Sunday, November 10, 2013

The magic code

By: Joelle Charbonneau

This weekend I was at the fabulous Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, which is a gather of readers and over two dozen authors.  Fun, right?

These events are great because they allow authors to connect with people who love books.  They also give writers a chance to talk shop.  We exchange news and industry gossip.  We talk about the books we’ve recently read that we loved or the to-be-read piles that are about to topple over on our nightstands.  And it never fails we talk about the questions we get at events or the e-mails we receive asking us about how we got started in publishing.

Every published author (or at least every published author I’ve met) remembers what it is like to be searching for an agent or an editor.  We’ve all faced the rejections and the concern that our writing might not be good enough.  Perhaps that’s why we all get along so well.  Despite our many differences, the experience of creating a book on a hope and a dream then sending it out to dozens, sometimes hundreds of people in the small chance someone would love it links us. 

On the ride to the library, one author was able to tell us exactly how many rejections he’d received from agents on his first published novel – 118.  Others explained that they didn’t sell a manuscript with their first agent.  It took two or more agent experiences before they found the right fit and things finally locked into place.    And once you sell…well, authors dream of a long, fruitful relationship with one editor and publishing house, but more often than not that doesn’t happen.  Editors take other jobs.  Authors’ option contracts are not picked up.  Things don’t always go according to plan.

Which brings me to the point of this little blog post.  The road to publishing is a bumpy, long ride that beings after you hit THE END.  Once you finish a manuscript, there is no magic button to push that gets an agent’s or editor’s attention.  There isn’t a magic code to be cracked that will put you on the road to publication and let you stay there.  There is very little mystical or secret about any of it.  The only thing there is – is work!

We are all writers, which means we write.  For good or ill.  No matter whether we hear a yes or a maybe or a no.  We sit down in front of our screen and write.  Almost every author I talked to this weekend found their agent through a query letter.  They didn’t have a magic wand to wave that got the agent to read the book.  They just wrote the best letter they could and hoped for the best.  And not a single author was universally loved by editors.  Rejections abounded.  Heck, I have lots and lots and lots of them!   

The only secret to writing is book is making the commitment to sitting down and writing it…beginning, middle and end…no matter what.  And the only secret to getting traditionally published is realizing that it’s filled with lots of no thank yous.  But if you are driven to keep writing and at it long enough (and for me it took 5 manuscripts) you might hear a yes.

For all NaNoWriMo writers – I hope you are having a great writing month!  Go!  Go!  Go!

1 comment:

Lee Thompson said...

Great post, Joelle!

Thank God we have others who know what we're going through. I had thousands of rejections as well, and I wrote for eight years before I started selling any short stories professionally. I rewrote my first novel every year of those eight years.

I think the breaking point came for me in three phases: #1- I had studied my heroes diligently, why I loved what they did, and how they did it. #2- I found what I really wanted to write. #3- I had people like Tom Piccirilli and Ethan Ellenberg give me advice it probably would have taken me another eight years to figure out on my own (I dedicated the novel I have coming out next August, A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS, to the two of them.)

I still have so much to learn, but I'm thankful for those who have taught me and encouraged me and corrected me.

Did you come up through the ranks in an online writers group? And if so, did you find that people you knew there asked you for the secret key to get in where you broke through? I'm just curious. It seems like all the people I knew before, except for two of them, thought I'd left them behind or something once I started selling professionally. I know they wish there was a secret key, but like you said, it's just hard work. It's belief in yourself. It's the ability to soul search and reflect. It's the pain and joy that come with the act of creating something only you can create. And it's the fun (yeah right!) of waiting for word on the latest submission.

Again, thanks for the post! It's always nice to get a reminder of how fortunate we are to have other people to share our frustrations and successes with.