing everything we can to speed things up.

11. Driving through the desert. Anyone stuck on the LONG journey will have what feels like a never-ending jag through a desert. There will be no gas stations. No scenery. No vegetation. No change in view. There will be nothing but dry, endless sand, and you can either keep driving or stop and wait for the buzzards to pick at your corpse. Some writers skip this hell-ish portion of the trip. They are blessed. If you are not one of the lucky ones, have no fear. There are many other writers stuck on this nightmare of a road with you. You just can't see them because you're dying of thirst.

12. Signs of life. You made it through the desert. Trees appear. This might be the point where you get an agent, or if you have an agent, you're getting requests from editors. There's hope yet.

13. Finally, the beautiful, shimmering ocean! You made it! Through all the ups, downs, wrong turns, right turns and everything else you endured, you finally reach your destination! Congratulations!

If your journey feels long, do not get discouraged. Many of us have long journeys. If other writers' journeys seem short and this makes you insecure and sad, do not get discouraged. Every writer's journey is different. If you are in the desert and you just want a doggone glass of water, e-mail me. I will give you a glass of water. :)

Did I miss any points on the journey?

Have a wonderful Monday!!

36 comments:

  1. I don't think there is such a thing as a short journey in publishing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sustenance...otherwise known as prayer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pit stops are so important--very true! :)

      Delete
  3. Somewhere along the way (usually when stuck in that darn desert), you can easily start thinking that somehow, this long journey is all your fault, just because you must have been doing everything wrong, or you'd be at the ocean by now. But honestly, sometimes there's just that much distance between where you started and the ocean, and no amount of shortcuts or perfect driving conditions can change that.

    So hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love how you put this, Louise. The miles traveled are what they are--great point!

      Delete
  4. Hi, Jill! *Waves* So, what part of the journey are you on?

    Great desc, and it was really helpful to read - I'm glad that feeling discouraged and kind of tired of my project doesn't mean I'm weak. Sure could use a glass of water - maybe even a nice glass of iced tea! Thanks for the encouragement!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm getting out of the desert and seeing signs of life. :) It's been a long, long journey for me but I'll stay on the path no matter what. Sending you tea AND water!!

      Delete
  5. I like Em-Musing's comment! That's a good one.

    Such an encouraging and inspiring post, Jill. Publishing is the long haul. I think we should turn on some sweet tunes, roll the windows down and enjoy the ride! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, who says we can't enjoy the ride in a sporty convertible with the music blaring? Love it!

      Delete
  6. And it's no longer a destination for many writers, but a continuing journey with a changing road. Your post helps for writers on that part of their journey, too. Thanks, Jill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, Shay. The destination just changes as our career takes off! Good point!!

      Delete
  7. Good stuff, Jill. I like what everyone has said so far. Those pit stops of prayer ARE important, and it's also great to meet other writers we can commiserate with. Maybe this would happen at truck stops? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  8. You are a water machine. And you come from such a place of knowing--empathy!

    Think of the character we're all developing. :D
    ~ Wendy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great way to look at it, Wendy. I know I've grown so much, not just in writing, but in patience and humility since starting this journey. :)

      Delete
  9. I don't think there's such a thing as a short journey, either, but I also think the rapid changes in publishing have helped shorten the wait to have that first book published. We've got so many choices now that it's possible to get out there a bit sooner, as I'm doing. However, that's just stage 1 of about 950. I know my book is good, but I don't expect huge sales with it. I just want to start to gain a following and continue to learn. I'm bracing myself for those reviewers who don't like it and the inevitable bad egg. I think the biggest key is to remember our dream and learn from our mistakes.

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point. I'm with you--it's important to have realistic expectations and look at how each step we take affects our future. Smart!

      Delete
    2. I wish I could be where Stacy is, but I'm not, and after ten years I feel like I'm stuck in this limbo nexus where as much as I might be a better writer, I'm not selling yet and my writing of new stuff has slowed extensively, and reading fiction with joy is now a rarity when before it was an integral key to my process.

      But for me it's hard to enjoy reading (Especially in my niche) when you feel inferior to the best of what's out there, with no one getting (i.e. respecting) how you do it, and not knowing what to do.

      Sometimes I really wonder what my writer friends see in my work that no one else seems to think is there, most of them are further along in careers than I am, and they too had a hard climb to achieve their differing levels of success, but I feel stuck in neutral, and I don't mean that entirely in a negative way, but it's truth.

      For me, finding the next story, when past ones failed to get interest, is often harder than any hook,query, or synopsis I'll ever write, and you know that's saying a lot, Jill.

      Delete
  10. These are such good points. Everyone's journey is different, but no matter how long it takes, it feels like your own is the longest most circuitous route.

    Road Trip Buddies make it better though. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true! We all think OUR journey is the longest and worst ever--ha, ha!

      Delete
  11. What I'm learning is that getting published is just one stop along the journey. It's definitely not the destination, because after publication, the pressure is intense and the insecurity off the hook. Prayer becomes a lifeline.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely--each hurdle brings a fresh batch of new ones. I don't think many writers reach a point where they feel like they've made it. Maybe making peace with our progress is the best we can hope for at times?

      Delete
  12. What a great post, Jill. Love the extended metaphor. Really fun to read and reflect on what you've said. I so agree with those who say it's important to try and enjoy both the journey and the destination. Because there is ALWAYS a new destination. Oh, and sometimes, picking a good travel partner who can help with the driving or navigation makes the journey more enjoyable. Want to travel together?????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll ride shotgun, Patrice! You've definitely made my journey more of a fun summer ride than a slog through winter. :)

      Delete
  13. Loved this, Jill! Just loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Like Katie, I'm learning that the big TBP--To Be Published--is not an end in the road. It's like a pit stop, or a celebration party. And then you re-group, and ask the Lord what direction to take next.

    You are so wise, and funny! Thanks for this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe it's a 4-way stop, right? :) Ha!

      Delete
  15. I think you hit them all. It is SUCH a long journey!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. I'd high-five you if I could right now!

      Delete
  16. This is so true. I didn't notice going through the mountains.(Literally) Those uphill twists and turns have never been my friends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, how could I have forgotten the narrow, twisting mountain roads? Where your heart jumps in your throat and you fear for your life? Scary!!

      Delete
  17. You described so much of my journey in this post, Jill!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think we can all relate to parts or all of it, Heather. It's a fun but challenging career choice!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Love the analogy, Jill! I'd add all the mirages in the desert. Those hopeful signs you're making progress only to see they're an illusion when you get up close.

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you!