GIVEAWAY: I am (again) excited to give away a free copy of either the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents or Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd Ed., to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. Good luck to all! (UPDATE: Chad Lynch won.)
Keep moving forward. That is probably the best advice I can give you as you continue toward your writing goals, whatever they may be. Just keep moving forward.
2011 was a strange year for me. The first eight months seemed to be filled with near-misses and small disappointments concerning my writing. Things just weren’t going my way. I vented to those who would listen; my wife and literary agent both told me they could take no more so I started complaining to the dog. (If he listens for five minutes, he gets a treat.)
But then, in a span of 45 days in the fall of 2011, I had a flood of good writing news. I formally sold the film option and Japanese language rights to my first humor book about garden gnomes. My new freelance editing business is off to an amazing start, and I’ve helped lots of people so far with their queries, synopses, and manuscripts. I sold a new book on writing called Create Your Writer Platform (released fall 2012). And I finally sold my second humor book — a fusion of funny dog pictures and political humor called Red Dog / Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political (summer 2012).
So much happened in a span of weeks — all of it amazing news. And I attribute it to one simple thing.
I kept moving forward.
In my opinion, the most frustrating thing about writing books is that so much is out of your control. It’s crazy. You can’t control which editors will connect with your book and which won’t. You can’t control what an agent’s mood will be like on the day they review your query letter. You can’t control when your book will be considered “timely” and part of the pop culture conversation (and therefore a valuable project). You can’t control when an editor or publicist assigned to your book will get laid off, or when your agent will retire. You can’t control when Amazon will make a pricing decision that forces your publishing house to decrease the print run of your book. You can’t control if foreign markets or Hollywood will buy rights to your book. You can’t control whether some staffer at EW or Vanity Fair or wherever has a bit of time one day to pick your book out of their “to review” stack and take an interest in your work. You can’t control when another title in the marketplace will be a breakout hit and direct readers to your book because they have some kind of connection.
You can’t control any of these things! All this stuff will drive you mad if you let it.
But there is a way to keep your marbles. The way I personally stay sane is to focus on the things I can control. These include 1) always writing the best work(s) I can, and 2) always building my author platform so that I can control my personal visibility as well as a bit of my sales, no matter what external circumstances bring. But the most important thing I do, in my opinion, is 3) I keep moving forward.
My latest humor book idea was rejected? I vent to the dog then brainstorm more concepts. A blog post fails to generate interest? I punch a pillow then sit down to write two more. 10 people don’t return my e-mails? I write to new contacts and tell myself it’s a numbers game. A writers conference cancels my trip suddenly? I reach out to another one. My first screenplay didn’t turn out the way I wanted? I’ll write a second one — and improve on my mistakes. My script manager left the business? Well I can’t find another one unless I just start querying — so why waste time? — I’ll start querying people this week…
I promise myself that while I may fail at a task at hand, whether it’s small or big — I will not fail because of a personal lack of effort. There are so many things I cannot control, but you can be damn sure that I will keep moving forward through bad news. I do it because it’s all I can do.
Keep moving forward, and I promise everything will be all right.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s themactep