Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rushing towards that dream? Wait.

So for some writers, the ultimate dream is to get published. The path there may differ, of course: get an agent, get picked up by one of the Big Six; self-publish; go with a small press. Whatever it is, the years of long hard work and patience all seem to culminate in the golden prize of being a published author.

That's how it is for me, too. But it shouldn't be all about your name on the hardcover. So I asked a few middle-grade authors:

What do you miss most from when you were an unpublished, unagented writer?

From Kate Messner, author of Sugar and Ice and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.:
The thing I miss about being an unpublished, unagented writer is that feeling of anticipation, I think...the knowing that that first phone call would come if I worked hard enough and persevered. It’s funny because I think that waiting can be the most frustrating thing about that stage in one’s writing life, too — but I also know that you only get one first book, and hearing the news of that first sale on the phone is something I’d love to go back and experience again. It’s the moment when a dream comes true.



From Jonathan Auxier (remember him, guys? we reviewed his book a while back), author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes:
That is a wonderful (and complex!) question. I don't miss anything about being un-agented, save the complete ignorance of just how hard it is to get something you've written out into the world. However, there is one thing I miss about being unpublished: before I had a book in the world, I had no real sense of my audience. Audience was an abstract idea that couldn't be pinned down and had little say in my storytelling. With the publication of Peter Nimble, however, I've suddenly found myself writing stories with specific readers in mind. It's hard to type a sentence without thinking: I wonder what Librarian X or Critic Y will think of this? While such thoughts may be helpful during revisions, they can be crippling to the early stages of the creative process.



From Stephen Messer (remember him, too? we interviewed him), author of The Death of Yorik Mortwell and Windblowne:
This is a tough one. You work so hard to get to the point where you're a published author that your first instinct is to say you don't miss anything about the period where you were working on the seemingly hopeless task of writing this novel that may not be any good and that no one would ever want to read (you imagine). But that wouldn't be true. I do miss writing purely for the act of creation, without any thought to sales or business or placement in chain bookstores or any of the other things you can't control but still find yourself thinking about once you've got a contract. There's a freedom in knowing you can write whatever you like, taking all the time you like, and simply run wild without consideration of the bottom line. But as far as problems go, this is still one I'll gladly accept!



Anticipation, lack of an audience, and no creative boundaries... those all sound like excellent reasons to me for appreciating your time as an unpublished writer. What do you think?

17 comments:

Rusty Fischer said...

What a great post (and great blog, btw). i wish there were more business courses for writers, pubbed and unpubbed. I could have done with a few/lot more of those!

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this interesting post. I'll have to remember to keep enjoying that freedom and anticipation as I struggle to get my first novel published!

Michael G-G said...

What a wonderful post, Yahong--a reminder of being grateful for wherever we are in the process.

Carrie Monroe said...

Great post. I sort of love being at that point as a writer where I hope that each book will be the one that gets published.

Paul Greci said...

Thanks, Yahong. It's great to remember that every step of the journey has significance. And as Michael G-G said being grateful for wherever we are in the process. :-)

cathyso3 said...

Love the post. It’s a very interesting way of looking at your inner self.

Hilary Wagner said...

Oh, this is a fantastic post! What a great question. What Kate said, about selling that first book, really struck me. I remember exactly where I was when I got the call. I think I was in shock just a little. Don't get me wrong, with the 2nd and 3rd, still VERY excited, but that 1st book really bowls you over. You actually did it!! And I agree with both Jonathan and Stephen, such freedom comes from not worrying about audience, your publisher's tastes, your book sales. As Jonathan said, it can be crippling. So for me, I try not to worry and just do everything in my power to improve upon the voice that got my first book published.

Fabulous post!!

SHANNON O'DONNELL said...

Wow, what an awesome post idea and a GREAT question. I love that you included three different authors' perspectives. Someday, I would love to be able to answer this question. Ha ha. :-)

Marissa Burt said...

I can totally relate to the "creative boundaries" thing. When I was writing STORY'S END, I found it so much more challenging to work under a deadline and still foster creativity. There is something to be said for having room to cultivate the soil of imagination!

Alison Stevens said...

Fabulous post! I've been working so hard on getting my manuscript ready to query, I haven't stopped to appreciate the joy of creating said ms in the first place.

Darby Karchut said...

Bravo on such a thoughtful post. I must remember to enjoy the journey as well as the mountain top. Thanks!

Stephen Messer said...

Interesting responses from Kate and Jonathan. Thanks for the opportunity to participate.

Bonnie J. Doerr said...

This was a delightfully unique post. I miss the naturalness of being me--out in the garden weeding or in my PJs drinking coffee. Yes, I'm still me when I'm promoting, but I'm uncomfortable with it all. I always feel like I'm playing a role. Guess I just can't believe that's actually my name on the cover of those books.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Wonderful post. So important to enjoy where we are in the process.

Hardygirl said...

Great post! It's always good to step back and remember why we do this crazy thing--and relish each step of the way.

sf

Matthew MacNish said...

Wow. Fascinating stuff! Who'd a thunk it?

Mike Winchell said...

Great post, Yahong. It's true that sometimes we get blinded by the prize and need to remember what writing is all about. Thanks.