where the writers are
If you want to be published, you gotta want it BAD.

Today's post isn't meant to discourage anyone; I'm just stating the cold, hard truth about writing that anyone who's ever sat down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard already knows. Writing is hard work, it's lonely work, and a lot of the time it's unappreciated and misunderstood work.

Some authors are literal overnight successes -- they hit pay dirt and even the "big time" with the first book they've ever written. We've seen their stories -- six- and seven-figure advances, press coverage out the wazoo; heck, sometimes even Oprah.

Then there's me -- and 99.99% of writers. The first book we have published isn't our first or second. Mine was my third. For me, it took over 20 years of hard work to get to where I am. I'm grateful as hell for everything I have now. I just don't understand diva authors, the jerks of the literary world. Okay, I'm going off on a tangent; I'll save diva authors for another day. I personally don't know any (every author I know is gracious and grateful and the nicest people you'd want to meet). But I've heard the jerk stories.

Anyhoo, back to what I've learned. For the vast majority of writers, success (ie. reaching the goal of being published), takes a couple of manuscripts that are more than likely stuffed in a closet, before we write something publishable. I'm grateful for the "no thank yous" I got early in my career. At one writers' conference, I even thanked one agent for turning me down. From the expression on his face, I'll bet he hadn't heard that very often.

After producing something worth printing, there's the struggle, the waiting, and the waiting some more to finally land an agent, and then waiting for your agent to sell your precious to a publisher. In the middle of all of this is hard work. There is no easy way to do this. You have to want it so badly that you're willing to write every day, even when you don't want to, even when you don't feel inspired, or even when you're just too danged tired. You have to write regardless of everything. That's not to say you shouldn't take the occassional day off. It's a good idea, for you and for those who have to live with you. ; )

Writing for publication is kinda like training as a professional athlete. They have to work out every day, training and honing their skills if they want to improve. As a writer, your challenge is to find the time to write, which very often means sacrificing something else you want to do. Also, when you write, you write alone. Some writers have critique groups; I don't. It's just not something that works for me. I'm a lone wolf.

Then there's the biggest problem that most writers encounter: family and friends not taking them or their work seriously. They think that if you haven't been published, that you're not a real writer. That's a load of bullpucky! If you write and work hard at it, you are a real writer regardless of whether you've ever signed your name to a publishing contract or not. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise; and if they do, don't believe them. I always told people that it wasn't a matter of if I got published, but when.

Keep telling yourselves the same thing. And like me, if you tell yourself often enough, you will believe it. Believing in yourself is half the battle.

7 Comment count
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Hi Lisa,

Great stuff! Thanks for so eloquently expressing what I feel grinding on my brain my every waking hour.

It is so hard, isn't it? I'm barely getting by and subsisting mostly these days on RedRoom blog praise. Who needs bucks when you have flattery.

But I appreciate your thoughts and how grateful you are for what you have. It's a great attitude and I'll try and remember it when I get down from an e-valanche of rejections.

Have a great day!

Chris R.

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Thank you, Chris! Fan emails

Thank you, Chris!

Fan emails get me through the day. If I get one a day, I'm a happy author. Heck, who am I kidding? If I get one a week, I'm a happy author.

I just read your piece on Brad Pitt. Loved it!

Take care,

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good for me to hear!

Your advice is advice i need to remember!
I'm really disappointed that my family doesn't take me as a writer or my sitting and writing seriously. Maybe cause I've spoiled them but I'm trying to cut the apron strings. I make little corners of privacy in the house so I can tuck myself away to write. But it doesn't take long til someone is standing behind me wanting to know where to find something, or if I think there's any food in the house. Grr! I have to say my older daughter listens to me read her what i've written over the phone when she's away at college. So that's a first step!
i have a little trick though. i keep pieces of paper, pens and pencils stuck away in every room in the house and car! I spend time sorting my scribblings and the first book i started years ago is still like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It started from a small scrap of paper with five words on it and it's becoming an honest to goodness book size of 300 pages! Slowly but surely!
Thank you , i'll keep your article close at hand. Thanks!

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You Got That Right!

Thanks, Lisa, for the straight-up practical view. It's good for authors to hear that we all share the "struggle." You sum it up exquisitely with your final statement. Might I be so bold as to say that believing in yourself is three-fourths of the battle -- because if you keep on keepin' on as best you can, much of the rest will follow.

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Great Post

Thanks Lisa for your excellent post.

You wrote:

"There is no easy way to do this. You have to want it so badly that you're willing to write every day, even when you don't want to, even when you don't feel inspired, or even when you're just too danged tired. You have to write regardless of everything."

I think your prescription will make you a publishable writer, but I don't know if it will get you published. I honestly don't think the two have a great deal in common anymore.

It took me almost no effort at all to get published, but that was a matter of right time, right place and right friends. It took me a very long time and a lot of effort to become a publishable writer. And it's what I'm proudest of. To hell with the rest of it.



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"Real" Writers

Great post!

Your comment on people's opinions about real writers really hit home with me. Non-writers seem to be very opinonated on the subject, and I finally got used to that and learned to ignore it.

I wanted to write all the time instead of having some other job, and I knew I couldn't support myself on fiction right away. So I went into freelance writing.

Then I hit a more frustrating problem. When I started making my living freelance writing (as in actually getting paid for my non-fiction articles), there were people who just coudln't get it. One in particular who kept saying I should get a real job, because he thought it meant I was "just sitting around writing novels all day."

Lately, I haven't run into any of that. I don't bring it up unless asked, but I am happy to tell people what I do and explain it if they really want to know. No objections or arguments, and most people seem to think it all sounds great. What a nice change! Why did it change? I really have no clue.

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Great comments

Thank you, everyone!