Most of us start our writing career in private. By that I mean we journal, write poetry, and maybe even fairly lengthy stories that we share with no one or very few.
Some have an actual training in writing through workshops and graduate degrees. Others have little or no training.
Some reading this are published. A few lucky ones might even be agented. Most, however, are not and that is where we begin to question our value.
Even best-selling authors question their value from time to time. We are, after all, only as successful as our current writing. One can be a best seller. The next one can be a flop. A lot plays into the success of a piece of writing: topic, style, connections, timing, etc.
Before you beat yourself over the head with your manuscript, consider this:
1. What are your goals for writing? For me it is to have a printed published book that I can hold in my hand and see for sale.Digital isn’t good enough. It would really, really make my day to have someone tell me how much they love it.
For you, the goal might be to earn $50,000 or to be able to quit your day job or to change the world.
2. Where are you at in your life? I have many writing friends who talk about their progress. One just finished his first novel. Another is editing their second. Still another is working on their sixth. I am still struggling with my first.
Most of those who seem to be spitting out novels in a matter of months have a very different life style than me. One is young, unmarried, and has no children. Another has grown children and has been retired for several years. The other is a young married without children and a spouse who is also in the arts. Me? I’m working full-time doing the job of 5 people under one job title, raising two kids–one with special needs, and am active in my community. I dream of the moments when I can sit down to write undisturbed. I write at midnight and edit in the morning when my brain is clear.
3. What is your writing style? A friend of mine claims to write without ever editing a word. That would kill me. The English teacher in me cringes at the thought. Another friend claims to never read anyone else’s writing–they want their voice to be unique and genuine. The librarian in me is an avid reader. I learn by reading. I analyze and devour other people’s work to discover who I am. I read a lot of published work that I think is horrible. I read unpublished manuscripts that I think are brilliant. In both cases, I closely examine how they do characterization, dialogue, setting to improve my style.
I am also a planner. Writing from the seat of my pants drives me crazy. Whenever I enter those crazy contests that give you an hour to write on a prompt, I come close to a coronary. It stresses me out. I break my story line down to point of view, type of conflict, plots and subplots, setting, and character entrances and exits before I ever write a word. Not only that, I research EVERYTHING. I research the setting–I sometimes even go to the place. I watch people. I study psychology and criminology, and whatever else affects my story line. I bang on doors and bug people via e-mail asking for insight into specific fields. This, of course, slows down my writing, but I do not think that it makes me any less creative. I want to be authentic. I want to write deep. Writing is as much about learning for me as it is about expressing. My methods are not for everyone.
4. How do you want to be published? With the changes in the publishing industry, it is much easier to self publish these days and many do. It has opened doors like never before. I still want to hold out for traditional publishing even though book stores are closing left and right. I want to feel the book. I want someone (the agent, the editor, the publisher, and eventually the reader) to choose my book because they believe that it is good. They call self-publishing companies vanity presses, but there is definitely something vain in wanting to prove yourself by jumping through many extra hoops. Traditional publishing definitely takes more time.
Many are turning to self publishing for a variety of reasons. I tie a lot of my self-esteem to my writing. I think we all do. Rejection of my writing where I pour out my heart and soul is crushing. Many people go the self-publishing route to avoid this. I know several authors who have never tried, nor are interested in, publishing traditionally.
Some writers are very good at writing and want more control over their book. Self publishing is a great option for them. Agents, editors, and publishers often make a lot of changes to your book before it hits the market. You might not even retain your original title. You might have to rewrite major passages. Authors must balance losing their creative spirit to produce a marketable product.
Others, like a client I worked for a few years back, hired me to type. He wouldn’t let me correct the grammar mistakes, poor organization and structure, or long, rambling and often inconsistent ideas. I begged him to work on his writing before publication, but he self published anyway as it was. He met his goal and in his eyes, he was successful. That type of writing is not for me.
5. What have you accomplished? I sometimes feel jealous when I listen to my friends speak about how much progress they have made in a weeks time or how many copies they have sold. I have to make myself look back at what I have already accomplished and where I am now. Three years ago, writing was still on the back burner for me. Since then, I have published several pieces of poetry and short stories. I have created a website and multiple blogs. I started a writer’s group and have taught writing to others. I have developed several influential relationships through networking. I have attended a writer’s conference, spoken with well-known agents, submitted manuscripts, entered contests, and published digitally. Stop comparing yourself. Look at how you have grown.
The bottom line is to write to make yourself happy. If you have the writing bug, foster it. I may not have six novels under my belt like that friend of mine, but I am proud of who I am and what I write. Value yourself and value your efforts.