So, I've written this novel, TIME WALKER, (Click the link! I have a website!) and I find myself trying to explain to people what it's like, trying to become a published author. Well . . .
1. Learn how to write. It's so much easier and harder than you've ever imagined. There are rules, grammatical and otherwise, that you can learn from a lot of different people and, wouldn't you know it, from reading really great books.
2. Have the guts to write garbage and the stubbornness to rewrite. Give your story, which feels like a peephole into your soul, to honest people. Don't let their criticism wound you, and don't forget to listen to their praise. (My thanks, all you rough draft readers).
*be advised, steps one and two can take nearly half a decade or longer and are never really over.
3. Devote yourself to a career for which you will not be paid for a long time, if ever.
a. Do not forget about the rest of your life to the point that your family starts calling your novel, "That Book Mom Wrote Whilst Ignoring Us".
4. Repeatedly convince yourself that no, you don't need to pack it up and get a job at the hospital being the registered nurse that you planned to be when you grew up. Which then makes you wonder if perhaps you have not, indeed, grown up.
5. Learn to write a query letter, which is, in essence, a one-page chance to convince a literary agent that they should stake their livelihood on the awesomeness of your story. You will spend months trying to learn how to condense 100,000 words into a single, gripping paragraph and you will decide it cannot be done. But you'll do it anyway. *insert defiant, primal scream of victory*.
6. If an agent likes your query letter, they will request either some or all of your manuscript.
a. Sit at your computer with your finger hovering over the mouse, the arrow hovering over
SEND. Sweat profusely. Stop yourself from staying up all night to read over the entire manuscript one more time. Click. *insert defiant, primal scream of victory*.
7. And then you wait. Because agents get hundreds of queries a week, and they really want to give everyone a fair look. So you just have to be patient, and remember that having your manuscript requested places you in a very small, very hopeful group of writers.
8. Receive a rejection letter, which everyone does. Several times.
a. Tell everyone that you're fine, it's just part of the game. Find a hidden place to cry.
b. Research another agent, and click send again.
9. Someday, an agent calls you and says the words that you've been hearing in the secret places in your head, the places connected to your heart, ego, hopes, dreams, and tear ducts: "I'd like to offer you representation."
10. *insert defiant, primal scream of victory*. Just not into the phone.
11. Calmly recite, "I would like to take two weeks to consider your offer and give other agents the professional courtesy of considering my manuscript," which you only remember because you practiced.
12. Consider the offer and, most likely, become represented. *insert exhausted, relieved sobbing*
13. But you're not done yet. Your agent will give you suggestions on how to make your story better. So now you're back to step #1, though you have learned on this journey not to take feedback personally, but to be EXTREMELY grateful for it.
14. Now your agent will take your shine-ily polished creation and offer it up to a Publisher. Or many Publishers, who will then bid on your story. Or they won't. It happens sometimes that even when you get an agent, the world of real books doesn't have room for you. But for the sake of faith, hope and sanity, we'll say that you find yourself with a deal.
15. Then . . . I don't know, really. There is editing involved. And I think there are meetings involved. There is joy involved, and lots of hard work and life rearranging and probably some more primal screams and sobs. But maybe also, it involves a really great kind of peace because "She believed she could, so she did."
So why, Jessica, would you put yourself through all of this when it may never work out? When there's a chance that you might make it to number 8 and no farther? And why are you telling everyone so they'll know if you fail?
1. The stories are in there and if they don't leak out onto paper, pressure could build up.
2. Books make me happy. Writing makes me happy. Making people happy makes me happy. I want to write a book that makes people happy and I want a lot of people to read it. And be happy.
3. If I tell people, it's real. There's no deadline for success, so I won't ever fail. Will someone please remind me of that on a weekly basis? Wednesdays would be great.
4. (The big one) How can I look my kids in the eyes and say You Can Be Anything, if I don't believe it myself? Here's what I teach them if I quit: Dreams are fun until they get too hard. I could put it on a poster with a picture of me shrugging.
a. I would rather hand them my book someday and write on the inside, "Dreams
So now you know, that's what I'm doing. Crazy, huh?