Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Had I Known

This was the blog I intended to write until I forgot what I wanted to write about. Sigh.

Last week I received a questionnaire with the question, "What's the one thing you wish you had known before you began writing?"

In all honesty, I can't answer the question. I thought about it for days, but I can't say that there's anything I wish I had known.

If I had known that sometimes it takes a decade--or more--to sell a novel, I may never have tried.

If I had known that most unpublished writers never sell, I may have stopped after my ninety-seventh rejection.

If I had known about Brenda Hiatt's "Show Me The Money" page, I may never have dreamed I could quit my day job.

If I had known the second book was often harder to sell than the first, I may never have started that second book . . . or wrote the five it took to sell.

I learned so much through RWA which I will forever be grateful for. How to write a query. How to research agents. What POV actually meant. Writers--published authors--answered my questions with generosity of spirit and kindness.

But I take each of my failures and learn from them. I can't honestly say I'd be where I am today if I didn't stumble along the path. Had I known what POV was before I started writing, would I be as conscious of its importance today? Had I known that big agencies rarely take on unpublished, unknown authors, would I have even queried one of the biggest?

I've always learned by example, by mistakes, by successes.

Maybe there are some things I wish I had known . . . that every writer's path to publication is different, that some of the biggest writers today had been rejected in the past, and that there really are no shortcuts. We write because we have to. And if it had taken me ten years, I would still be writing. The one thing I have learned is that those who give up will never be published. So never give up. To paraphrase Tess Gerritsen, the fairies are out there sprinkling their magic dust . . . but if you give up, they'll never find you.

So forget the rules and write. Practice. Create that good book. And dream. Because for all of us, it begins with the dream.


gailbarrett said...

Great post, Allison. And I love the quote about the fairies! My "secret" to publishing is sheer stubbornness. That's what I owe my career to so far. I was more miserable NOT writing than receiving rejections, so I couldn't (and still can't) stop, no matter what. And sometimes, I think it's best to be oblivious to how terribly hard it all is, otherwise, as you said, we would never try.

Colleen Thompson said...

As Han Solo put it in The Empire Strikes Back, "Never tell me the odds."

This fits a dream of writing for publication perfectly, since the odds are definitely stacked against success. But that doesn't mean it *can't* happen -- mainly to those to stubborn, persistent, or zeroed in on their own dreams to give doubt the time of day.

Great post, Allison. And Gail, you're right, too. The best reason to keep trying is because you're miserable not doing so.

Ann Roth said...

Oh, I love this topic. Great comments, too.

The only way to publish is to sit in the chair and write, right? And realize that published or not, we all have tons to learn about the craft.

What's great about writing is that you never get bored. You get to play God. And you can nose around other peoples' lives without being known as a snoop. Those are the rewards for enduring the hard stuff--improving the craft, sweating through writing the book, getting published and staying that way.

Write On!

Carolyn B. said...

Great posting! And I appreciate the tip toward the Show Me The Money! page, too; I've always wondered what's up in the real world of advances and royalties, too.

Thx - Carolyn B.

Allison Brennan said...

Hi Carolyn . . . my point was that the SMTM page is only as accurate as those who choose to share the information. If there are higher individuals posting, then I would give more credence to those numbers, but under 20? No, I don't think it's accurate to reflect the state of the world. For H/S, yes. For single title houses, no.