Not long ago a published author asked me why I have so many stories in my computer but none that were out being considered by an agent, editor, or even a critique group. I honestly didn’t have an answer, but my lips formed the words, “Because it would be like selling my children.”
The truth is, though, that I am afraid of the process. I am afraid of the inevitable rejection letters and I am afraid that no one will think I have any talent for storytelling. I am afraid that I will try and fail miserably at this writing game. I am afraid that I will one day have to admit that I tried to be a writer, but just could not cut it.
This, my writing friends, is something we absolutely MUST overcome.
These are the steps you’re going to begin taking today:
If you are not a member of a critique group, find one and let them know you’d like to join. Be sure it’s one that focuses on the type of literature you are producing. There are groups for picture book authors, fantasy writers, non-fiction writers, and groups for tween, young adult, and many other types of fiction. If you only write mysteries, find a mystery writers group.
Where can you look for a critique group? One way is to join an association of writers (type “writer’s associations” into your favorite search engine and see what you find). Check them out, talk to a few of their members, and when you find one that feels like it fits, join it. The money you will pay will most likely come back to you as income sooner than if you don’t do anything. Once you join the association, ask about critique group openings and (again) find one that fits your style of writing. The best groups will have writers with varying degrees of experience. Eventually you will be one of the ones with more experience… you’re not yet so listen and learn…but don’t just lurk. Jump in, participate, and offer your opinions now and then. Over time you will develop a working relationship with the other members of your group and you will learn to trust their opinions.
The next step you’re going to take is to get that one piece ready to share with someone. Once your critique group has looked it over and you’ve made the revisions you think are necessary, get it ready to mail out. You can use your Writer’s Guide, the internet, or your local library, but find a publisher or agent with whom you think you might enjoy having a working relationship.
Now that you have joined a professional writer’s association, you will have access to experienced writers and editors. When you’re wondering what your cover letter should say (I’m assuming you’ve read the current Writer’s Guide information about writing cover letters), type up a draft and ask a couple of your new association friends to look it over and give you advice. The next sentence is very important, so read it twice. TAKE THEIR ADVICE.
After you have your cover letter, and your story, chapters, or synopsis ready to mail, actually put it in an envelope and mail it….only email your submission if your chosen publisher accepts email submissions, and even if they do, don’t send it without the cover letter. Follow their instructions about submissions to the letter. If you’re not sure what they want, ask them. They will be glad to tell you. Why will they be glad to tell you? Because if you submit an amazing story to them and they publish it, THEY MAKE MONEY! But follow their rules, they know what they’re doing.
Once you have taken the envelope to the mailbox, post office, or sent it by email, come back to the computer and begin the creative process again. Do this today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because other things will get in the way and you will be tempted to just sit back and wait for 3-6 months for an answer on that one story. Start your next story today. You can go out for dinner if you want, but until the end of business today you are still a writer and you need to be busy writing. Go back to Lesson One and start with ten first lines again. Do it all again and again until you are comfortable with the process. Write another story, begin another novel, or produce an outline,but stay at the keyboard. If you wait until you hear back from this one story before you begin to write again, you could wait years before actually selling a story.
Writing is a job like many others. You cannot write one thing and stop. Every day you will come to work, sit down at the keyboard, and write.
I’d like to hear from you when you mail off that first submission. I’d like to encourage you to keep going. Once you’ve done it you know you can do it again. And remember that if/when a rejection letter comes, it doesn’t mean you’re story isn’t good. It just means it’s not a good fit for that publisher. If they offer advice, take it and then keep submitting your work. As you work, you will learn.
The funny thing about writing is that there are no college classes about getting a work published so that we are forced to submit our work for a grade by a certain deadline. There is no teacher standing at the front of the room passing out assignments and there is no boss down the hall who is waiting to hear from you about your completed work. So we become our own teacher and our own boss. We set our own deadlines and we meet them. That is how jobs work.
I love hearing from you so feel free to write in and give us your thoughts. I’m looking forward to hearing from you about your story.