I’ve always been one to know the facts. Be it in my old job as a research nurse or in my writing life, I’ve always wanted to know what to expect. Television had told me that romance writers lounged around on their chaise, a feather boa wrapped seductively around their neck, clad only in an uber expensive nightgown from Bloomingdales, holding their Yorkie with one hand while the story poured from the pen in her other one. If it’s a tough guy who writes suspense, he’s led a hardened life that gives an edge to his characters.
What a load of crud!
So what is the truth? What can you expect when you become a published author?
1) Writing is hard work!
I don’t like the show, Mike and Molly, because, last session, the female lead decided to quit her paying job as a teacher and become a writer. No writing classes or studying craft books—no, she just whips out a couple of chapters and sells her book for a boatload of money to an editor she meets at her first eight-week writing retreat (for which she won a scholarship!)
No wonder they call it comedy!
The truth is it doesn’t happen like that for most of us. First, you write, then you write some more, until you’ve finally poured everything into finishing your book. All the while, you’ve studied craft books and gone to conferences, soaking in as much as you could to learn your craft. Then you pull out your novel and realize it’s pretty much 320 pages of crap, so you settle in to do the rewrites. And you edit and write and rewrite until that bright and glorious day when you finish it AGAIN.
Then it’s time to let others see your baby, for them to red line it and mark it up so that you can have an even better and stronger story. Then you’re ready to submit it . . . maybe.
But writing is also the most thrilling ride that I’ve ever been on (outside of marriage, but then marriage is work too!). Those giddy moments when you’ve written something so beautiful that you know it could only have come from God. Or those exquisite moments right after your agent tells you you’ve sold your first book; the first time you see your cover; seeing your book on the store bookshelves for the very first time—heck, even a one-starred review because it means someone took the time to read something you’ve created.
Yes, writing is hard, but it’s so totally worth it.
2) Not everyone will love your work.
I’m ashamed to say that when I first started, I thought every thing I wrote was magical. The characters, the descriptions felt so real to me, as if I’d actually stepped into the manuscript and had made my home there. Then I entered it in a writing contest, and waited, certain some smart publisher would snatch it up.
I was in for a long wait. My manuscript didn’t even final. In fact, the scores were so dismal, I thought someone had made a mistake. And the comments—passive writing, two-dimensional characters, episodic scenes. One judge even said I was the queen of -ly words.
I wanted to smack her. Obviously, the judges didn’t ‘get’ my writing. I even had the gall to go to the contest coordinator and ask if there’s been a screw-up (over fifteen years later, and I still cringe at the thought. Poor woman!) No mistake—the writing was just bad.
That is why it is necessary to grow a thick skin. Learn from the comments of your critique partners or judges. Weed out the good advice. Realize judges/critique partners/ editors/agents have dedicated their time and effort to make you a strong writer. So kick a couple of cabinets, eat some ice cream, then get back to work.
3) Writing is a calling.
A few years before I was published, I was at the end of my rope as far as my writing was concerned. Between my family and work schedule, there never seemed to be time to work on my stories, and when I did have time, the lack of words would frustrate the dickens out of me. All of my writing friends were published, some multi-published, and here I was, still plugging away at the same old book and not doing a very good job of it. I wanted to give up until I read these words from a Bible study a friend had given me.
“You are a literature missionary!”
Those words from Marlene Bagnull’s Write His Heart punched me in the heart like a two-by-four. Here I was, so frustrated and discouraged, and God had been calling me to the mission field the whole time! Yes, it meant giving up my loft ideas of what I wanted from my writing and give them over to Him. To write without any expectations, to trust Him with the very thing that was so precious to me, to allow Him control over my writing life.
There are people only you can reach, who ‘get’ what you’re saying, who feels as if the story could have been written just for them. You could point them to Christ through your words!
Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. Patty admits she has been making up stories since she was knee-high to a grasshopper. Now she’s happy to share her wild imagination and love of history with others, including her husband of 30 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, and her future son-in-love. Her next book, New Hope Sweethearts, will be available on Amazon July 1st, 2015.
Great news! Patty has agreed to give away a copy of her soon-to-be-released novel, New Hope Sweethearts!
Just leave a blog comment below, answering the question, “What has been the hardest part of your chosen career path?”
Contest closes on Sunday night, winner announced in Monday’s post!