It’s been two and a half years since I really got serious about writing. I started this journey on July 1, 2012 with the goal of “becoming a writer,” and I’ve been at it ever since. To date, I’ve written four novels, but none of them have been published yet. To be honest, I’ve focused more on writing and revising than I have on pitching my books to agents. I’ve talked to agents and sent numerous queries out, but nothing has come of it yet. I have received some good feedback from agents, editors, and a book coach, and I believe that has me on the right track.
Despite not having a published book yet, I have learned a few things along the way in this journey, and I’m happy that I took the steps necessary to make this happen. For many years I sat on the sidelines dreaming about becoming a writer. Now, at least, I’m putting myself out there to make it a reality. No matter what happens, I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before I see my words in print. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned.
Being a writer requires consistency in approach. I write for at least an hour every weekday sometimes more, but my routine is essentially the same. I get up very early and I park my bum in my favorite chair and type away either on a novel, short story, or a blog post. Just like an athlete, writers need to practice consistently to get better. I’ve been doing this for two and a half years, and I can tell the difference in my writing thanks to this consistent approach.
Musicians listen to the masters to improve. Athletes watch the greats in their sport to learn. Writers have to read broadly to get better. I’m a voracious reader. I love a great book, and I have many favorite authors. I love an author who is a virtuoso with words, and when I find one, I study him or her to absorb the beauty of the art so that I can improve. I don’t copy other authors, but each thing I learn from them is internalized and expressed in my own way. No author worth his salt will ever say they don’t read. I consider reading to be part of my training as a writer.
For many years, I was a closet writer. I’d spend hours writing something and then it would sit on a hard drive somewhere hidden from the world. No one other than myself would read it. That approach got me nowhere. A writer’s work is like his or her baby, and I didn’t want to hear my baby was ugly, but the truth is that feedback is critical if you’re going to develop as a writer, and like it or not, feedback is not always, nor should it be, laudatory. Even the greatest writers produce sub-par work sometimes, but the difference between them and the rest of us is that they have strong feedback mechanisms in place to help them improve upon their initial work. Not every idea is a best seller from the moment it is in first draft form. That’s why they call it a first draft.
I have been published in trade magazines for work that I do in my regular job, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some very good editors. I’ve really clicked with one editor in particular, and it was my first experience working with her that I realized how valuable a great editor is. She improved everything I wrote, and her feedback was priceless. I’m still looking for a similar editor for my fiction work. When I find him or her, I’m going to hold on for dear life because feedback is that important.
Writing query letters and sending them into the ether to be evaluated and judged along with excerpts of my work is not a lot of fun. I’ve done quite a few over the past two years, but not as many as I should have. I typically do them in batches of five or six and then wait. And wait. I don’t get responses from all of them, and all of the responses I’ve gotten have been typically standard rejection forms or letters. It’s disheartening, but with each one, I take it as a learning experience and improve in the next round. Nevertheless, I don’t let this discourage me. There are plenty of stories of great authors who faced hundreds of rejections before they found the right agent and publisher for their work. It requires a certain level of obstinacy to be a writer, and I plan to keep going regardless. Eventually, I will break through, but until then, I’ll keep sending out query letters, talking to agents, and writing. It’s an adventure that never ends.
Those are just a few things I’ve learned in the past couple of years. What’s your writing experience been? Any good tips you’ve learned that you’d like to share. Share them in the comments section for this post.