Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Published

Good Afternoon, whomever happens upon my badly tended blog!
I've been busy finishing edits, trying to be a runner again, and finally learning how Twitter works.
@lcatebecker, if you're over there. I have to re-find all my scattered writer people again!

So, back in May, I turned in my final, official draft of The Star Thief. The first 6 months of this year were devoted to edits, more edits, and then, after editing, a few quick edits. It's now been through copyediting, and is off somewhere in NY getting formatted into an actual book. So, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the whole process so far, and look at the Good and the Bad when it comes to this publishing thing.

First, the Bad.

Writing a book is hard.
It just is.
Shortcuts are not really a thing. You will probably find/develop/steal some kind of process that helps you work, that makes you feel more productive, but the actual work of sitting down, writing the book, and then taking the time to revise and polish is always going to be hard.

And that's just the beginning.

Every step of the process is hard.
Revising is hard.
Querying is hard.
Revising and resubmitting is hard.
Revising on editorial notes is hard.
Copyediting is hard.

All of it, every step, is a challenge. There are ever more people out there willing to "help" with the process, for a fee. There seem to be a growing number of people trying to hang their professional shingle on the idea that publishing is an impossible system, one that you can never, ever break into without some kind of magic pass, or costly service they happen to be providing. There have been vanity publishers and scammy agents for a very long time, but lately I've started to see a different kind of pitch altogether, in which some ambitious yet misguided souls are trying to create a third tier between the publisher - agent - writer system, by offering services to find agents, for a cost, of course. Be wary, writer friends. There are legit reasons to hire a professional pre - publication. For instance, getting a good, pro editor to look over your work and give you notes can be well worth the cost.

But you don't NEED it.

Because here's the Good.

It's all up to you.
You can do this on your own.
There are plentiful resources out there now, full of great, reliable information on writing and publishing, and you can do it all on your own. Writing the book, getting reader feedback, editing, querying, revising, submitting. You can do most of this without paying anyone, without an "in" with the industry, without paying for an expensive service, or getting an expensive degree, or attending conferences.

Now, some of those might still be super helpful. I have a degree, just not in English, or any kind of creative writing. I would love to start attending conferences, but time and finances have been an issue for, well... always, so far. But hitting some conferences, and - especially - a writing retreat or two, is on my dream list for the immediate future.

In the mean time, I managed to find an agent without getting the coasts for one of the SCBWI's big awesome parties, or going back to school to focus on writing. And my agent managed to sell my debut novel without me having any credentials, or a great platform, or any connections to the business.

This is all Hollywood speak, btw. If you're a filmmaker or a screenwriter, you absolutely DO have to have ins, have to make connections, and network, and paying someone to get your scripts in front of studios is an actual thing. But that's film and TV. If you're in the novel writing game, you still just need one thing. Good writing.

The rest, you can do with a little research.

Here are some starter links,

For Querying any kind of novel.

Janet Reid's blog is invaluable.
Also, her Query Shark blog.

For finding an agent

Literary Rambles is solid gold. Lots of agent interviews, and a comprehensive list of children's book agents all in one spot.

Querytracker is very popular, though I never used it myself. Many fellow writers have found their agents through this route.

Also helpful, a plain old search for Literary Agency and the sub genre of your choice. There's plenty of ways to cross reference legit agencies with questionable ones.

For general writing talk and industry info

SCBWI boards, (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) You can join, for a membership fee, but there is still also an open message board to commiserate with other writers even before you join.

Absolute Write Water Cooler is huge, but full of lots of general industry knowledge, and a fine place to ask questions.

Harold Underdowns' The Purple Crayon has resources all over the board, from writing to querying.

Get on the FB and join a writer's group. I have to confess, I find this less useful than targeted writing only forums, but it is still a great resource for finding fellow writers, asking questions, and getting information.

I'll add to this list as I find things - It's been a while since I was querying.
A future post will be devoted to the query process, and my personal experience.

So, to sum it up - the only things you need to become a published writer are a well written book, and a little bit of research. You can do it. It may take some time. It may take a lot of time. I think we all would love a guarantee that all the work and effort will somehow, someday, pay off. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees, no matter what stage of process you are working through. But the good news, the very good news, is that the only thing you really MUST do to be a writer is... write.