Writing is a journey, not a destination.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

A Bit of a Ramble About...Who, Who and What

This week the Wordcrafter posted a lament about the Secret Society of One in the world of writing. It is an interesting and heart-felt article and you can read it on The New Author's Fellowship. While you're there, check out PA Baines' most recent post as well. It is humorous as well as informational. He speaks with the voice of "been there, done that, and now it's just funny." It also dovetails nicely into my ramble for today, sparked by Wordcrafter's frustration.

I feel your pain, Keven. I, too, have wanted answers in a writing world that seems unable or unwilling to provide them. We fall into that gray area of "unpublished but not unskilled." We aren't green to writing, just to the business of writing.

I've come up with my own three answers to this question of how to get published: who, who and what. These three questions apply to more than publishing, but this blog is generally about writing and I'll keep that the focus.

It's who you know, who you are, and what you got.

From here, I address this post to my readers at large, not to any one particular reader or writer (I'm writing second person, and that can sound accusatory. That's why in therapy you have to use "I" statements, not "you" statements. Occasionally, you can get away with "I feel blank when you do blank," but I digress. Back to topic).

The advice about attending conferences is generic yet pervasive. I have heard it from every single published writer I've ever read or heard. The premise is basic: publishers attend conferences. If you want to meet publishers, you go to conferences. 'Cause it's about Who You Know.

I work at a magazine. Our editors are flooded with press releases clamoring for attention for their oh-so-special product. The product may be special, but unless it's so special no one's ever heard of anything like it before yet it is obviously essential to the floral industry, it's not going to get noticed in all the noise. Now, add a little personality to it, like "I remember this gal with the hat from Florida," and you got yourself a chance to get in the magazine. Slim chance, but a chance.

I'm not recommending you wear a hat, but it is a good idea to make yourself memorable at conferences. Preferably by not being an...idiot. I was going to use another word and edited myself for Susie's sake. Please feel free to use your favorite slur in that sentence.

This is where it's Who You Are. If you are the kind of person that editor or publisher connects with, your manuscript has a better chance. You won't connect with every publisher. You may connect, but the timing may be wrong for now. All kinds of things may happen. But Who You Are after you meet someone will leave an impression. If it is the right impression, you're one step closer.

Which brings me to the final point. It's What You Got. You've met your publisher. You've connected. You're in the deli enjoying pickles and chips and you hand over your manuscript. Your completely inappropriate, unpublishable-no-matter-how-cool-you-are manuscript, and you're done. So you have to have something worth presenting.

This last part is actually the easiest, although in this scenario, easy is a relative term. Most writers have the ability to polish their skills and develop some good stories without a publisher. Especially in this age of computer access and online critique groups.

I suppose this is the fourth leg of this Ramble Stool: How Long You Try (this is where PABaines's post makes sense). For the vast majority, achievement takes time and hard work. Elder Brother is reading a book that says the difference between successes and failures is 10,000 hours. He'll correct me if I'm wrong, and supply the name of the book, too, so wait for it.

A writer posted a tale on The Anomaly of a lady who met the head of Random House (or one of the big ones) at a kid's softball game and got her book published that year. Complete quirk. Except, maybe it's Who She Knew (the head of a publishing house), Who She Was (somebody that impressed him with the ability to write about her topic) and What She Got (a story considered worthy after the hotdog euphoria wore off). And who knows How Long She Tried?

It may be cliche, but I think each of us have a different row to hoe. God uses our writing to teach us lessons as well as our readers. Life has taught me it's better to struggle through and gain the experience than jump straight to the top and get in over your head (is that a mixed metaphor?).

So buck up, Wordcrafter. Your time will come. We all know it. It's just a matter of who, who, what
and how long.

Small comfort, huh?


  1. The book is "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcom Gladwell. And the 10,000 hours is the difference between ordinary and exceptional (think high school garage band guitar player vs. Eric Clapton or 3rd grade essay contest winner vs. Stephen King's laundry list).

  2. Told you he'd correct me ;) Thank you, Elder Brother.

  3. Just off the Florida Christian Writers Conference myself. Asked a few editors about freelance copyediting and pitched my book to another. She asked to see the ms, so I guess I better get it together. The day before I talked to her I realized some of the stuff at the end will work better in a different order. As for how long I've been trying -- I've been doing conferences since 2006. I've been writing since I could hold a pencil.

  4. Congrats on the submission request! Keep me and the rest of us posted on your progress.


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