People will tell you to do this or that to make it in this business. Sacrifice a goat. Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me. Never write at 3 a.m. Stop killing your main characters. (Okay, maybe that one’s good advice.) The truth of the matter is: there is no one truth path to publication. There are no magic beans. Nobody has a secret formula for success, and nobody’s writing process is cast in gold. For most people it takes trial and error to determine what will work best.
That said, never feel like you have to mortgage your vision in order to see your words in print. I mean, if you write a coming of age road trip story and you get an offer, only you’re told that you need to make one boy a girl, add a romance, insert some vampires, and change the setting from the Midwest to New Orleans? That’s not the book you wrote. And most editors won’t offer on a book they want that many changes to. It’s either pretty close to ready to roll as is, or it’s not what they’re looking for. Don’t feel like you have to cut your dreams to the bone in order to make them happen. I hate to see anyone thinking small.
Mind you, I am not advocating lack of professionalism or telling industry personnel that they don’t understand your genius. We all take our knocks. We struggle on. Writers, in general, are a neurotic lot. Some days we feel like we’re pretty good. Others, not so much. But in this business, you only need one person to love what you’ve done. Ideally that person is an agent, not your mom. And then that agent only needs to find one editor who gets it. With one crucial step does the career-journey begin. The rest is up to marketing, timing, placement, publisher push, etc.
Which brings me to my next point. Once your book is out there, people will judge it. Their yardsticks may not be yours. They may have experiences you couldn’t begin to anticipate. Everyone views a book through a very personal lens. Sometimes people don’t trust the author to deliver a satisfying conclusion several books in, so they get annoyed if all the information isn’t available in the first installment. It’s important not to let criticisms get in your head and prevent you from writing your next book. As long as you write the best book you can at that time, then the rest doesn’t matter.
Keep the faith. Write on, in the dark before dawn, in the silence before your family awakens and long after they’ve gone to sleep, in coffee shops and on your lunch breaks, write on.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Phineas H