Writing: Art or Business?
My husband and I (along with our youngest son) just returned yesterday afternoon from a trip east to visit family. From South Dakota to Iowa, to Indiana, to Michigan, to Minnesota, and then home. Nine days, 3000 miles. We're glad to be home again!
But in spite of all my planning, I had no internet access for the entire trip. The wi-fi card in my little traveling computer didn't work and my phone isn't set up to be my #1 computer. So my vacation was a true vacation, right? Except for the work I had been planning to do while we traveled, including writing today's Seekerville post.
No worries! Welcome to Jan Drexler's blog from March 2015! I hope you enjoy it!
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Last year I joined our local writers group. It’s a secular group with a broad range of writing experiences and goals among the members. And like any group of writers, there are a lot of aspiring authors who come to learn and grow. Several of the members have had some success in the indie publishing field, but I’m the only regular attender who is traditionally published.
That, plus the fact that I’m new means that they really aren’t sure about me yet. (That’s okay. Sometimes I’m not sure about them, either!)
One of the other members and I walked out to our cars together last month. She hadn’t realized before that meeting that I’m a published author with multiple contracts waiting to be fulfilled (i.e. I should spend all of my time writing!).
“How did you do it?” She thought she really wanted to know.
I hesitated for a half-minute. She wasn’t going to be happy with what I wanted to say, so I started with my standby answer for that question:
“I entered contests that put my name and my story in front of publishers and agents.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“You’re published by Harlequin, right?”
“Yes, by Love Inspired, Harlequin’s Inspirational line.”
She looked past my shoulder and unlocked her car door. “Don’t they have pretty strict guidelines? Don’t they make you change your story?”
“They expect you to make revisions to improve your story and so that it will fit their style. Every publisher does.”
She tossed her bag into her car. She said goodbye. She drove away. No, she didn’t really want to hear what I had to say.
If she had stayed around, ready to chat under the street lights on that unusually balmy February evening, I would have told her a secret.
Writing is an art. But once you hit the send button, it becomes a business.
When you’re in your writing cave, your story is all your own. It’s a wonderful thing to spend an hour or two every day in a world peopled by characters you’ve created. At this point, writing is all about imagination, craft, and answering the “What if?” questions.
I love this part of the process. It’s a little like giving birth, with all the pain, agony, and delight that accompanies bringing a new life into the world. It’s exhilarating! And it’s all yours!
But if you want to become a published author, once you’ve finished your story you need to switch modes. This story needs to have a life of its own.
The same goes for your story. If you have any desire to publish your work, you must put it out there for others to see. You have to listen to and evaluate comments from critique groups, contest judges, and eventually, potential agents and publishers. Why? Because these are the people who are helping your baby grow into a self-sufficient adult.
Some authors hold on to their stories too tightly. They keep their writing snagged within their prideful grasp, thinking no one else understands their story like they do. They refuse to accept help to make it better, and they refuse to change anything to make it fit someone else’s standards.
If you want to be published, you won’t be that kind of author.
You’ll be the kind of author who understands that once you hit “send,” your story is now a business. Rather than keeping it close to your heart, you humbly open your hands and let it grow.
If an agent suggests that your story will sell better told in third person rather than first person, you start planning how to make that change and still keep the meat of your story intact.
When an editor sends you a list of revisions that need to be made and invites you to resubmit your story, you put everything else aside and make those changes.
When you get a request for a partial or full manuscript, you comply in a timely manner because that’s good business practice.
Soon you’ll find that those changes and revisions make your story stronger. More complete. Saleable.
And when you see your book for the first time, you’ll cry. You really will. Because that’s what parents do when they see their babies all grown up.
Which kind of author will you be? What do you need to do to move your writing from art to business? #NoLimits!
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