Friday, October 23, 2009

How to keep your sanity as an un-pubb’d author

There is an assumption we all have to make before I really start this blog post. First, that I am actually sane, and really, the jury’s out on that one.

We drunk writers are an opinionated lot, from movies, to books, to how to write, just ask us over a couple of beers, or ciders, and I talk a good game but the one and only thing I truly know a lot about it being unpublished.
Hell, I’ve been there for seven years now, through at least five books. So consider me an expert.

1) Writing is subjective. Some people may love your work, some may hate it and try as much as possible (which is almost impossible) to not take rejection personally.

2) Keep submitting. The more we do this, the more likely we are to actually be published. Even though rejections suck… I could wallpaper my bedroom if I’d kept all my rejections. But I really don’t read to re-read those suckers, just to experience the pain all over again, so I throw them out.

3) Everyone’s route to publication is different. Understand why you choose your route and respect everyone else’s.

4) Writing is subjective, but 99.9% of us need regular critiques of our work to really understand our weaknesses and strengths and if you can’t accept a reasoned and constructive critique, you have no place in this business and you might as well just be writing for yourself.

5) Have a life outside of writing. Seriously, I should have put this as number one, because we all need something to take our minds off why publishers aren’t buying our books. In that, I should also add, where possible, have a day job, because even after selling, almost no one makes enough money to live off for several years. It takes the pressure off, and makes the writing more fun.

6) Have a group of writers to drink with, to share the pain and hell, who else would want to examine every plot point in the Hunger Games for a couple of hours. We need our writer friends to help ease the pain of rejection, and convince us our writing is worthy.

7) Figure out what you love to write and really revel in it. Because it might be the last time you write completely for yourself. Because once you’re published, you actually have to think about what your editor and readers want. Plus, writing what you really love helps you discover your voice and what is unique about your writing.

8) Don’t ignore the market, but don’t obsess about it either. As someone who once compulsively researched what had sold and when and in what genre, I know that it doesn’t hugely matter, and it played with my head whenever I started a book. I’m always aware of the market, but still writing the books I want to write.

9) Love writing and storytelling, because, seriously, no one should be doing this for the money.

There you go, everything I’ve figured out by being un published. Did I miss anything?


Margaret Moore said...

These excellent suggestions don't only apply to the unpublished. Because even after you sell, you get rejected, too. I'm working on the "have a life" suggestion at the moment.

Maureen McGowan said...

WOW. Sinead. What an awesome list!

M. said...

Some sanity would be good right about now. Thanks Sinead.

P.S. Contemplating flinging myself into extreme opposite of sanity by signing up for Nanawrimo, though, with a snippet of an idea that blazed through my brain on reading a new food critic column.

Eileen said...

That list is SO not just for the unpubbed. I think I'm going to print it out and post it next to the computer. Great list, Sinead!

Sinead M said...

M, good luck with Namowrimo. I've heard it's worked wonders for some..
Thanks Margaret, and Eileen and Maureen. The have a life part is impossible to ignore right now.. my children are not willing to wait till I'm finished my word count for the day..

Molly O'Keefe said...

How are you so coherent??!! I'm amazed - honestly!

Alli said...

Sinead, what a fabulous post! Numbers 7 and 8 ring loud and clear for me!

Simone said...

Great post, Sinead! The "get a life" thing should be #1. If you have no life, you have nothing to write about.

I would add - watch out for negativity. There are so many places you can go on the internet to listen to people complain about how awful the business is. You don't need big doses of that.

Sinead M said...

Simone, great point, totally forgot about that one. It should be number one or two.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm sitting down to crank out a few pages right now and this list totally hit the right spot. Just remember that you love it and that's why you do it. And that really should be the only reason.

Great post!

Glynis said...

Great post, great list. Thanks.

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