It’s First Monday of the month again, your invitation to ask questions and discuss any aspect of writing that concerns you, whether to do with publishers, writing craft, or the rarely talked about demons besetting every writer.
To start, here’s a question that arose this week. How can you be sure to have a productive 2015? The answer is to place these invisible gifts under your tree.
1. Faith in yourself
Self-doubt is one of the demons haunting many writers. Sadly, the ones least likely to doubt themselves can be those least talented. The rest struggle along, wondering if our success to date has been a fluke.
An award-winning writer I know said in a speech that she believed her publishers would knock on her
door one day and demand their money back. Of course her success wasn’t a fluke. She wrote stories millions of people wanted to read.
The best way to deal with self-doubt is to be what a motivational speaker calls part Clint Eastwood and part Mr Spock – hard-nosed and logical. Do you have a body of work you’re proud of, even if it’s not yet published? Do you write on most days? Do you study your craft through books, a writing group or online? Do you finish what you start? By all hard-nosed, logical reasoning, you are a writer and self-doubt has no place under your tree. Replace it with faith in yourself.
This is the twin of faith. Determination…okay, sometimes called stubbornness…keeps you going when the going gets tough. Critique partners can tell you the work isn’t there yet; agents and publishers can reject you. You can stare at your writing and wonder why you ever thought you could do this.
Determination is what makes you stay at the keyboard and keep writing. You are in love with your characters and can’t wait to tell their stories. You know you still have plenty to learn about writing craft, but the only way to learn it is by doing. Determination knows that. Fill a huge stocking with this vital quality, and hang it by the chimney with care. Or at the foot of your bed. But make sure it’s there to unwrap any time you need it.
Every child knows about excitement. It’s what has them scrambling awake before dawn to see their gifts. You can admire your gifts, too, even though they’re invisible. Talent is your gift and you’ve known it was there since you were a child yourself.
People ask me when I became a writer. You know, I honestly can’t remember. I wrote before I knew what a writer was. I thought everyone made up stories to entertain their siblings on the way to school, or lay in bed at night rewriting the ending of a movie because it didn’t end the way I thought it should.
Sometimes those stories turn into real, publishable work. But first, the excitement must be there before I can spend the weeks or months needed to turn an idea into a story for others to read. Excitement is what gets me out of bed in the early hours of the morning, eager to share the wonderful people and events in my head.
Right now I’m hatching a series about three people who didn’t exist until they started talking to me. So far they’ve told me their names, their histories and how they want to relate to each other and I’m savouring every minute of this stage. Anything is possible. It doesn’t even qualify as work. Soon, however, I’ll have to start the real work of getting words down. For that, you need fuel. Excitement is your fuel.
Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to train yourself to survive the long haul of writing and rewriting your words until they transmit the message (story) to your readers as accurately as possible. The story will always fall short of the visions in your head. Expect this. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the words down then editing them until they’re close to your vision.
Expect to fail in other ways, too. More books are rejected by publishers than ever see the light of day. Not all are bad books. Sometimes they’re similar to something else the editor has in production, or not right for the market at that time. Even if you publish your work yourself, there are no guarantees. Indie publishing is not only acceptable these days, it’s eating into the numbers of manuscripts publishers are seeing, and they’re fretting over this.
Nor are all indie publishers beginners. Many are hugely successful with traditional publishers, and see self-publishing as a way to retain control of their work and incomes.
You still need to package up a huge does of resilience and place that under your tree to open when your faith and determination run low. Successful writers need skill, persistence and a little luck to succeed. As NASA says, failure is not an option. You only fail if you quit. Don’t quit.
Can you think of other essential gifts writers should give themselves these holidays? Share them with us in the comments below. I moderate comments to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on the “sign me up” box at right to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy holidays to all, and to all – a good write.
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You