Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How I Found The Write Path

Blogger Carrie Butler had a genius idea to host a blogfest about authors' writing journeys, to give us all a chance to tell our younger selves all of the things we wished we'd known when we started writing towards publication. Everyone is going to write a letter to those younger selves, and dish out the advice, warnings, and encouragement we've now learned the hard way. Together with co-host PK Hrezo, Carrie will compile these blog posts into a free e-book, so that newer writers can learn these things the easier way. Thanks, Carrie and PK!
Dear Hopeful Writer,

There are so many things I want to tell you.

They range from the practical - don't get too attached to that expensive new handbag, it's just going to fall apart in the middle of a Boston subway station during rush hour, six months after you bought it (and yes, you'll survive the humiliation and the hordes of irritated onlookers, but you'll never find the sunglasses that fell out) - to the vital - when you're wondering if it's worth going out of your way to do something that will make your partner's life fuller or happier or easier: yes, the answer is always, always yes.

But I'm supposed to concentrate on writing, and I know that's the thing you dearly want to hear about, so I'll do my best to stay on topic.

You're a study in contradictions, now, so full of hope and fear. That's perfect, believe it or not, because you're going to need the good and the hard to survive. Here's what I've learned, six years down the line (in outline form, of course):

  1. You are simultaneously better than you fear you are, and not nearly as good as you hope to be. So believe in yourself, and while you're at it, go to those writing classes you've been wondering about. Go to more than you can afford, and more than you think you need. Even if the class isn't good (which is rare), you’ll always take away at least one lesson, one gem of wisdom or craft that will inspire and aid you, and often you’ll take away many more.
  2. Hold on to that belief in yourself, that precious conviction that you'll succeed. You're going to need it when you:
  3. Learn as much about the industry as possible. The information will be depressing at best and terrifying at worst, but don't shy away from it; you need to know it. Yes, all of it: the gloom and doom, the predictions about the end of art and culture, the harsh truths of how much (or little) authors make.
  4. Now that you've faced reality, remember that belief in yourself. Pick it up off of the ground where it fell in despair, dust it off, and hold it close. You'll find that it's stronger now, and one day, it will be able to pick you up when you fall, and carry you. 
  5. And you'll need that, because the rejections will roll in, great bruising waves of them, and you're going to have to figure out how to get back up when they bowl you over, and keep writing, anyway.
  6. Keep writing. Even when it's impossible, even when it's killing you, it will always be your greatest joy and best hope. 
  7. Be patient. No, I really mean this. Be patient. You've learned from your research that the publishing industry moves at a snail's pace – and that’s on good days - so there's nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, from rushing.
  8. No, your manuscript isn't finished yet, no matter how anxious you are to start querying. See #7 above.
  9. Listen to your gut. Your CPs and beta readers will be invaluable, and will help you more than you can imagine, but when they're done and you're sitting with a "finished" draft, only you will know if it's truly finished. 
  10. No, your manuscript isn't finished yet, no matter how encouraging your readers are. See #s 7 and 8 above.
  11. Be kind to yourself. You're going to make many mistakes as you learn, and being angry with yourself for making them is going to accomplish exactly nothing. So stop it. Cultivate compassion for yourself instead.
  12. Take all of that extra energy you have now that you're not wasting it on criticizing yourself, and use it to be vigilant and unrelenting about protecting your writing time. No one - not even the people you love the most, and often especially not them - is going to do it for you.
  13. Yes, your manuscript wasn't finished when you started sending it out. That's OK. See #11 above, then learn from it and move on.
  14. Other writers are not competition; they're community. They're honest and generous and talented, and building relationships with them will only help you. You'll have people to talk to who understand you, and even without the other benefits - skilled critiques, enthusiastic support, hard-won wisdom and advice - that alone is worth its weight in gold. 

I'm running over my word limit (yes, you'll continue to overwrite; just resign yourself to a lifetime of editing), so I'll leave you with my unending support, and a true belief that you’ll succeed. I believe in you, and that's saying something.

- Liz Blocker
lizblocker.blogspot.com

I give permission for my entry to be included in the e-book compilation without royalties and/or separate compensation.

87 comments:

  1. That last bit made me chuckle.
    Believe in yourself is the best message you could send.

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    1. Thanks, Alex! One of the hardest sometimes, too, I think.

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  2. This is one of the best entries I've seen yet. Kudos!

    "You are simultaneously better than you fear you are, and not nearly as good as you hope to be."
    Oh my gosh. How true! This line really resonated with me. When we're feeling like stupid, talentless dirt, we need to remember this. (And when we're feeling cocky, we need to remember it, too...let it humble us a bit.)

    Awesome advice, Liz! :D

    P.S. I'm posting twice today - once to announce the winners of my giveaway, and a second time with some tips on autographs and book signings.

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    1. Thanks so much, Melissa!!! I felt like that line was one of the things I REALLY wish someone had told me.

      Two posts, eh? Well, that means I'll be at your blog for a while today :) Sounds like fun!

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  3. Great job! I think I notice a similar theme among these--all of us came out of the gate running, then realized later that we should have slowed down and learned a little first. Do you think people who read the book will heed that advice? Probably not!

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    1. Huh, you know, you're probably right!! I wonder if there are some things you really do have to learn for yourself...

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  4. Nice list. I have a similar one. Most of us are too hasty in the beginning. I agree, the writing community is a wonderful resource.

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    1. Yes, the hastiness seems to be a widely recurring theme, LOL!

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  5. Awesome. I'm right with you on the patience end of the spectrum. Why do we all assume it's going to happen RIGHT NOW just because we finished or are close to finishing a book? LOL. Here's to growing up and meeting reality, eh?

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    1. Oh, because we all want it so badly, I think - add that to the blissful ignorance part, and you have a total recipe for ill-advised rushing! ;)

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  6. What a great letter. If I had know how much work and how difficult it would, and all those rejections, I'm not sure I would have ever started.

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    1. Good thing you didn't know! I agree - if I'd known how hard this is, I would've paused for a LONG time before starting. But I'm not sorry I started - and I'm so glad you didn't give up!

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  7. "Not nearly as good as you hope to be?" I think it is better to say "Knowing you are better than you realize you are and hope others see this and recognize this. That is doubt and in a tough industry which is creative whether it be writing, art, music etc.. it is a tough thing to be recognized. You write well, you ARE great, and you have patience and fortitude. You are doing something that most people dream and let the dream go-you are not-pat yourself on the back for that:) Great letter and funny bit about the purse that you still are p-o'd about:)

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    1. Yes, you're right, and thank you!! I do, as I think we all do, have the tendency to get a little cocky sometimes, though, and it's good to remember that I always have more to learn.

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  8. Love the last part! and yes, believe in yourself, and get classes, and keep writing!

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  9. Love it Liz! Wise words indeed. Especially that last part. :D

    So glad you joined us!

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  10. A nice mix of optimism and outright despair. Perfect! Not knowing what we were getting into is probably the only reason most of us began writing in the first place.

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    1. LOL, optimism and despair is exactly right!

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  11. Wow, Liz, this was AWESOME! So real and so inspiring! It was exactly what I needed to hear--especially #7,8,10...well, basically all of it! Thank you! :)

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  12. You give really great advice here, Liz. I, too, think it's really important to remember how awesome the writing community is. It's not a competition but more of a world wide web of talented and unique writers who support one another. I had no idea about the long-lasting relationships I was going to build before I dived into the publishing and social media process. What an incredible journey!
    And yes, we shouldn't be hard on ourselves; especially when it comes to criticism. And we should always continue to write, not matter what. It's what defines us and makes our creativity like no other!

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    1. Thanks so much, Gina! The relationships are one of the best things about having a blog :)

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  13. Great advice! And I love the line "You are simultaneously better than you fear you are, and not nearly as good as you hope to be."
    How true!

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  14. You're always so organized. It's daunting (and incredible)! Sounds like you're still convincing yourself to go easy on yourself. :)

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    1. Gee, I don't know what you're talking about... ;) yes, the advice to be kind is heartfelt, and much needed. Let's say I'm learning to be compassionate :)

      As for the organization, it's just how my brain works - and trust me, sometimes it totally gets in the way and prevents me from being spontaneous and/or creative! I appreciate the benefits, but there are pros and cons...

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  15. I think you covered everything.

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  16. Great letter and the last paragraph made me laugh!

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  17. ...wow. I read the header, wondered what I'd say to myself, but I think you covered everything I would have said and did it better. ^_^

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    1. Aw, thanks! I highly doubt that I did it better, though!

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  18. Great letter, chock-full of excellent advice. I especially love #11 Be kind to yourself. Super important.

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  19. I'm loving all these letters I'm getting to read! So much good stuff in them. And that's too bad about those sunglasses...=( And shame on the onlookers- they should've been helpers!

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    1. I know, I love this blogfest!!

      Yeah, I wasn't so happy. That's what you get in the city sometimes...

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  20. Believe in yourself and be kind to yourself. Both are so very important and are the foundation in moving forward. Great advice!

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  21. Thanks Lynda! It's much harder than it sounds, but very worth the work.

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  22. "Other writers are not competition, they're community."

    LOVE this! Such a fantastic letter. Even though it was meant for you, a lot of that advice really spoke to me. :)

    Happy Thursday!

    Sam
    Writing Through College

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    1. Thanks so much, Sam! I'm so glad :) That's what I was hoping!

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  23. Surprise! An outline! lol!!

    Loved your points. Most especially the last four. But really enjoyed the whole thing. :) Well done!

    I think I may be in your neck o' the woods over the weekend. NYC? The Urchins, The Man and I will be seeing a Broadway show and Central Park. And a few other locales.

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    1. I know, I'm just so unpredictable, aren't I?? ;)

      Hmm, that's kinda my neck of the woods - I live in Boston, but I do visit NYC pretty often. Have a great time!!! Which show? I hope you blog about it :)

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    2. Cinderella. Can you tell The Man and I just can't wait? (We're going with the Girl Scouts. Sold a helluva lotta damn cookies this year. So I WILL be going! lol!)

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    3. Hells yes, you earned that trip!! And yes, now that I know it's Cinderella, you MUST blog about it. It will make me laugh. I already know this ;)

      Wow, traveling with Girl Scouts to NYC...there's a joke (or a movie?) in there somewhere.

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  24. This is a great letter, great lessons. You'll be helping some newbies, for sure. I love how you mention that other writers are not competition, but rather, so much more. :-0
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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  25. Love your list! (And lists in general, lol! :) #11 is perfection--wish I'd included that in my own entry!!

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    1. LOL, yep, you know how I love my lists! We totally share that :)

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  26. I love your list. We all need to be more kind to ourselves and be patient with the process.
    Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

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  27. Liz, you seem like such a good soul.

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  28. Okay, so numbers 9 and 12 are my new mantras. Such a great list and so true of many aspiring writers. It gets easier, but never easy!

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    1. I know, right? I was thinking of tattooing this to my forehead... ;)

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  29. Great list and letter. Enjoyed it. :-)

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  30. Excellent advice. This will be a perfect entry for the book.

    But Ugh, patience. That's the hardest one especially when it seems like so many authors are zipping out a new book every few months and I feel like I'm falling way behind.

    Here, here to writing being our greatest joy. :)

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    1. I know, I hear you. Patience isn't one of my automatic virtues, especially when it comes to writing. I work on it all. The. Time. Sigh.

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  31. Great letter to yourself. I still struggle with some of those things LOL

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    1. Ugh, me too! I need to take my own advice!

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  32. Haha, I like the repeated "your ms isn't ready yet." So true. It never seems ready. Great Post and great advice, Liz.

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    1. Yep. And when it does seem ready, it still isn't! LOL

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  33. Interesting post. I think the industry is more depressing than terrifying . . . unless you're talking about pitching a manuscript.

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  34. A huge challenge is to believe in yourself and keep going, despite depressing reality :)

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  35. Good advice from your future self. We must be kind and ruthless to ourselves.

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  36. It's THE challenge, I sometimes think! Thanks for coming by :)

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  37. Great advice and tips. Thanks!

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  38. So many great points! I think one of the hardest lessons to learn is being nice to ourselves. We're trying our best, after all!

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    1. So true! It's so important, and so hard.

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  39. Loved this, Liz! So encouraging. I loved #1, because that sums me up when I first started writing. I also loved what you said about patience, making mistakes and keep writing. Thanks for this!

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  40. Fantastic advice. This ebook is going to rock with these contributions.

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    1. Thanks, Medeia :) The book is such a great idea!

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  41. Hi, Liz! I'm stopping by from Kristin Smith's Liebster post. But I am also participating in The Write Path, although my letter isn't on my blog. I emailed it. :)

    Your letter is full of wonderful advice. Believing in ourselves is so important. As is being kind to ourselves. There had been many times throughout my writing journey when I beat myself down.

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    1. Hi Chrys, thanks for coming by! It's great to 'meet' you. I look forward to reading your letter in the book!

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  42. Other writers are not competition- LOVE it! Never want to be a hater. Besides, you never know who will be where in the future, why be a snark and burn important bridges. That sounds a little self-serving, doesn't it? Oh well, it's true.

    I'm wordy too. Can you tell I talk a lot in real life? I am that person who holds you up in Wal Mart :)

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    1. LOL, yup! oh, well, I figure it's better to have to edit than to generate new stuff, right? ;)

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  43. So many good points.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Heather

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  44. Hahahaha awesome advice. A lot of those I STILL haven't learned and I'm going on fourteen years of writing. :-D

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  45. "You're going to make many mistakes as you learn, and being angry with yourself for making them is going to accomplish exactly nothing. So stop it."

    Yes! That's a hurdle we all have to get over. Thank you so much for participating, Liz! :D

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