Rablings of Write Life
So I was at the gym (It happens! You know… annually. Whatever) with a friend of mine and we’re chatting away while on our treadmills. We start talking about my newest WIP and how the plot is going, etc. I figured everyone around us had their headphones in and most people seemed oblivious to our conversation. But from the corner of my eye I thought I saw the woman closest to us laughing along with us.
Until my friend and I discussed the ending of my book. I’m still working on it I explained. I discussed a few possible outcomes I was thinking over, “but I mean, at this point, he has to die.”
Then I noticed the woman closest to us, wasn’t laughing anymore.
So it occurred to me that 1) she was listening and 2) she thinks there’s a real chance I’m killing someone. Whoops.
As writers, we face unique circumstances that people in other fields simply won’t come across. This is true for any job. I have a friend who works in a recovery unit and had her office on lock down while an armed drug dealer tried to break in. Is that not a routine part of your Monday? Probably not. These are specific circumstances that only really apply to certain jobs. Writing is no different.
1) Eavesdroppers are real and personally I’ve been known to laugh too loud and speak too loud on occasion. (No one’s perfect.) When discussing torturing your characters, the hero’s low moment, the villain’s comeuppance or death, you will get strange looks. Bond with that fact.
2) You spend a lot of time alone at a desk. A lot. Like, a lot. Sure, we have our little notebooks to scribble in at the coffee shop and that’s fun. But at the end of the day, when your plot is plotted, your outline is outlined, you need to put on your big writer undies and sit down and get to work.
3) You’ll write even when you’re not writing. While driving, you’ll run over possible lines from a scene you have coming up. You’ll act out the parts while shampooing your hair. People will think you’re crazy. Again, you really need to stop fighting the stigma and embrace it. You can’t escape.
4) If you’re a writer, you should be a reader so we’re going to move on from that point as if it’s a given. You’re going to pick up books over your life that are so good you think you should reevaluate your dreams in an alcohol induced stupor because you will never be that good. This will happen. So my thoughts are as follows: You won’t ever write like that. You’ll write like you. You have your own style and voice and that’s good. It doesn’t mean your stories aren’t worth telling. Don’t quit. You will also read books that are so awful you will immediately try to find out who represents and publishes that author. Then you’ll query them. (Really, do it.) I actually have one of those on my shelves and look at it sometimes. If they can do it… Is that terrible? Probably. Am I an awful person? It’s looking likely. But! Whatever keeps you writing. And if you quit now, then you really will never be as good as that awesome author that blows your mind. It’s important, too, to remember that writing isn’t a competition. There’s plenty of room on a bookshelf or e-reader for Literary masterpieces, genre fiction, YA, Sci Fi, mysteries and thrillers. If people like the genre, they will go back for more. So don’t look at other writers as if they’re your competition. They’re not. They’re your colleagues, your cheerleaders, friends, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.
5) Which brings me to rejection. You’re going to have to send your work out. Yes. That manuscript you poured your heart into, worked on forever, and edited to a maddening point of having the whole door stopper memorized. That one. Someone else has to read it. Whether you are sending it to trusted beta readers or an agent or publishing house – you have to send it.
There’s going to be rejection pretty much no matter what. Those authors that blow your mind and make you think awful thoughts of quitting and living under a bridge – even they have been rejected. It happens to everyone. So, buck up. Big Writer Undies on. Brace yourself. Try to look at criticism as something you can take in, advice to polish and hone. That’s what beta readers are for! It’s not a personal attack. When someone takes a few days – a week – a few months even, to get back to you, it’s not because they hate you. People are busy. Agents and publishers are inundated with queries. The best way to stand out, is to strictly follow submission guidelines (This really can’t be stressed enough!) and make your query shine. Not with glitter, with your gripping words that clearly give the agent or publisher an idea of what your book is about. Don’t make them guess. They have a lot to do as it is. Like no movie is a hit with every audience, no cake pleases every palette, no book will appeal to everyone. Rejection will happen. It’s really not a personal attack on you or your work. Keep polishing, keep querying, keep writing.
6) Writers need to be reminded to go outside. Let me remind you. I know we covered the “Chained to your desk/Get the manuscript done” bit in the beginning, but let me make it confusing for you. First, your ass actually can start to take the shape of that chair. I know. I was shocked as well. Secondly, outside might be where you break through your plot problem or find the perfect inspiration for that character. You could find the perfect setting and go see it. Do something wild and call it “research” but don’t hurt yourself or commit a crime. Because eventually you’ll have to get back to that “sit down and write it” bit. And bail can get kinda pricey. Got it?