Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Thursday, June 14, 2012

author blog challenge #13

What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you'd known before you began?

So as the challenge moves on, I find myself unable to really answer the prompts, as I've never actually published anything. But I'm going to tackle this one anyway, as I can relate to it on a certain level.

For me, the absolute, hands-down hardest part of my book process so far has been querying. Who would have thought that a woman who can write multiple novels of 70K+ words can't write a 250 word advertisement for said novels? It's insane. I've done a lot of difficult things in my life, overcome at least a few obstacles, and to struggle with 250 words? Maddening.

It's not just the query though. It's the whole [traditional] process of wooing an agent or a publisher. Write a query. Write a synopsis - some want one page, some 3-5 paragraphs, some 1000 words. Write a bio. Know something about said agent or publisher to personalize the query letter. Know where to go in the interwebs to find agents or publishers who work in your genre. Make sure to keep a spreadsheet so you don't query an agent/publisher multiple times, and keep a separate tab for each novel you've queried because if it's been less than six months since querying the agent/publisher with a different manuscript you probably want to wait until the next go-around. Only send ten queries or so out at a time so if you get no responses you know the query stinks and you haven't burned more than ten chances. I mean, what's so difficult about all of that?

Forget the fact that this is all on top of the process of actually writing the damn thing. If someone told me five years ago that writing the novel was the easiest part, I would have laughed. Yeah, right. Talk about a loss of innocence.

Another aspect of writing a novel I've found difficult is actually telling people about it. Because if you haven't published anything, they just nod and say, "Oh, isn't that wonderful." But they're thinking Yeah right. Who isn't? or Good luck with that! When I finally shared my writing with a few friends they wondered why I hadn't told them and told me funny stories about telling their spouses who just looked dumbfounded. Jen? You mean from work? Wrote a book? Like, a real book? About what? I laughed, and then explained to them that I wasn't purposely leaving them out, it's just easier this way. Because when they ask why it hasn't been published do they really want to hear the answer? It would take days to explain the process. And they have actual lives that aren't consumed with becoming a published writer.

So up until now not only have I been writing novels (and poems and songs and short stories and essays), but I've been editing them, learning everything I can about formatting (and apparently thanks to an incredibly helpful post by the lovely Jo Michaels is something in which I'm terribly uninformed), actively trying to sell it, but am also living a double life. In one I'm a wife, a mom, a best friend, a sister, a confidant, an aunt, and a career gal, and in the other, I'm an obsessed, driven, not-so-patiently waiting woman who wants only to share her words with others. It's been quite a trip.

Onwards and upwards. Keep on truckin'. Don't let fear hold you back. And whatever other idioms exist to describe the process. Hey, I'm much better off and much closer to the end goal than I was five years ago...at least that's something.

1 comment:

T.L. Bodine said...

I've been using QueryTracker to find agents/keep track of my queries, and that's been very helpful. There's lots of useful tools there if you haven't tried it. Sure beats building a spreadsheet, IMO. The people on the forum are pretty nice, too.

And man, I totally hear you about the "leading a double life" thing. It's really, really hard to explain the publishing process to people outside of it. I get unreasonably defensive when I talk about writing to non-writers, so I always just try to avoid the subject.