Monday, April 4, 2011

Putting the guts in being a writer

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential." - Jessamyn West

Being out on the submission circuit is making me look at my own mental process a lot more closely than I do when writing or editing (or it could be argued- a lot more closely than any normal person should look ;)).

When I saw this quote it just really hit me. That is so flipping true. Even if you are the most talented writer in the world, if you don’t have a pretty big helping of guts, you’re not going to be published. There is no writer's soda fountain for an agent to discover you at ;).

Think of the time and emotion a novelist spends on a single work. Even the faster writers are still spending months. On a single project. Then we spend another huge slice of our life editing the thing. Then comes the terror…is it ready? We've invested so much time and effort in this single project that the idea that it may not be is enough to choke us.

Now many writers prowl around the internet, looking for signs their work is ready. Have others look at it (preferably not just folks who like us ;)), make sure the formatting is perfect, get query letter and synopsis in working order.

But how do we KNOW when it’s ready? I think part of the terror, and the part where the guts step in, is that we don’t. Not really.

Let’s face it- is any work REALLY done? Most authors would still find things to fiddle with in their published and much loved books if they were given the chance.

So how can an unpublished author tell when it’s done? We have to go by feel. Ask ourselves, is this the best I can do AT THIS TIME? Knowing full well that in even a few weeks our answer could be different.

Part of this is the fear of closing doors. If my work isn’t where it needs to be, should I really send it to my “A-list” agents now? Even if I think it is as good as it can get right now? Do I sit on it? Constantly revisiting it, re-writing, re-working- always not sure it’s there yet?

Fears and self-doubt aside, I have to take a deep breath and hit send. That is probably the hardest things in the world. To take a project that has taken months to complete, and sending it out without any assurance that it is good enough. Knowing that it may run through all of the agents on my list and still come back alone.

But I’m in this for the long haul, a writing career not a single book- so I have to do it. The thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that this isn’t my only book, that I’ve shown I can write more. But it still causes a pit of terror when that email or letter gets sent.

Writing is definately not for the timid of heart.