I attended the California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena this weekend. What a great time. I met a lot of new people and got to know several people better. We all talked incessantly about writing, books and careers, and everything in between. In the process, I took away loads of great advice.
The first bit of wisdom I took with me was something I already knew, though it seems that I require daily reminders of its importance. Writers must have patience. Patience is something I've always had in short supply, but I'm going to have to cultivate it if I want to be happy in this career I've chosen (sometimes I feel like it chose me).
Until I started my search for an agent, I had no idea how much patience would be required of me. The process goes something like this: I send my query, the agent responds, usually within a couple of days, asking for more material. I send it on thinking they've been waiting with nothing to do for my brilliant manuscript to make its way to their computer. Of course as soon as they get it they're going to read it, love it, and offer me representation, right?
Turns out agents have other stuff to do besides reading my manuscript. In fact, they might not ever get around to reading it. At the very least, it is typical to wait weeks or months for a response, even when they've requested a full manuscript.
Again, this is something I already knew, but needed it pounded into my head one more time: I really need to punch up my work ethic. I do write every day, or try to, but so often the effort is half-assed. This has to change if I want to accomplish my career goals.
I already mentioned above that a great deal of patience is required when trying to get published. Having an unwavering work ethic helps with this because while I'm patiently waiting for responses, I'm working on other things. The more I practice my craft and the more material I have out there, my chances of getting publish increase. Which leads me to…
I can't tell you how many times I've heard well-established authors say it took them fifteen years to get their first novel published. Or that they've got fifteen unpublished novels in a drawer somewhere. It's hard for me to face the fact that it might take me as long to get published or that DIARY OF BEDLAM will never see the light of day. But not only are both of these a possibility, they may well be a likelihood.
I combat my fears by telling myself that whether I'm published or not, under contract or not, I need to Always Be Writing.
Always. Be. Writing.
The phrase brings to mind Alec Baldwin's classic speech on the art of selling in Glenglarry Glen Ross. I'm gonna be self-indulgent and include the scene here because I love that movie.
My intention has never been to self-publish, but in the current publishing climate it is impossible not to entertain the idea, however briefly. How could I not? Amazon and other platforms have made self-publishing oh so easy.
But one of the best bits of advice I got this weekend, and this goes along with patience, is to withstand the urge to bipass the so-called gate keepers (agents, editors, publishing houses) and go the e-Book route.
While it's true that some of the stigma has been removed from self-publishing in the past couple of years, it still means something to be traditionally published, and for me, it means a lot. It is an important rite of passage, something I don't want to give up, even when it seems like getting published is a distant and perhaps impossible dream.
The most important part of attending writing conferences for me is the opportunity they provide to socialize, in person, with other writers, both aspiring and established. Sometimes it just feels good to be reminded that others have been on the road you're taking, have weathered the ups and downs, and have come out on the other side. To reminded that in the end, it's worth the rejection, the solitary hours, the feeling that THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Afterall it does happen, every day.