Writing Tip #5

January 7th, 2012

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”  Woody Allen, Annie Hall

Woody may have been talking about his romantic life, but this quote also works for writing.

Trying to get something published usually leads first and foremost to a lot of rejections. I’m sure there are some authors who hit a homerun first time at bat (look at me, using a baseball metaphor!  I’m so proud of myself!  I have no idea what that even means!), but most of us submit and submit and get told  over and over again that our work shows a lot of potential but it’s not right for people’s “lists”–or whatever the golden standard of rejection letters is these days.

This process of submission and rejection (whether it’s to agents or to editors, with the help of an agent) can take months, sometimes even years.  Yes, it’s part of the process and all you need is one person to love your manuscript, but it’s still painful and tedious and frustrating.  So how do you keep from going crazy?

By moving forward.  Like a shark.  Like a shark that writes fiction.

Start a new project.

The moment I send something off, I’m thinking about the next project.  That’s what’s helped me survive many years of rejections and long waiting periods: I’m always working on something.

Here are the advantages to doing that:

1.  you’re not sitting by the phone waiting.  You’re busy and distracted.

2.  you’ll have something else to send out if the first one never finds a publisher.

3.  you’ll become so emotionally engaged in the new idea that the rejections of the old one will be less painful.

4.  you won’t lose hope, because even if they didn’t like the last one, maybe they’ll love THIS one.

5. practice may not make perfect, but it usually makes you better.  This book may well be stronger than the previous one.  And the next one stronger still.

6. writing is fun, so you should just keep doing it.  And nothing’s more fun than starting with a brand-new idea.  The possibilities are endless–and you don’t feel like you’ve screwed anything up yet.

So if you’re trying to get an agent (or waiting to hear back from editors), don’t obsess about what’s going on with people you can’t control: control your life by sitting down and sketching out a new idea.  (Or stand up and do it–it’s better for your back.)

Just keep moving forward.  No one wants a dead shark.  They’re big and stinky.

And, finally, a reminder: I’ll be talking with Marla Miller (from Marketing the Muse) on Book Candy TV on Thursday evening.  Here’s the info for joining in–and I hope you do!  We’ll be talking about writing and publishing and I’m eager to answer any questions you might have.

DATE: JANUARY 12th, 2011
TIME: 6:00PM Pacific / 9:00PM Eastern

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  • Dwight says:

    So writing is kind of like those 18th and 19th Century women having a lot of children. Produce a lot of them, and you want have time to mope to much about any losses.

  • Dwight says:

    er, “won’t have time to mope too much” (Cank out a lot of internet comments and I won’t have time to mope to much about all the mind-burps. 😉

  • Claire says:

    It’s a good (if slightly incoherent) analogy!

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