As I approach the next phase of my journey toward publication, I’ve been thinking quite a bit how I got to where I am. There have been plenty of ups and downs. Like many other unpublished writers there was a point where I wondered if I should hide my manuscript away and write something else. Maybe I should give up writing altogether? I think we each succumb to those shadows of doubt at some point or another.
How long should we keep submitting a manuscript?
The answer will likely be different for each writer.
No two writers are the same–with the same skill level and experiences. Two years ago I thought I was ready for publication but later learned otherwise. Until we experience certain things firsthand, we won’t know how ready, or unready, our writing is. We have to dive in head first. All of the suggestions or advice, while helpful, may not work for everyone.
Someone who writes horror will have different submission experiences than someone who writes historical romance. Every writer’s experiences won’t be interchangeable.
And that’s the tricky part of the submission process. Each writer has to blindly forge their own path toward publication. When things get tough, they have to find the strength to press forward. No amount of advice can prepare an inexperienced writer for what they’ll face, until they’re neck deep in it. Sometimes we have to fall in order to see how bad we want to get up and continue forward.
How bad do we really want it?
It took me four years to understand the kind of writer I wanted to be. No amount of reading “how-to” books really helped. I had to learn by doing, and experiencing, things for myself. Eventually I found confidence in my writing skills. Four years seems like a long time but I’ve talked to other writers who have taken ten years to discover the same thing. Each of us learns differently, has a different motor. Don’t let it get you down.
Keep the faith.
As long as you’re surrounding yourself with people who genuinely want to help, and you continue to learn and grow as a writer, trust that you’re doing the right thing. I’ve gotten some of the best advice from the most unlikeliest places. I’ve also gotten plenty of horrible advice too. We have to be smart enough to recognize the people who know what they’re talking about from those who don’t. Personally, I would never advise someone to blindly follow what I had to say. All I can do is show them what worked for me and suggest they try it out for themselves. Don’t let someone else pressure you into following what worked for them. It may not work for anyone else.
We must believe in not only ourselves, but our writing skills, and manuscripts as well.
When you find the kind of writers who you click with, tell them how much you appreciate them. The really good writers should have no problem giving as well as taking. Ask yourself how your critique partner makes you feel? Do they make you feel like you’ve failed, or that greatness is within reach? In my opinion, the really good critique partners/friends will give it to you straight while making you feel like greatness is right around the corner. They won’t just highlight all the things they feel are flawed, but they’ll also show you why, and different ways to possibly fix them.
I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum. I’ve had others tell me to forget BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS because the publishing industry was done with vampires after only reading ten pages. A different writer suggested I lose the Japanese elements of my story. A freelance editor straight up cut me down three years ago and made me feel smaller than a speck of dust. Through it all I never gave up hope. My story never let me go and a gut instinct told me to keep going. All I needed was some fine tuning.
Never stop learning.
I could have let those comments get to me. I could have bitched and whined, but I didn’t. I set out to learn as much as I could about crafting quality fiction. Naturally, I focused on horror, fantasy, and thrillers. What made the stories I love work? How could I improve by analyzing the genres I love? I read books, watched movies, studied popular characters, and did anything I thought would help me understand how to be a better writer. I had to identify my weaknesses before I could learn how to overcome them. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.
Identify. Adapt. Overcome.
I’ve adopted a writing mantra over the years. Identify. Adapt. Overcome. We must identify what’s holding our writing back in order to adapt new strategies that will allow us to overcome any obstacles in our path. Will it be easy? No. Nothing rarely is. We must be willing to put our pride aside and do what’s best for our writing career. I see so many writers who seem content on “landing a literary agent.” But isn’t that merely a step amongst the stairs? Your work has only begun at that point. Ask yourself why you want to write? What are you hoping to accomplish? Once you identify those goals you can adapt a solid plan.
If we, as writers, can overcome our own doubts and keep learning, then we must trust that we’ll get to the end of the tunnel eventually. The subject of our manuscript shouldn’t matter as long as we can produce a quality manuscript. And that’s the key: quality. The best stories will always find a home.
I once asked a published writer I respect for a bit of advice. He responded with, “Always believe in yourself. And fuck anybody who doesn’t.” Those nine words have stuck with me. If we don’t believe in ourselves, why should anybody else?
What would I say to any writer doubting themselves: Never stop learning, and believing. If you can do those two things, you’ll make it. We all have bad days. Stay the course. Hold the line. Eventually you’ll look back and wonder why it took you so long. Because you were good enough all along.
Keep that chin up…and keep writing. Good things could be right around the corner…just like me. 😉
More to come…soon.