Be(ing) a Writer
No writer I’ve ever met thought that the writing journey would be hard when they first started. Or not hard in the way that we all, eventually, discover it is.
When you first start writing, the idea, the masterpiece that is your world, your characters are all bright and shiny and oh, so exciting! The only thing you think about is how to write faster, write better, write what you see or feel or need to write.
And yes, there are snags (that you knew would come), but they are okay. That’s all part of the writing process, right? But once you get your agent (or book deal, or self-pub your manuscript) it will all go smoothly. It’s like our vision of marriage: there’s a countdown to the wedding but nothing for after. And yet the after is just as important as the before and the big D-Day. If not more so. And the same is true of being a writer.
Pretty quickly we all discover that getting an agent is tough. So we focus on that (because everything will be fine after that, right?). And, eventually, many do get agents. But then you have to get the book deal (why didn’t anyone ever tell us that would be so hard? we have an agent, right? everything should be fine now, right?). But no, getting a book deal is just as hard as getting an agent (and maybe even more frustrating because you already have an agent and no one wants to hear you complain about not getting a book deal when they can’t get an agent, so who can you talk to about it?). So you push your frustration to the side, write a second manuscript that your agent loves and… still can’t sell it. Even though you have a great agent. Even if your book is your heart book and rings true and is even better than the book your agent signed you on for.
Because the truth of the matter is, the market – especially for YA right now – is tough.
Getting an agent is tough.
Getting a book deal is tough.
Getting sales and meeting your sell-through is tough.
Getting a second deal is tough.
Getting – and keeping – an audience is tough.
So what can you do? Switch to MG? or adult? become a painter?
No – not unless it’s already in you! But even if you did, those markets are tough too. There is no ‘easy’ way to success (in this case meaning getting published and selling books regularly) as a writer.
And it’s this part of the journey that is hard. Because it’s out of your control.
If you’ve written a book, you know you are a writer. You can plot and revise and create characters. You can see a huge undertaking all the way through it’s many circuitous and sometimes frustrating routes. You have the internal strength to actually produce a finished manuscript (or two or three or four). And that’s no small achievement because not everyone can.
But no matter what you do, you can’t make an agent sign you, make an editor offer you a contract, or make a reader buy your book. Nope, not going to happen. And with the market as it is, with so many talented writers not getting signed on by agents, or once they are signed on, not getting the book deal, or if they’ve self-pubbed not being able to get readers to buy their books, it becomes insanely frustrating – if you let it.
But you can’t let it get to you or it will pull you down.
What I’ve come to learn is that being a writer isn’t actually about getting an agent or a contract or making sales (even if all those things are great). Being a writer is about writing. About allowing those creative ideas that you have to materialize. To put words down on paper and then to stroke them until they actually tell the story you wanted them to tell.
So what can you do when the business of publishing is tough?
Keep letting your ideas flow.
Keep yourself open to all options.
Find what’s right for you.
And have faith.
If you have a deep rooted desire to write, you need to continue writing.
No one but you can give you legitimacy.
You are a writer because you write.
And that will be true no matter what happens on your journey,
no matter how many of your manuscripts do or don’t get published,
no matter how many agents reject or accept you,
no matter how many people read your books…
It’s just who you are.
So be a writer.
Born in the US, Dina von Lowenkraft has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic
artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. She
is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her
husband, two children, three horses and a cat. Her debut YA Fantasy,
DRAGON FIRE, was a finalist in ForeWord Reviews’ 2013 Book of the Year
Award, in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Award and in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite