Today’s guest post is by Eddie Louise, the winner of a pitch contest and a fantastic member of The Writer Unboxed Facebook group. She is a storyteller from way back, who blithely ignored the admonition to “Shut it girl; stop telling stories!” This has led her into delightful trouble throughout her life, most notably for the past 33 years with her husband and partner in crime, The Genius Composer.
She has 30 years of experience acting, directing, and writing for the theater, and has written plays, musicals, sketch comedy, and an opera before turning her attention to writing fiction. She is currently querying agents for her first YA novel, The Arc Riders.
Eddie has lived on a Wyoming cattle ranch, the Central and Southern California beaches, a Scottish city with a Castle in the middle, and most comfortably in her own imagination.
I became committed to writing upon accepting the challenge to enter The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November 2008. I completed the 50,000 words that year, failed the next, and have been increasingly successful in the years since. I follow the practice of writing a first draft in November and then editing it throughout the year that follows. With each successive year my writing has improved, the editing has been less of a slog and the process has been more invigorating. Many friends and family comment on the six years, wondering why I keep writing if I am not published yet. This article is my way of response.
Six Years of NaNoWriMo and I’m Still Not Published: What Do I Do?
Producing a book is a slow path to success, no matter what those breathless Google ads (Publish Your Book Today!) tell you. It takes time and multiple drafts to write a book. It takes time and many rounds of editing to perfect a book. If you are fortunate enough to land an agent and make a publishing deal, it will take a great deal of time for your book to reach the market. If you decide to forgo the legacy-publishing route and self-publish, it still takes time to format your book, get a cover designed, establish an author platform, and produce a ready-to-sell book. If you are an impatient person, perhaps writing is not the career of choice for you.
For those of us in it for the long haul, however, it is important to occupy those times of waiting. How do we fill our time, continue to work towards our goals and not get discouraged? I have some suggestions of things you can do in the short term to help you stay focused and committed for the long term.
1) Keep writing: You know that feeling you get when you have read a truly beautiful book. The warm glow. The good dreams. The joy of demanding that every one of your friends must read that book, now! What do you do once that buzz fades a little? Read another book. Finishing a novel often imparts that same glow, so enjoy it for a few days, or even a few weeks, but when the feeling begins to fade – start writing again. Write something new. Write something different. You are at a great point in your career—nobody else has any expectations of you. The last book was romance? Now write horror. You wrote epic fantasy? Why not try your hand at a cozy mystery? The fact is the more you write, the more you know yourself as a writer, and that can only be good for your future.
2) Polish your craft: There are a million and one ways to become a better writer. This blog is only one of hundreds of places in the digital world where you can gain practical advice on your writing. Hundreds of books have been published on the topic. Thousands of colleges world-wide offer classes. Choose an aspect of your writing that needs work and focus on it. Learn what you can from the sources of advice and then practice, practice, practice.
3) Play: Write pieces you specifically plan on trashing. Write in the goofy voice of your favorite cartoon character after he has ingested too much sugar. Write as if you were a four-year-old child making up a bedtime story. Write all those ridiculous things you think but are too embarrassed to allow on the page. Write things that no one but you will ever see. Write as if you will never run out of words.
4) Attend conferences and retreats: Yes, writing a book is mostly a solitary occupation, but the publishing world and writers in general are actually surprisingly social. When and if you have a book out in the world, you will want to be able to navigate the public spaces where the bookish gather. Attend ALA or Book Expo America. Go on a retreat with other writers in your preferred genre. Volunteer at book signings in your community. Observe and take notes. Participate and learn. All of this will serve you in good stead when it is your turn behind the podium.
5) Consider an alternate means of sharing your writing: There so many opportunities to get writing out in the world while you wait for your novel to be published. Thanks to the influence of Print On Demand and ebooks, there are new calls for short-story writing, and many groups produce anthologies. Write a story for inclusion in one of these collections. Serialization is also making a comeback There are websites specifically dedicated to serial publishing or you can simply start a blog and post your serial writing there. Gaining a reputation as a storyteller using one of these alternate methods will only add to your book sales later.
In short, don’t be afraid to treat your writing as a passion project, one you invest time and effort in as its own reward. This is the main point of NaNoWriMo—to remind us to write with passion, to write for its own reward. By approaching your writing with this mindset, you will avoid the frustration that can come with all of the waiting inherent in the publishing process. Now, if you will excuse me, November 17th is The Night of Writing Dangerously for NaNoWriMo, and I have words to commit to paper.
What are some of your short-term strategies to keep you committed for the long term?