Friday, January 18, 2013

Take Off Your +3 Cloak of Isolation

Cross posted from my blog, Writing and Whatnot


It should come as no surprise to anyone that we writers are a relatively solitary bunch. Regardless of how outgoing we are in our everyday lives, we have to shut away the world to write.

And we like it.

Writers get high from a brilliant plot twist or off the buzz of a perfectly crafted sentence in the same way normal people do from partying with their friends. Ok, writers do that too, but we just do it less often, and even when we are with friends, our minds aren't all that far away from our story, or the possibility of story laying nascent in the gestures of the woman across the aisle, or in the way the light shines through the window and onto the bar.

We writers know that constant churn of creativity is gold. It can only come from within our minds and only we can spit it out onto paper. We have to do it, and we have to do it alone. No one can do it for us.

And that’s where we get into trouble.

Consider all those indie publishers out there. Some of them find success but a lot of them don’t. Now take a look at all those “real” authors out there. They may have the vindication of being published, but we all know that’s no guarantee of financial success. Regardless of our path, the problem all us writers face is the same: How do I become successful?

Yes, we all know the road to success is long and winding, and while we all face the challenges of editing and marketing, we indie authors have one defining challenge that will separate those who fall flat on their face and those who go on to find success: knowing when you are ready.

Now I can’t speak for all writers, but after accomplishing as much as I have, I’m pretty impressed with myself. I kinda think I’m the shit, you know? And I am. I’m pretty damn good. But I’m not ready for the Big Show. Not yet. Not quite.

My writing group (Scribblerati Agents unite!) didn't tell me that. Nor did I wake up knowing that. My editor told me. She didn't come out and say, “Shawn, you handsome, egotistical bastard, you've got something here but you aren't ready to publish.” What she did was point out all the things I need to work on, which in turn saved me from joining the ranks of those indie publishers who publish too early.

So allow me to pass along a little advice. If you, like me, are one of those lonely indie writers who are preparing to knock on publishing’s front door, then start talking to other people in the industry. Make connections beyond the immediate focus of your peer groups. Stretch yourself. Challenge your certainty and make certain that you really are the shit. Find those people who can help with the next stage of your evolution.

The Big Show is waiting. Take off your +3 Cloak of Isolation, get the help you need, and make your entrance with style.


Mark Teats said...

Nice post. As I was watching a movie last night I found myself going down a path in my mind of the story I would tell instead if this movie had been mine (instead of paying attention to the movie). Thus is the affliction of us writers.

I still want to pick your brain a bit about the specifics of what your editor had to say (soon, I hope).

There is the danger of putting work not ready out into the world (and unfriendly eyes of agents, editors, readers--who may recognize it's not ready and not read it/buy it/support it) but I also think there is a potential danger of over-thinking/over-polishing/over-editing one's work. When I was involved in the world of art and painting I had a friend (hell of a painter) who always took his work about 5 steps too far, in my eyes. He reached perfection and then kept working, working, rethinking, overworking, and the painting that was awesome two hours ago had turned into a muddled mess. Hard to know where the balance lies, especially when so close to your own work, and especially when writing novels that are neither quick nor easy to master. Hang in there! Making new connections with other experience(s) is a good idea. I've been doing some of that lately, too.

However, I think of books like R. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" that was supposedly rejected 121 times before someone was willing to publish it. It's now sold over 5 million copies. That means 121 editors and publishers didn't know as much as they thought they did about a writer and a book that many, many people have since enjoyed.

Shawn Enderlin said...

I hear what you're saying.

There is definitely a difference between an agent rejecting a book because they don't think it will sell in the current market and an agent, editor, etc. saying that something isn't as good as it could be. In my case, it's definitely the latter. Future blog post material!

Jon said...

I am interested in seeing her feedback as well. I'm glad to see you're taking the extra time and effort to make it just right. You only get the one debut, after all. I'll be happy to read it again, if you get a new version done.

Shawn Enderlin said...

Thanks, man. I just might take you up on that!