Although I’ve been at this writing game professionally for a relatively short amount of time, I’ve learned a lot. Most of it the hard way (My mother will tell you that’s how I’ve learned everything I know, but I’m not so sure. My mother can’t be trusted.)
Certainly I’ve learned the intricacies of the traditional publishing world. What an interesting “legacy” business. I don’t think anything in that world has changed since the introduction of moveable type. I’m not laying blame or casting aspersions–it just is what it’s always been, which can prove to be daunting at times. And, having come from the world of business, I can tell you that if any of the industries we rely on to provide our other necessities were set up along the same lines, we’d all still be rubbing sticks together to start a fire.
So, what have I learned that I wish I’d known when I jumped into the game?
1. Publishing is a business with dreamers on both sides of the equation. Be prepared for intermittent chaos.
2. Writers truly have a bit of an undiagnosed pre-schizophrenia/borderline personality disorder…trust me, I know. I ahve personal experience here…and I recognize the similarly afflicted. You know who you are. Embrace you oddities–inn the writing world, they are prized possessions. But, here’s a bit of warning: those on the outside don’t always see it that way.
I went out with a guy….once, who, at the end of dinner looked at me and said, “You keep telling me things Lucky said.” He leaned forward, his hand closing over mine. “You do know she’s not real, don’t you?”
I shrugged and said, “She’s real to me.”
Last thing I saw of the guy was his ass as he fled…before the check arrived.
3. Get used to the fact that, as a writer, you color outside the lines.
I’m pretty happy with the voices in my head. Except that they always talk to me a the most inopportune times. I’ve learned to keep a washable marker in the shower so I can scribble on the glass. Crazy, I know, but the markers work much better than trying to write with a bar of soap….trust me on this one. And, I used to keep a pad and pencil by my bed to capture those random brilliances. Seemed like a great idea….except come morning I could never read what I had written while mostly comatose. Now I keep a tape recorder….and sleep alone, well, except for the imaginary friends. Most of the time it’s pretty darn crowded in my bed…errr, head.
3. The problem is not lack of ideas, it’s lack of time. And it’s corollary: when you think of something really great, put it in the story. Don’t horde it like a nut in the clutches of a squirrel as he prepares for winter.
Curiously, even though you don’t know what the next brilliance of yours will be, it will come. (Hint: wine facilitates this process.) And spending time with your story everyday also helps this process along. It’s like magic, the more you think about the story, the richer it becomes. A writer once told me that good stories are 90% thinking and 10% writing. He was right.
4. Write the best story you can in the time frame allowed. Then move on. The quest for perfection is a fool’s game. I once knew a guy who wanted so badly to write fiction, but he never got past the first paragraph. He kept rewriting, then rewriting, then….well, you get the idea. I told him to stop doing that–he made me nuts. He told me the paragraph wasn’t perfect yet. I told him I hadn’t written a truly perfect paragraph either…but I’d written four books. Intellectually he got it, but in reality, he couldn’t stop tilting at the perfection windmill. As far as I know, he never wrote that novel.
5. You are the steward of your career. Nobody else is as invested in your success. Fight for it. And by God, when the train is jumping the tracks, speak up. What I failed to appreciate at the beginning was that there really is the right publishing path for your story. The right agent. And the right editor. Some of us are so glad to get even a nibble from one of these pros, that we don’t look at the larger picture. Take a step back….be brave. The right choices can make all the difference.
6. With hard work and a good story, publishing doors will open. Savor the journey. And when all else fails, find a good wine to share with good friends. Then write again tomorrow….because the writing really is the best part.
What have you learned along the way you wish you had known before beginning your journey?