Writing, like so many other things in life, is just not easy. Some days the words flow, other days you can't produce a coherent phrase. It can be maddening. And when you finally do finish a story, or so you thought, it's time to edit and rewrite. There is a mug on my desk that reads "I write, therefore I rewrite." No truer words were ever spoken.
When I was working on my first novel, I had no idea what I was in for. By the time I'd struggled through all the rewrites, I was ready to kill my own hero. However, at this point, you are consoled by the fact that you have in your hands a finished manuscript. It's a great feeling! But that soon passes, and you begin to worry that no one will ever get to read your story. You have to get the crazy thing published.
Admittedly, the publishing process can be very intimidating. Years ago I attended a writer's conference which featured speakers addressing almost every aspect of being a writer. I was especially encouraged to see that they offered a breakout session on getting published. I won't go into the details of what that particular speaker had to say (why do to you what he do did to all of us?), but suffice it to say I left that session frustrated and a little angry.
Long story short, I refused to give up. I'd come too far to quit. I kept reaching out to people for advice, continued to send out query letters, and finally found a publisher, Post Hill Press. My first book, Dark Side of the Cross will publish in fall of 2015. But, I have to say, there absolutely were days when it was hard to keep going. I'm not necessarily proud of this, but through it all, there was one thing in particular that gave me hope. Like all writers, I love to read.
I make frequent trips to the book store and for whatever reason, just feel at home being there. It always encouraged me when I'd pick up a book, read the first chapter or two, and find that it was very poorly written. The thought process that went through my head was that if someone was willing to publish this miserable thing, it gave me confidence that there was a publisher out there who was going to welcome me with open arms.
So where is all of this leading? To the immortal words of Hans Solo in Star Wars. During a very exciting scene, one of his companions started to tell him that the course of action he was preparing to take was mathematically impossible. Without hesitation he yelled at them, "Never tell me the odds!" He held to his decision and he succeeded. These are words we should all take to heart and live by.
So, what are the odds of you ever finishing a manuscript? And if you do, what are the odds of you ever getting it published? And if by some miracle you achieve that goal, what are the odds that anyone other than you is even going to like it? "Never tell me the odds!" Never, never, never listen to the nay sayers, especially the one that lives in your head. So take a breath, relax, and let me give you truthful answers to each of the questions I just posed.
Will you ever finish a manuscript? The short answer is yes, you will. It may take you months, it may take you years, but it is solely in your hands and you will get it done. My first novel took me close to ten years to complete. Several things got in my way. The day job was very demanding, and writing at night and on weekends was demanding as well. I'm very close to my family and we do many things together, and as it was my first novel, I really didn't know what I was doing. Nevertheless, whatever your challenges are, you can and will get it done if you set your mind to it. Focus. It's an under rated reason why people succeed.
Will my manuscript ever get published? Well, now that a decade has passed I know the answer to that question. We all dream of being discovered by an amazing agent, and having the top publishing companies in the world getting into a bidding war over our book. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. The good news is that there are several options available to you these days that were unavailable to authors only a few years ago. There is a broad range of publishers out there and many writers even choose to self-publish. There is nothing wrong with that. Just keep in mind that whichever route you take, as a new author, at least ninety percent of the marketing will fall to you. That said, it is a labor of love and you'll do just fine. It can be fun, and book stores- especially local ones- will be happy to work with you.
And now the big question, will anyone even like my book? That's a pretty subjective question, but there are things you can do to insure the answer is yes. First, write what you know. This will give your novel an authentic and realistic feel to it. When it's time to begin the rewriting process, do not fly solo. Work with an editor. They make a world of difference and they're going to catch things you're not even aware of. In fact, if you can, during the initial writing process, I strongly recommend working with critique groups. They'll provide you with regular feedback, which is always helpful.
One more point to remember, none of this happens overnight. As I stated earlier, my first novel took me nearly ten years from start to finish. Not long after I finished it I started to work on book two. With both books I learned a great deal about marketing and self-promotion. If you can afford it, hire a good book publicist.
My publicist and I worked closely on everything from my Facebook posts, to book signings, setting up my web page - www.jamessparker.com, festivals and with special events where I was the featured speaker. All of this activity targets your primary goal to sell books. Your publisher will like you, you'll enjoy getting paid and best of all, your work is being read! It has taken years, but I'm developing some loyal readers and that is important.
But none of this will happen unless you make it happen; you have to drive the process. In that vein, we decided to take things to the next level and started a campaign to reach out to the film community. We knocked on a lot of doors and last summer my first novel was optioned for a film! Unbelievable! The plan is for them to begin shooting the movie late summer 2015. This kind of thing does happen and it can happen for you.
All in all, writing is a great deal of work and will require a strong level of dedication from you. Again, shield yourself from the nay sayers. You'll be surprised at the number of "authoritative" people who will happily tell you that the odds are against you. Ignore them. If the picture were truly as dire as they like to paint it, book stores would have nothing to sell.
For us storytellers, when the day comes that a reader approaches you and tells you how much they enjoyed your book, all of those dark, evil times quickly fade away. A friend of mine often compares it to golf. It's that one good shot that keeps bringing you back. So stick with it, keep your head down, and remember, "Never tell me the odds."