Ego, Deadlines, and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night, by J.T. Geissinger
J.T. Geissinger is a Ladies Who Critique member whose debut novel SHADOW’S EDGE will be published 0n June 12th 2012 by Montlake Romance, the new romance imprint of Amazon. Congrats to J.T. for a wonderful achievement and thanks for a great post where she shares her advice on how to navigate the publishing business without losing your mind!
When I began writing my first novel, it seemed a wonderful and lofty enterprise, unsullied by the pedestrian business of deadlines or the need to please anyone but myself. Once I landed an agent and a book contract, however, the ugly reality of the publishing business began to intrude. What do you mean, I have to rewrite entire chapters? What do you mean, this character’s motivation is unclear? And, really now, what do you mean I have to cut this, change that, shorten my brilliant tome by twenty thousand words?
And by this weekend???
Book publishing is a business, one with a bottom line all businesses share: profit. For the novice author with dreams as big as the federal deficit, this can be tough to swallow, but I learned a few things in my journey to publication that might save you a Tylenol or two.
- Put your ego aside
Easier said than done, I know, but an absolute necessity. You must develop the hide of a rhinoceros and not only listen to critiques of your work, but solicit them. Critique partners and supportive/trustworthy friends will help you refine and revise your work until it gleams, so get it out there and let the feedback pour in. You’ll be a better writer for it.
One caveat: there is a big difference between critique and criticism. If anyone ever says anything remotely resembling, “Your story sucks/you have no talent,” you should cut that person out of your life immediately and forever. Even if it’s your mother. Especially if it’s your mother! Naysayers are a black hole from which your ego might never escape.
2. Learn to write under deadline
Besides running out of Merlot, there really is nothing more terrifying than making the transition from a lackadaisical, whenever-I-can-get-to-it writing schedule to the totalitarian, you-will-produce-the-manuscript-or-be-shot deadline imposed by a publisher. Suddenly writing isn’t so much fun anymore. Suddenly it’s (gasp!) work. If you’re planning a career as a writer, give yourself daily or weekly writing goals, and stick to them. Write when you’re sick, when you’re tired, when you’d rather be watching Modern Family. Because once you get a publishing contract, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. And by then your family will be accustomed to your absences.
3. Give up the deadly/soul killing/totally unachievable goal of perfection
Your manuscript will never be perfect. NEVER. There, I said it. With the possible exception of James Joyce’s Ulysses (which was largely incomprehensible), there is no perfect book in existence. The goal shouldn’t be perfection, it should be completion. Seriously, there are many saleable, unfinished novels gathering dust on shelves because the author couldn’t push through to the end without perfecting that one sentence, that one paragraph. Don’t allow yourself to get mired in the quicksand of perfection. Get it done, get it out there, then let it go.
4. Think like a CEO
That is to say, long term, big picture. (OK, the CEO of an imaginary corporation. Cut me some slack here.) If you’re going to have a successful, long term career as an author, you must deliver the goods (your work) in a timely manner (on deadline) in a pleasing, consumer-oriented format (unless you’re going to write very highbrow literary fiction, which almost no one will read) and it also has to stand out from the competition. How are you going to do that?
Research. Which in this case = reading. Read everything, within and outside your own genre. Get a feel for what works, what doesn’t and why. Then use it. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, people, we’re trying to sell stories. That’s it.
5. The Green-Eyed Monster
A final word about jealousy. Don’t allow yourself to go there. There are better writers than you. There are worse writers than you. There is room for all of us, because the public has such a huge array of tastes, and the market has niches both big and small. Jealousy kills creativity. Don’t try to write the next Twilight, the next Hunger Games, the next anything. It will always come off as false and the readers will know it. You can’t fool them! Don’t try to predict the next big thing and write for that. (Dystopian YA anyone?) Write for one reason and one reason only: because you love it. And therein lies your soul.
J.T. Geissinger is the author of Shadow’s Edge and Edge of Oblivion, coming in the spring and fall from Montlake Romance. Visit her online at www.jtgeissinger.com.
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