By: Joelle Charbonneau
So, in recent days I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be an author. I think much of my introspection has to do with the fact I’m editing the final book in my YA trilogy, doing copy edits for book 4 of the Rebecca Robbins series all which trying to get new pages done on my 3rd Glee Club book. About a year ago, I would have panicked at the pile-up of work. Panic = stress. Stress = wasted energy. Wasted energy = more time it takes to get the work done. Today, I prioritize, focus and realize that I will get done what can get done and the rest will work itself out.
This doesn’t mean I am not working every day. I am. But I have come to realize that the more I have learned in my publishing journey, the more I understand what I need to do in order to get the work done and still be excited about sitting down to work again the next day.
So, today I’ve put together a list of 5 things that in my 4 year publishing adventure I have decided are necessary for a person to survive as an author.
1) Self-motivation - Working at home is filled with distractions. Only you can put your butt in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard and get the work done. The discipline to do this is something that all authors need. If you can find more excuses not to write than reasons to sit down in the chair and get words on the page – this is not the job for you. Writers write. End of story.
2) Patience – You have to be able to sit back and wait in this business. You wait for beta readers to tell you what they think of your story. You have to wait for replies and hopefully an offer of representation when you are querying agents. You wait when your manuscript is on submission for an editor to love the book. You wait for editorial notes, for copy edits, for page proofs, for reviews. You wait sometimes a year or two from the time you get a contract until the day when your book is spotted in a bookstore. Yeah – this is not a business filled with immediate gratification. If you need a lightning fast pace…well, perhaps this job isn’t for you.
3) An open mind – Writers love their stories. We become attached to our characters and want readers to become invested in the conflicts we create. But just because we write a story doesn’t mean we’ve chosen the best way to tell it. Editorial feedback is a wonderful thing. But it can also be a difficult thing. Hearing someone tell you that something in the story isn’t working can be painful. Some authors can get defensive when negative feedback is given. The most important thing an author can do is remember that there are lots of ways to tell the story and editorial notes are about finding the best way. Sometimes it takes several different tries to decide if a better way is possible. My editor obviously loved The Testing when she bought it, but her editorial notes pushed me to make the story better. And after I did, my editor pushed even harder to see what else was possible. You have to be willing to remember that negative feedback or alternate suggestions aren’t telling you that you did something wrong. They are telling you there might be something to write that is even better.
4) A willingness to give up control – Publishing is a collaborative effort that involves a huge number of people, most of which you’ll probably never meet. Aside from you the author, your editor, your agent (if you have one) and your publisher, dozens of people will be involved in the production of your manuscript. And everyone will have a point of view about their piece of the production pie. Type setting, cover art, jacket design, marketing campaign – none of these will be in your control if you traditionally publish. Will you have opinions about them? Sure. My editors always ask me what I think of the cover designs that the art department creates. But while that is true, that doesn’t mean I get the final say. Heck – there have been 3 different covers for The Testing. (The final was revealed this week. I love it, but I had NOTHING to do with it. Good since I can’t draw to save my life, but some authors might not feel that way.) You have to be willing to voice your opinion and then step back and let those who get paid to support your book do the best job possible. Not always easy when they have a different vision than you.
5) The ability to move on – Once the story has been edited and moves into production (copy edits, page proofs, advanced reader copies) the book is done. Yes, there is work still to be done, and details to be handled, but the story has been told. As much as you love it, you have to be able to wave goodbye, open up a new word document and start the next book. Yes, you should celebrate the book that is coming through production and congratulate yourself when it hits shelves, but that story has been told. The next one is waiting for you to fill the pages. Because no matter what happens – a writer writes.