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.
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!!