If you want to be a writer, it means you have to think like one. I am not talking about a writer who sees this as a hobby, but one who sees this as a job. I think that too often, beginning writers in particular see their writing as not good enough to really demand the excellence it deserves. I will also tell you, that when I talk to a new writer about potentially joining the Greyhaus Literary Agency writers, I am looking to see if they see this as more than simply a hobby.
So, where does this excellence begin? Obviously the first part is within yourself. Jessica Faust was talking just recently on her blog about authors that in their queries talk down about their work. This is far from the confidence it takes to make it in the world of publishing. I am not saying to think of yourself as more than who you are, but to not think less of yourself. If your writing is good, then think of it as being good. As an agent, I do also see a lot of established writers hit points in their career when they start to feel that self-doubt. This is that other part of the agent’s role to tell them that they are still good, despite maybe a bad review, or an extra long revision letter from their editor. Move on!
The second area to build this excellence is to think of this as a job. You go to work daily during the week. Do the same thing with your writing. Dr. Keith Bell, motivational trainer and swim coach tells his swimmers all the time that, “Excellence isn’t a sometimes thing, it’s an all the time thing.” This is great advice. Take time daily. I know there will be days when you think you just don’t want to work on the story, but you have to. The longer you stay away from your work, the harder it will be to get back to it. Now, there is another element of this that we have to consider. Your family has to be on board with this. They need to know you are serious about your writing. Don’t just blow off the family but make sure there is always time in your schedule to write.
I heard recently that when people make excuses for why their work doesn’t happen, it is the part of the sentence after the “BUT” that is really the most important thing. Make sure that the writing is in the second part of that sentence.
A third thing to consider is to not settle for second best. If your dream job is to write for Lauren McKenna at Pocket, then shoot for that. It may take longer but shoot for it. Don’t just rush in for the first person who wants to throw you a contract, and yes, this goes for agents as well. I see many writers jump in for “self-publishing” simply because they can make, what they see as their dream of publishing, happen faster. Sure, you can have that book printed in record time, but is this REALLY what you want?
Finally, demanding excellence means to be pro-active. A friend of mine, attended her second RWA National conference this year. Last year, she was a wall-flower. She attended sessions but hid in the back of the room. She didn’t hang out with other authors and really retreated from the conference. Nothing wrong with that. RWA Nationals can be really scary for a first timer. This year, she charged in with full force. She sat at full tables. She spoke to published authors, she talked to agents and editors (not to pitch but to learn) and I have to say, when I talked to her after she returned, she was a completely different writer.
Look, writing is for everyone. Publishing is open to everyone, but if you don’t have that confidence up, you are simply going to be disappointed with what you end up with.
Have a great weekend. Oh, and by the way, I will be out of the office next week so if you are sending me an e-query, it may take a little longer to get back to you.
Scott C. Eagan