When I first started writing, about five years ago now, I thought writing was the hard part. It was a challenge to craft a story from beginning to end, applying the necessary discipline to get the story written, and edit, edit, edit the finished product.
That first leap of faith
With only a Grade 10 education, writing a novel was a major undertaking, and a leap of faith, but I decided not to over-think my path. I just wanted to start writing a story that came to me and get it down in print. That’s it. I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband what I was doing, and when I finally did, I made light of it. It was just a fun hobby. At first I didn’t even admit to myself how much I wanted to become a published author.
That was waaay too scary.
It was also probably a very good plan for me, since it took the pressure off just getting started. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. It’s kind of like getting pregnant and thinking you know what life will be like after the baby is born. You have an idyllic view of the future, and that’s just as well. If prospective parents truly understood just how drastically their lives will change, no one would have children! Nature is kind and leaves the blinders on until it rips them off like a bandage to expose the reality underneath.
Learn to swim with the current
When I teach writing courses to beginner writers, I advise them not to think too far into the future. That way lies madness, fear, and self-doubt. Writing is supposed to be fun, cathartic even, so enjoy the journey for that aspect alone. Give yourself time to find your “voice,” and experiment to your heart’s content before worrying about all the how to’s to come. You just don’t need to go there yet.
Slowly, I began learning more about the business of writing, publishing, and marketing the finished product. Because of my background in real estate and mortgage sales, I knew the marketing and promotion iceberg was looming in the distance, so I started a slow, leisurely swim out to greet it. I use the internet for many, many things. It’s my best friend when it comes to discovering virtually anything I need to know. It’s proven to be the best research tool I could hope for, and when I find articles of interest, I create folders and bookmarks to house them so I can refer back to them. Perfect. I like simplicity.
Take on social media … slowly
Then I started hearing about how writers were using social media to connect with readers and other writers. Cool. I can do that. So I looked into Facebook. I’m no techie, but it was incredibly easy to set up a Facebook account, and I began “friending” family and friends who also use Facebook. I began to feel comfortable in using it on a personal level, and have become very proficient in using it as a marketing and promotion channel for all things book and writing related.
Then I read about other social media connectors, like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, you name it. That terrified me. What the heck am I supposed to do with all this stuff? Why do I need it? What’s it going to do for me? I began to panic. I didn’t know what to do first, so I did what I always do; I researched the heck out of each of these platforms and chose a couple to begin getting familiar with. That eased the anxiety.
Choose a path and follow it
By this time I’d finished writing and editing my first book. Now what? Well, I went back to my most trusted friend, the internet, and researched “how to submit to literary agents.” I was thrilled by the amount of information there was on something I’d never heard of before; querying. I have a strong back ground in office administration (before the sales days), so writing a business letter, which is what a query letter is, was easy for me. I looked up examples of query letters online and set up a template to follow.
I was excited and nervous to begin this next step, but I’d made a decision to become traditionally published. That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of self, or indie, pubbing. I did and I do, but it sounded like a lot of work and I was too new to feel comfortable taking up those types of challenges. I figured I could get out there and find myself an agent and Bob’s-Your-Uncle, I’d land a publisher and my first book would appear on book shelves all over the world. Sigh. Yes, I was completely delusional. (It took another two years before I published my first book with a small traditional press, and learned even more along the way.)
Take one step at a time
Fantasies aside, I realized that I needed to take things one step at a time and not cross bridges I hadn’t come to yet (my father still tells me that all the time). So I took a deep breath and began sending out the query letters. I’d read that writers receive many rejection letters, but I was naïve enough to think I’d get maybe a few before I’d be swept up into the literary realms of success.
I received nothing but rejections, and eventually put that manuscript into the proverbial drawer. In the meantime, I began to write the next book. I’m not a particularly patient person, and I was beginning to understand that writing involves a lot of hurry-up and wait. I’m not great at waiting, so writing helped give me purpose. Turns out, that was a perfect way to get through that period.
I also started to hear about something called “blogging.” What the heck was blogging? I began reading many, many blogs on all kinds of topics, including writing. Wow! Here were all these writers who were a little further along the road than I was, and I could learn from them for FREE! I still didn’t want to blog, but I sure learned a lot from reading other writer’s blogs. Only when I felt ready did I step into the ring and start my own.
Let the journey evolve
There’s no doubt about it: writing has the learning curve of a tsunami. But the point to remember is that we don’t need to know everything all at once. In fact, I found it was better to allow the journey to evolve and focus on what’s right in front of me, rather than get caught up in what’s on the horizon. It lessens the panic and lets me swim with strong, confident strokes. It can seem completely overwhelming to realize that there’s so much out there to learn, that you want to simply give up and sink before you’ve even really started.
By learning from others (like Molly!), you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, which is a tremendous help. Bit by bit, you’ll feel comfortable sharing what you’ve learned along the way with others coming behind you, and that’s great too. I’ve said before that writers work in our own insular little writing caves. Stepping outside and facing the huge wave of what’s still to come can have you feeling like it’s all just too much. So, take a deep breath, start with slow, strong strokes, and just keep breathing. There is a shore out there, and if you don’t give up, you’ll be fine.
Debbie A. McClure is the author of two paranormal romance novels, In The Spirit Of Love/Echelon Press 2012 and In The Spirit Of Forgiveness/Echelon Press 2014. She now writes full time from her home in the quiet lakeside resort village of Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada with her husband. In addition to her writing, Debbie enjoys connecting with others via public speaking events, writing workshops, regular blog posts, social media, and of course through her books. Having discovered a love of historical research and blending fact with fiction, she looks forward to penning many more historical fiction novels. Connect with Debbie on her blog, Facebook, on Twitter, on her Amazon Author Page, and on Goodreads.
Readers, has your writing career been like riding a tsunami? What helped you relax and enjoy the journey? Please leave a comment and share!
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