"To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven."
"The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write
every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that
way you would never do anything."
-John Irving, US novelist (1942 - )
If I could give one piece of advice to those seeking publication, it would be Charles Spurgeon’s advice. Spurgeon said it best when he said, “Perseverance got the snail to the ark.” Some people might say that I had a short journey – from Dec. 2004 to August 2006 – to publication.
But I know differently.
My unofficial journey started years before, when a college professor taught me about using concrete details and tore my writing apart. To this day, when I see a long one-sentence paragraph of mine, I’m reminded of him shaking his head and his, “Cynthia, your sentences are like long, gangly tomato vines.”
I was luckier than many writers. I knew a published children’s author, knew what the business of publishing was like.
I also knew that you didn’t wait on your Muse. I’d been in journalism long enough to know that you wrote – not because you were inspired, but because you had to. Deadlines demanded it. Bosses demanded it. And I couldn’t see doing any other job that didn’t involve writing.
If writing were a business, then I needed to approach it like a business. I needed to learn what products editors were buying, what markets were apt to be glutted, what my voice was and how I could shape it to be a unique saleable product.
That meant opening myself up to critique partners.
Sure, it was scary. But it was the best thing I ever did. I learned more from my critique partners – both from their crits and from their own projects, than I ever could alone. You can’t write in a vacuum.
It also meant submitting.
Sure, that was scary, too. But I had to know if I had the “write stuff” (pun intended.) On one project alone, I netted 37 – 37 – agent rejections.
I could have quit after the first form rejection.
But I didn’t.
I kept writing.
And when editors started asking me for massive revisions, I re-wrote. And re-wrote. And re-wrote some more.
Because this is a business, and my writing is a product, and they are the ones who know best what product will sell.
Yes, it’s art. But true creativity is taking the “rules” and creating something that surprises – remember, Shakespeare had to work within the framework of sonnets and meter. True creativity is taking the old and making it new again.
And true creativity is borne of desperation – yes, I did say desperation. It’s what made Thomas Edison try that final would-be filament in his light bulb. He’d tried everything else, you see, and nothing else worked.
So get in there, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and write. Every day. Get it before your peers. Read some of their stuff. Send your stuff to agents and editors and when they rip apart your character or your plot or your conflict or God forbid all three, consider how you can stitch it all back together again.
Repeat as many times as necessary.
You, too, will get The Call.