To The Writer Who Dares To Dream…

Friends often ask me why I’m glued to my computer, always in the house working and not out having fun. My answer, “Because I have a dream.”

When I first started writing a book it was exciting, new, shiny. I wanted to tell everyone about this huge undertaking. By the time I finished writing 90K words half my world knew about it. It’s human nature to want to share a new venture with the people in our lives. So I filled everyone in about rewriting my first draft, tried to educate them a bit about the process. They politely smiled and nodded because they were sick of hearing about it by this time.

Then it came time to choose a publishing path. That was when everyone had an opinion, and most didn’t know enough about either option to properly list the pros and cons. Since I didn’t know any other writers I listened to my heart and chose traditional, and then sent out my “masterpiece” just knowing that some lucky agent would snatch it up and make me an over-night sensation. A star.

steinbeck

And then…

When that first rejection came in my dreams shattered into a million pieces. Some of you will quit at this point. Some of you, like me, will be too stubborn to admit defeat. I told myself things like, “Maybe it wasn’t the right agent. I just need someone who will appreciate my hard work.”

Again, I was fooling myself. I was still riding the high of dreaming about becoming a best seller. And you know what? That’s okay. I should dream. And dream big. That’s what drives us. That’s what keeps our rear-end in the chair and us working. It’s the kind of thinking that WILL turn us into stars one day. That’s what differentiates us from the ones who quit after four rejection letters.

But I also learned that it was important to set smaller goals along the way toward that dream. And I’ll tell you why. By conquering small hurdles I had something to be proud of, a reason to pat myself on the back, a reason to keep forging ahead.

Some small goals of mine were:

1. Finish writing the first draft.

2. Finish rewriting and editing the first draft until I could not make it any better.

3. Show my polished work to a beta-reader. At this point most probably won’t have a critique partner yet unless they have friends who are writers. At least for me this step took time. It took years for me to find good critique partners. Which is why I’d bind and gag them before I’d let them go. Just kidding… sort of.

4. Tackle the query letter. Don’t rush this step. I made this mistake too. This is your first impression and you can only make it once. Trust me on this.

Once I conquered one of these goals I rewarded myself in some small way. Had my favorite treat or gave myself an hour of free time to surf the net or chat with a neighbor. Each small goal drove me toward my dream. And I was building confidence along the way in an industry that can be crushing to one’s spirit.

Writing is hard. If you don’t agree with this you’re probably not doing it right. No one– and I mean no one– ever quickly jotted down a story and sent it off only to discover it soared to number one on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List. It just doesn’t work that way. Writing is work, it’s passion, it’s art. When you write you should pour your soul into your words. Feel the emotions you’re trying to portray. Robert Frost’s famous quote: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” It’s so true. If your words don’t move you, how do you expect them to move anyone else?

no tears

Then I had to face a hard truth that my first novel might never see the light of day unless I published it myself. Which, for me, wasn’t an option. For me, that would mean compromising my dream. And I wasn’t willing to do that. Not then, not now.

Here’s a little fact that will be a hard pill to swallow for most of you. I know it was for me. Most traditionally published authors wrote four to six novels before they ever got an agent. Honestly, I almost fell off my chair when I read that one. Now, does that mean you can’t rewrite that first novel over and over again? In my opinion, no. I don’t see that it would make a difference whether you rewrite one or write four new ones as long as you’re honing your craft.

Letting go of that first novel was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I lived with this book for years. It was my baby, my first-born. I’d held on to it longer than I should have because I’d poured my heart and soul into it, rewrote it so many times that I got sick of looking at it. My husband could practically recite the novel from memory. It’s called A Strangled Rose, and it will always be close to my heart, which is why I keep it listed on my website. Maybe someday I’ll rewrite it one more time and set it free. Never say never.

But it was a necessary step in order for me to grow as a writer. I needed to let go of my baby and create something new, fresh, have a new adventure. I needed to do this for me. Now, you may not need the same thing. You may be happy rewriting the same story 400+ times, because when you first start learning that’s about how many times you’ll need to do it before you hone your craft. Ask any writer out there. I bet they all tell you the same thing.

fail only if you quit

It all comes down to perseverance. How badly do you want it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get there? If you can’t imagine not fulfilling your dreams then you will succeed. It’s the writer who sacrifices, who writes when they don’t feel like it, who studies the craft when they’d rather be out with friends, who writes and writes and reads and reads who will rise above the others. I believe this with every inch of my being.

But it all depends on what your definition of success is. Some are happy to sell 100 copies of their book. Some shoot for 1000. Others say anything under 10K is failure. Whatever your idea of success is the most important thing you can do is never, ever give up on your dream. No matter how many times you fall, get back up and keep going.

Writing is not for everyone. Some write as a hobby, and that’s fine too. It’s the writer who dares to dream beyond that I’m really speaking to today. The writer who wants it all and won’t settle for less. The writer who won’t quit until they see their name at the top of the New York Times’ Best Sellers List. And even then, who will strive for not one book on that list but two, three, twenty. The writer who sees their books turned into television series and movies. That’s my dream. What’s yours?

 

19 Comments

  1. Yes, Sue, like you I am driven. I am incredibly stubborn and at the end of the day I may not be published by a traditional publisher but I have embarked on the journey and I will not rest until the writing is finished.

  2. I am a passionate writer who has studied lots of books/blogs/articles about writing/indie publishing vs traditional, what’s the best way. Well, the best way is to WRITE, and follow our heart. I’ve taught creative writing classes for over a decade, and discovered that there are a LOT of good writers out there. Most of them will never be published, and their stories never read (except in my creative writing classes) because of the competitive publishing world. I began a blog as I got more serious about my own writing (fiction) and found it so encouraging to share my little ‘slices of life’ to strangers who are now blogging friends. From there, I made the decision to self-publish. I know it’s not the decision for everyone, and I respect that. For me, I’ve shared my two romantic suspense novels (after years of drafting, beta readers, critique groups, and editors) and been very pleased with the result. The result? My books are being read, and that’s such a positive part of my life as a writer. But if I never got published or if my books never got read, I would still write – DAILY. 🙂
    Nice to meet you here!

    • Good for you! You chose your path and went after it. That’s what this post is really about. Not which publishing route you choose or what dream you have, but reaching for that ultimate fulfillment, your destiny as a writer. With some, it’s going Indie. Others, traditional. Whatever it is, as long as it makes you happy and you keep reaching for the next star, the next goal on your way to your dream come true– that’s what it’s all about, IMO.

  3. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he says something about it taking ten years before a writer gets published. I was ready for the long haul. 🙂

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    • For some maybe, not for all. Everyone writes at a different pace. Some have full-time jobs– like Stephen King had– and can only write early or late in the day. Others write full-time. Some learn faster than others. Some have natural talent where others have to work harder to hone their craft. A blanket statement of ten years is ludicrous. In one part of On Writing Stephen King says, “Ten years or so later, after I had sold a couple of novels…” Which proves it didn’t take HIM that long. And he started sending out manuscripts when he was sixteen years old.

      It does take time, which is what I believe he meant. BUT– you’re right to think of it as a long haul, just not ten years worth. ;D

  4. This really resonated with me. When I was a kid all I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. It was my ultimate dream. My problem was for so many wasted years I did not have the guts to share anything with anyone. That has all changed now, and I am on my own journey and definitely achieving my dream. It is little steps sometimes, but as long as I am moving forward, gaining fans and followers, getting great reviews, and more importantly, always writing the next book, then I still count this all as success and living the dream. It’s not easy, but nothing worth having ever is. You have to be incredibly disciplined with it, and keep trying, keep plugging away, keep getting better.

    • You got it exactly!! Small successes along the way toward your big dream. I read your post about others telling you you can’t be a writer or why you shouldn’t. I’m so glad you’re not listening any more and you’ve let “the real you” shine through. I’m wishing you all the success your heart desires!

  5. Hi Sue 🙂

    I’ve just found you on about.me and became curious about what you’re up to on your blog.
    I love this post. It echoes my thoughts, especially because in a world where so many writers turn to self-publishing and talk as if that’s the only sensible way to go, I’m still more interested in trad publishing and that’s the route I’m taking. Let’s see.

    I’m at the stage of beta readers now. My novel (it isn’t my first novel, and certainly not the first thing I’ve written. In fact, I’ve been writing – mostly short fiction – for nearly thirty years now) will be ready to go out to them hopefully next week-end.
    I’ve been a member of a workshop for eight years and I’ve really enjoyed it. Learned a lot. But I’ve rewritten this novel four times, been working to this project (a trilogy) for four years, and I’ve seen the workshop isn’t good for me at this point. That’s why I’m going to beta readers. It’s the first time I’m doing it and I’m completely excited about it.

    Ok, so, I’m taking up a lot of space 😉

    Just wanted to tell you this is a fantastic post and I’m completely behind it. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s comments like yours that make blogging so worth while. I wish you all the success in the world! You sound like you’re grounded in reality of what’s ahead of you but still dare to dream big. Love it! Good luck with your first round of beta reads. It is exciting. Just don’t let any negative comments get you down. Work through them and forge ahead. Your work will be stronger for it. And please, keep me posted on your endeavors. I always love to cheer on someone who climbs out of the slush pile.

  6. A wonderful post! Even if the first sentence made little sense:

    “Friends often ask me why I’m glued to my computer, always in the house working and not out having fun”

    For me, writing is the ultimate form of fun. I’ve even stopped computer games (which I loved), simply because they’re no match to the excitement of writing! 😀

    As for goals, these change constantly. When I started out, selling one book per month to a stranger was amazing. I’ve now probably sold around 10,000 copies, but I still feel like I’m only just beginning. One step at a time, that’s the secret, as you beautifully explain. 🙂

  7. These is such wonderful advice for all of us who have been rejected and understand what you have been through. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Oh, you bet. Sometimes all we need is a reminder of why we started this whole writing gig. Our dreams take us beyond what’s safe, what’s in our comfort zone. By envisioning where we want to go we can then put our plan into action. It’s nice to know I’m not the only dreamer out there!

  8. I like it. I’m all fired up now. Of course it’s lunchtime at the paycheck job. My writing will have to wait until later.

  9. I think that’s what it’s all about, Sue. Being realistic and knowing what one’s up against, but at the same time, having dreams and goals. Not easy, but I think that’s the way to do it.

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