Yes, I've been absent for some time but I stay so busy I barely have time to breathe it seems like. I have a couple of releases to catch up on and news on my debut novel but that will have to wait. Today I'd like to impart some advice to any writers like me out there. Today I want to talk a little about patience, something I never used to have any of at all.
And Now We Wait...
So, my busy schedule aside with everything I've been up to on the literary front sometimes it takes other writers to bring things up that I've forgotten about now that I've been doing this for a little while. I don't consider myself some sage or anything like that but I have learned a lot in the last several years and have a ton more to learn. I don't know everything. I am not "the best" at much of anything. I do not hold a Master's Degree in Literature from Princeton or any such thing. I do, however, like to think I'm smarter than the average bear and have taught myself nearly everything I know about being a writer. Some of that learning has come from my past school teachers, some from fellow writers and some I have completely taught myself. One of the first and hardest lessons you need to learn as a writer is how to play the inevitable waiting game. No one wants to play this game. No one enjoys playing this game, however, you have no choice. If you're going to try getting published by anyone other than yourself you will be a player in the worst game you will ever play.
Now, which Waiting Game am I talking about here? There are several for a writer but I'm talking about the most common one, which is submitting a story generally to a publisher then waiting for the moment of elation when you receive an acceptance or the moment you dread... a rejection. So why write this today? Am I waiting for some response? The answer to the second question is yes, because I am always waiting for some sort of response about my work but I'll get to that momentarily. The first question has a more straight-forward answer. I decided to write this today because I saw some writers in one of my groups on Facebook asking an absolutely ridiculous question which put this issue front and center. A publisher I've worked with a couple times now (an excellent publisher and excellent experiences) ran a little writing challenge/contest that only ended like 9 or 10 days ago. The challenge was simple though difficult - the publisher provided a writing prompt then gave anyone who wished to join in one week to write & edit (at least proofread) a 12,000 to 15,000 word novelette (I could be off on the word count slightly but that's the right ballpark). That's it. The best stories will get published in a coming collection and the best story wins a cash prize. Due to things I was working on and my day job schedule I simply didn't have time to participate though I wanted to. So the publisher, which is Zombie Pirate Publishing (it's not any secret), was asked today, by what I can only assume is a new/newer writer, when acceptances/rejections would go out. My first thought was, "This is why I will never start my own publishing house." I'll readily admit that ain't the only reason! So I kind of shook my head and chuckled while feeling bad for Sam & Adam having to get asked shit like that all the time. Then I stopped myself, reflected a little and that's why I'm writing this today.
One of the hardest lessons to learn as a newer writer is how to weather the waiting storm. You worked hard on your story regardless of its length. You're proud of it. You want to know what other people think of it and terrified of what they actually think of it in equal measure. I'm not 100% there yet but I don't really care anymore who likes what I write or who doesn't, what stories get accepted or which get rejected, and all of the things that I once paced a hole in the carpet wondering about. Some of this is because of the positive feedback I've received and some is due to my acceptances outnumbering my rejections but mostly it comes from the confidence I've gained now that I've written... well, honestly I don't know how many stories I've written. I remember a time when I knew exactly how many I had written. I remember submitting a story then sitting there biting my nails for days, weeks or months waiting for a response. I remember thinking every time I sent something, "Oh, My God! They hate it! I'm the worst writer in history! If it was any good I would have heard by now! God I SUCK!!!!!" You feel like all your hopes and dreams lay at the end of that one submission. I'm here to tell you, they do not. Sure some submissions are more important than others but none, not one, are the end all be all that determine whether you "make it" as a writer or not. It only feels that way at the time.
So, the first advice I'd like to impart to you is just fucking relax a little. You're not alone. Every writer EVER has felt exactly what you're feeling. The hope, the fear, the anxiety... all of it - every writer who has let someone read their work has felt it all from Dickens to King. In fact, if you're so arrogant that you don't feel any of that, especially when you're first starting out, then I guarantee your writing is probably terrible. There may be exceptions to that rule but I can pretty much guarantee you that if you think the first story you wrote is the greatest thing since sliced bread then it's probably a dog turd and you're probably an asshole. So if you're feeling like that moment in Alien just before the little xenomorph bursts through the guy's chest then guess what? You're fucking NORMAL... well... normal for a writer. Relax. Take a few deep breaths. Take a moment to reflect on what you accomplished. You finished your story. You made it look as pretty as you were able to make it. You submitted it. That's a big step, don't feel ashamed in celebrating it. The rest is completely out of your hands. Relaxed? Good... but now what?
When I first began submitting my writing for publication I was a wreck like every other new writer. I tried not to but I pinned the weight of the world to every submission. It's easy to get in the mindset that one rejection means the end of your career before it has even begun. Of course, this is ridiculous but try telling yourself that when your confidence in your writing is almost non-existent. It's a Herculean task to put it mildly. Now that I've been at this for a few years to seems quite silly to me though it didn't feel silly at the time. As I said above, once you've submitted your work it's fate is out of your hands. So now what? Well, you're a writer, right? Go WRITE! It's that simple and that difficult. Take a day or two or a week, whatever you need, to celebrate your accomplishment and fret over fate then get back to work. It can take weeks or months to hear back about something you've submitted so don't waste that time doing nothing. Start the next story, submit that, start another, submit that and so on and so forth. Before you know it you'll have half a dozen stories written and submitted. Then one day you'll get that email that tells you your story found a home or you need to find another for it. An acceptance doesn't mean you're the best writer of all-time nor does a rejection mean you should quit writing forever. The tales of famous writers who are widely considered great who once faced so many rejections they considered giving up is endless. The term "starving artist" exists for a reason so remember that and keep writing! Part of the reason I'm writing this today isn't just for you but even I need to kick myself in the ass sometimes. I need to hear this sometimes to reaffirm that my writing isn't crap, that I can do this, and that I will do this.
That's about all the advice I can give on this subject. Just keep writing and keep submitting. You may find the right home for your stories quickly or you may have to search for a long time. It took me a couple years to find the right homes and now I'm trying to expand to more new right homes. The fact is now I know those homes exist. Up above I related that I'm waiting for some responses of my own. I have a ton of stuff that's already been accepted which I'm just waiting for release dates for but the big one, the one I care about the most is the novel. I'm currently trying to stay patient while I wait on a few things to fall into place. I'm excited to move into this next phase of my writing career which makes it very hard to remain patient. But what am I doing? I'm fucking writing! I decided to write this little bit of advice because I hope it may help someone out there but also as a warm up before I get started on a new story. I'll be writing a short story to get back in the writing groove then I'll be starting Novel #2! I've been dying to get going on that for what feels like forever. However, I know I need a warm-up before I just dive right in so I'm trying the short story first. Plus, as things turned out, it's truly a good warm up since the story I'm about to write and the next novel I have planned out are in a similar vein. Both are blasphemous tales to upset the religious types. I'm a pretty big fan of blasphemy so I won't lie I'm brimming with more excitement than a sixteen year old girl on prom night. Now it's time to do what I'm telling you - Get To Work! Hail Satan but remember...
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You think I'm nobody today, just wait 'til to you see the nobody I'll be tomorrow!