Mighty Mite (age 6): “Mommy, have you published your book yet?”
Me: “No. Thank you for asking.”
Head *meet* desk.
I’m with Winston Churchill on this one: “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”
Writing a novel is a much longer process than most adults, much less six year olds, realize unless they’ve done it themselves. Publishing is an even longer process, and more agonizing. It reminds me of pregnancy – nine months of serious discomfort (writing a novel) is the only thing that could possibly make you welcome childbirth (throwing it out into the world). That, and a beautiful new baby on the other side.
Publishing is the extended colicky period that your newborn novel goes through before becoming an actual bouncing, beautiful baby novel. Thanks to the wonder of modern medicine, most human babies survive. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for novel babies, and many will end up back in the drawer as you move on to a new darling story idea.
Which brings me to the Six Steps to Publishing Success. These are according to Robert Sawyer, who has published 15 SF novels, and has many awards recognizing his work. Since that’s a few more than I have (uh, like 15 more), I figured I should consider what he has to say. He actually builds on the Master, Robert Heinlein, and his original 5 rules, adding a sixth at the bottom. I’ve recapped them in this post, but you can find the original here.
Sawyer’s theory is that half of all writers will drop out after each step. So, we start out with 100 people . . .
Step #1: You Must Write
Deceptively simple, but half of all people who want to write, simply don’t. Write every day. Write every week. Don’t just think about writing, sit down at the keyboard and type.
We now have 50 people left.
Step #2: Finish What You Start
Simple, yet excruciatingly hard. Beginning, Middle, End. You have to do them all. You can’t master plot development or character arc unless you complete the whole, darn thing. Twenty five writers will never complete a work. Twenty five aspiring writers remain.
Step #3: You Must Refrain From Rewriting
This one is devastating. Of course you have to polish your work. But just as surely, you must stop – don’t tinker endlessly with your story! You have to push that baby out of the nest! If it’s a good story, an editor will help you clean it up. If it’s not a good story, they won’t. Thirteen writers will twiddle endlessly. Only twelve writers reach the point of saying “Done!”
Step #4: You Must Put Your Story on the Market
It’s done. Shop it around. Put it out there. Again, simple. But scary as heck. Six writers will never send out that finished novel because they are afraid of having the fantasy that they are brilliant authors shredded via the US Postal Service (or email). Six will tremulously start to send out their manuscript. This is the step I’m about to embark on, and I can assure it is as scary as it sounds.
Step #5: You Must Keep It on the Market
You will get rejected. A lot. You must send it out again and again and again and . . . you get the idea. Three writers will be so demoralized by their first rejection that they give up writing for good. Three send it out again the same day, and keep sending it out.
Step #6: Start Working on Something Else
If you’re going to be a writer, you need a stable of works to draw upon. Send that short or long fiction out, and while you beat back the rejection slips . . . go back to step #1. Write. Every day. Something new. One or two writers will write their one novel, that took years to craft, and send it out for years, and maybe possibly, sell it in the end. One or two will keep writing, keeping sending their work out, and when they finally get their break, they will publish again and again. Because they are writers, and now they can say: I’m a published author.
So, no Mighty Mite, I haven’t published that book I wrote for you last summer, even though the frozen water has been on the ground for months. But it’s just getting to the point where it’s ready for Step #4. And I promise I’ll keep going, because someday I want to be able to answer “yes” to your wide eyed, innocent question.