Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why Throwing In The Towel Is Not An Option

Ever have one of those days/weeks/months/years where you feel like throwing in the towel on this whole writing thing? Where it seems like you are destined to be the perpetual tortoise in a self-imposed race full of hares? That the breaks seem to come easily and often to others and here you are working your butt off and nothing seems to be happening? You look around and your house is a disaster, your fridge is near empty, your kids haven't had something for dinner that hasn't come from a drive-thru or a box in weeks, and you wonder what the point of keeping on with this is if nothing is happening.

Patience.

Like anything, this process takes time. Lots and lots (and lots) of time. And with that, lots and lots (and lots) of patience. But there are several key things here to remember:

THIS IS NOT A RACE
This whole writing to publication thing will be different for every single person. There are such a range of influencing factors including everything from straight up talent to hitting a market trend to simply being in the right place at the right time. However, unlike many professions, age is irrelevant. You can write until your last breath as long as the ideas and the words willingly come. Just because one person's book may sell within 10 days of going on submission and your first (and possibly second and third) books don't sell at all does NOT mean you've failed, nor lost the race. Because it's not a race. It simply means you haven't connected with the right publisher, or that the market is not currently hungry for the type of book you've written and it may need to be put aside temporarily, or so many other things. A no for now is not a no forever. It means if you're serious about this business, get back to work and keep on keeping on.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Just like any other highs and lows in our lives, we have strong emotions caught up in the extremes, and when we make decisions or take action during the height of our emotions, we often make the wrong choices. Often, if we sit and let our feelings marinate, we will always come back to the best solution. Yes, writing is a frustrating business and you may often question if you can do this or if you should just give up. But just know that if this is truly your passion, you will always regret it if you do not see it through. The only one you are truly in "competition" with is yourself. Each time you sit down to create, the challenge remains to have this piece be tighter, the writing be stronger, to have learned from your mistakes, to make sure you hit the right beats and have a strong hook and rich, unforgettable characters. Every blank page with a blinking cursor is an invitation to try again and NOT give up.

YOU WILL NEVER REGRET TRYING BUT YOU'LL ALWAYS REGRET QUITTING
There is a difference between trying and not succeeding and just outright quitting. You'll definitively know the outcome if you quit. It won't happen for you. But if you try - the possibilities are infinite. Believe in yourself, believe that you deserve the same shot as anyone else and that if you persevere that you can make it happen. It may test your faith and even at times your sanity, but if you stay the course, you will never regret it, because you will know you gave it your best shot. And that's what it's all about, right? Because if you don't reach for that brass ring, someone else will, guaranteed.

THE DELAY IS NEVER THE DENIAL
Even if that first book doesn't sell, it doesn't mean it never will. It is not uncommon for an author to have their first book sale be the third or even ninth book they wrote, and once they are published and have established themselves, older works can be pulled out again and reworked and find new life.

Keep moving forward. This is your dream. And you can't have a dream come true if you don't hold fast to the dream. Now get back to writing!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Finding the Story Only You Can Tell

I just returned from an amazing weekend at the SCBWI LA International conference, and spent three days surrounded by amazing writers, editors, illustrators and agents. I soaked up knowledge from some of the top people in the industry and met countless new faces, ever-expanding the circle of people in my life who help keep my momentum going. Though there were many wonderful panelists and breakout sessions, there were two main things I walked away from this experience with that I will think about the most: Write for the teenage you, the kind of stories that would have satisfied YOU when you were the age you are writing for, not just the reader. (Courtesy of Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles) And courtesy of Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray), find the story within you that only YOU can tell.

The latter piece of advice really stuck with me all weekend. There are plenty of stories in my head, but really, pieces of them all belong to other people too. How can we not help but be inspired by other great existing works of literature, wonderful movies and television shows? The ones that resonate stay with us forever and unconsciously tend to influence the work that we write even though we are not intending to duplicate nor plagiarize. But what is truly original anymore? However, there is one story that is completely original: your story.

Think about the different events of your life. The moments that shaped you, nearly broke you and brought you to your knees, the secrets in your family history, the skeletons in your very own closet. They exist for all of us, and when we dig deep and find them, we realize that no one else can possibly tell this story the same way because it is ours.

For me, I grew up on movie sets. My father was a producer and a studio executive, and I loathed being pulled out of school to go on location. I started drinking black coffee at age 5 just to keep warm on night shoots, I traveled all over the world first class and one of my fondest childhood memories is sitting with Dudley Moore at the piano bar at the Parker Meridien Hotel in New York City on one of my Dad's shoots. Gene Wilder and I were friends and penpals and he used to babysit me. This, and so much more, were my normal. And I never appreciated it. I just felt awkward, out of sync, disconnected from my peers. And then I realized: THIS is my story. So there's a sneak peek at what I will be diving into this fall - trying to find a voice for my story, and hoping readers will connect to and be interested in a character with an unconventional life. Because teenage Robin would desperately have loved to have read about that girl.