Nearly all writers seem to be born with the storytelling gene. Most successful writers I know were spinning stories for their own amusement, for siblings, or to entertain classmates from an early age.
I was writing entries for the children’s pages of the Sunday papers before I knew what a writer was. I thought everybody made up stories. Getting an article accepted by the Australian Women’s Weekly at age fourteen felt normal, my kind anyway.
Fast forward to the present and I’m attending the 2016 national conference of Romance Writers of Australia along with four hundred of my closest friends, where they honoured me with Lifetime Membership.
I know now that not everyone can make up stories, far less get them published. Many try again and again for years without success.
Others put themselves through the ordeal of the pitch – when you give an editor or agent a verbal synopsis of your book in a five- to ten-minute time slot. Yes means an invitation to send them the whole manuscript or sample chapters. No means, sorry it’s not for them.
Either way, you fast-track a response, bypass the “slush pile” of unsolicited submissions, and sometimes strike publishing gold as many writers did at the RWA Conference.
All good so far.
Until you discover that fewer than half the writers pitching their stories and being invited to send material to the editor or agent actually do so.
What’s at the root of this curious statistic? IMO fear. Pure and simple cold feet.
I’ve heard of this from editors who suggest changes to a book only to have the author disappear without trace.
The manuscript vanishes into a bottom drawer or a digital cloud; the author obviously unaware that changes are only suggested when the editor sees potential in the work. Even if you plan to self-publish, by not following through, you lose a golden opportunity to have your work professionally appraised for free.
This is where courage comes in. You’ve jumped one hurdle by applying for a pitch appointment. You’ve prepared your material until you know it by heart. You’ve timed yourself so your pitch takes up only two thirds of the available time, allowing the editor or agent to ask questions.
All these steps take courage. At conferences, I’ve seen writers shaking as they awaited their appointments. It may help to know that the editors and agents are often as much on edge as you. They want to help you realize your dreams by finding the Next Big Book for their houses. They’re pulling for you to succeed.
The saying goes that courage is doing what you are afraid to do.
Knowing this, you can expect a last-minute rush of nerves, telling yourself to feel the fear and go ahead in spite of that.
You can resist the temptation to tell the agent or editor how nervous you feel. This will only make you feel worse.
Far better to plunge ahead as if you had all the confidence in the world. Share the story you want them to love as much as you do. Your passion will be infectious.
Before pitching, have the manuscript largely or completely finished If the answer is yes, you can use the time before submission to polish your work, rather than rushing to a finish line.
Often, having the courage to write is only the beginning. The real test comes when you pitch your work and someone says yes.
Will you be among the writers filing their manuscripts into the digital cloud because you fear taking the next step?
Or will you be among the fifty per cent boldly following your dream, step by step, until you hold your book in your hand or admire it on your ereader.
Then when someone asks what you do, you can confidently say, “I’m an author.”
What does courage mean to you? Is it writing the book, selling it, telling others about it? Share your comments in the box below. They are moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your comment appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at left. I don’t share your details with anyone
Happy (and brave) writing.
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