Sunday, January 20, 2008

After The Call-The First Year

Around October 1st, 2007, I realized that a year had passed since I received the call from my editor, Jenny Hutton, with an offer to buy my first book. Then I stopped and lived in the moment for a while, remembering how I had felt at the time. How I still feel when thinking of that milestone in my life.
Jenny had requested several revisions on this first manuscript before she bought it, but I just couldn't "get" what she meant. I know we were both talking the same language, and I understood the words, but their meaning and what I was supposed to do with them left me mystified. I thought I knew what the word revisions meant, but after doing my version of revision, Jenny still came back with more, and I realized I was just word-smithing, not revising. I could hear the frustration in her emails that I wasn't getting "it" whatever "it" was.
And then finally, the epiphinal moment came. I understood what Jenny wanted and went to town snipping and hacking away at my manuscript, removing large chunks of text that just didn't need to be there and slowed down the story. That did it. She bought the book.
Selling your first book is no easy task. I think I actually had more angst over the second book than with the first one. With the first one it was at least a complete project. With the second book it was a whole new concept that was born, brainstormed, and written/revised within a few months, not the luxury I had had of a year or so with the first book.
Can I do it? Can I do it again? Will I forget everything I know about writing? Do I know anything about writing? It all ran through my head as I waited for Jenny to get back to me on revisions for the second book. It was worse than the first book! At least that's what I thought. But going through her revision letter one paragraph at a time, breaking it down into manageable bites, helped immensely. I could do this, one thing at a time, even though there were multiple issues with it.
Out of the 210 pages, I deleted 75 pages and rewrote them. Tackling this round of revisions took about a month to accomplish, but it was worth the time and the mental energy it took, because I learned more from the revisions than I did from the original writing of the book.
Jenny accepted the revisions with enthusiasm stating that I had written a "real cracker of a book."
The things I've learned over the last year of being published are many, but some of the most important ones I want to share with you all.
Take your ego out of it. This endeavor isn't about your ego. If it is about ego, then you need to rethink exactly why you are writing and what you hope to get out of it. The rewards are few and far between, though when you get them, they certainly are wonderful. I've often heard people say that "I've final-ed" or "I've won" in a contest. YOU haven't final-ed, it's your manuscript that has. Step back and let the manuscript speak for itself. Not that you shouldn't celebrate your successes, you should, but make sure you leave the ego behind and write the best book you can.
This isn't your baby. This is an inanimate object, an artifact, and needs to be treated as such. No one else cares whether you've struggled for weeks, months, or years on a book, except you. What the editor cares about is: can I sell this book? That's what you need to focus on and DO! If the editor asks for revisions or a rewrite, do it. That leads to a sale and sets the tone for an ongoing relationship with this editor who will buy future books from you if she/he can work with you. If the editor wants to change the story, do it. That also leads to a sale. Working with an editor and having a receptive, open attitude is what leads to a career.
Be Bold! Assertive. Confident. Happy. Smile. Enjoy. Celebrate. Take chances. Believe in yourself and your ability. Spend time learning the craft.
Never be: Afraid. Aggressive. Arrogant. Unhappy. Difficult. Depressed. Make an editor roll her eyes. Too much artist, not enough business.
Don't get attached to titles.
Learning to write with a global voice. One of the unusual experiences has been writing as an American for a largely Eur/Aus/NZ audience. What to me may seem mundane, may actually be exotic to others.
Flexibility has taken on new meaning.
Being open minded has taken on new meaning.
Setting goals (Thanks Barb, Sheley, Gabi) is important. A six month, a 12 month, and a five year goal plan keep you focused.
Creativity is important, so find little ways to produce something that is creative because we have to wait so long to have an end product (Yes, it's a product, not your baby) with our writing. I've recently learned to make cards. Takes anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour to make a tiny work of art.
Exercise. I despise exercise with a passion, but it's become necessary for me on an almost daily basis, so I'm learning to accept the need in my life. But I still hate it and I am enjoying my right to hate it.
Don't overdo the chocolate-you can make yourself sick and will have to do #11 more.
Celebrate every chapter, every scene, as progress toward the end. So what if it isn't perfect! The end product won't be perfect either, because your editor and the line editor will be messing with it long after you've turned it in anyway. Accept and move on to the next project.
Learn about and accept that this is a business. If you are in it for publication and to make money you must learn the business end of this. After all, this is about money. That's not jaded, that's just a fact. If the editor doesn't believe that your manuscript (yes, it's just a manuscript at this point, not a book) won't sell, she won't buy it no matter how much merit you think it has.
Above all, celebrate your writing successes, no matter the size.
Keep writing! Never give up.
Molly Evans

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's late, but it's still the first day of the new year. This is the day we all think about changing something in our lives, hopefully for the better. And I'm no different. I want to be thinner, happier, work less, play more, and write every single day in 2008. Who knows if I'll be able to accomplish any of these things, but I'm sure going to try.
To accomplish anything in life, there are times that you must push yourself out of your comfort zone, and I'm working on that right now. Being in a comfort zone is too, well . . . comfortable. We must stretch our our boundaries or we will never know what we are capable of. That applies to our work life and our home life and our writing lives.
We strive to fit in and then we strive to be different. Live outside the box. Live large. Live boldly in brilliant color. Climb to your highest peak of creativity and leap off of it.
You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.