THE PUBLICATION TRAIN
I know what you’re thinking. How is it possible to take a train from Unpubbed Island? Good point. Think Polar Express here. Besides this train carries both unpubbed and pubbed. It’s first stop is here in Seekerville.
Do you have your ticket? That ticket is desire. Wanting to be published badly enough that you’ll make changes in your life, in yourself. If you don’t have the ticket, somewhere along the line you’ll be tossed from the train.
Before we start our journey, let's take a look at the cars on our train.
Engine—this is a steam engine, the “I think I can, I think I can” Little Toot variety. One that never gives up no matter how daunting the odds, how steep the hill. Think of the engine’s wheels pumping, getting up steam. This engine doesn’t coast, doesn’t quit. This engine will get you to your destination. You’re the Engineer of your train. No one can make you climb aboard but you. You may need to switch tracks. Try a different genre perhaps. See the places to slow down by making sure that manuscript is as ready as you can make it before submitting. And the places to go full speed ahead. If you never send it, you’ll never attain your goal.
Coal Car—this is what powers the engine. It’s a gritty place, not for the faint of heart. I recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. In her book, she tells about her brother waiting until the night before a report on birds was due, totally overwhelmed by the task. Her father put an arm around his son’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Start with a paragraph, a sentence. Each of us is the fireman and must shovel that coal if we hope to go anywhere and that’s hard work. Set up a writing schedule, make a realistic daily goal and stick to it, even if it’s only a paragraph. Let nothing in your routine life stop you from writing. Finish the book. Enter the contest. Study the market, the craft. Submit and submit some more. If you're doing this and aren't getting closer, then maybe it's time to try something different with your writing. Get on fire. It’s the only way to move that engine down the track.
Dining Car—I’m not totally talking chocolate here, but it helps. Feed your soul with things that energize you. Feed your brain positive thoughts. Expect good things to happen. Find ways to make writing more fun. Perhaps write or edit in a café or outside on a pretty day.
Passenger Car—we’re not on this train alone. No one understands a writer like a writer. Meet with other writers. Keep in touch by e-mail. Establish relationships so that on the dark days someone will truly understand and care. I can't write well in a vacuum. If you're the same, find a critique partner or critique group. Be a mentor to someone with less experience. Judge contests. You’ll benefit from helping others along the way. Remember--compete only with yourself. Comparing ourselves to others is defeating and pointless. Best of all, God is on this journey with us. When we turn our writing and whether we’re published or continue to be published over to Him, leaving it in His hands, we'll find peace about the outcome.
Freight Car—the place you stow the equipment for the journey to publication. Suggestions for what to take: Fiction—to read and study, How to books/magazines/tapes, movies to watch. Hone your craft. Don’t forget to pack pencils, pens, paper, computer, printer, AlphaSmart/Quick Pad, tape recorder—whatever keeps you writing. Keep paper/pens on the nightstand and in the car. Listen to tapes while you dress or drive. Edit hard copy while waiting for appointments. Be productive whenever you can. When you’re prepared, you’ll accomplish much.
Baggage Car—not all the stuff you’re lugging around is good for you. Toss anything that’s dragging you down and refuse to put it on the train. Don’t listen to the negative voice in your head or coming out of others’ mouths. Kick time wasters out the door. Don’t let others sabotage your goal. We want to be there for those who need us, but we can’t let them gobble up our time.
Caboose—I miss that red car at the end of the train. But this train is steam powered so the caboose still exists and with good reason. Here’s where the men slept, ate, relaxed. The caboose represents the balance we need in our lives. Allot time in your twenty-four hour pie for taking care of your spiritual, emotional, and physical well being. Spend time with God. Take a walk. Have some fun. Work and no play leads to burnout.
You’re the Engineer on this train. If you don’t give up, don’t shut down the train, then I believe you’ll get published. Now here’s the disclaimer: I took a train a few years back and learned that everyone on that train from the engineer on down to the lowest man is under the authority of the Conductor. You guessed it. The Conductor is none other than the editor. She makes the final decisions, which means we can’t control whether our manuscripts sell. The thing to remember is the journey itself is important—not just the destination. Enjoy it. Write because you love it and don’t let your quest suck the joy out of the gift God has given you.
Sadly, I don't always take the advice I so freely give. I fail lots more than I like to admit. If you do, too, this is a new day. Hear the clack of the wheels over the tracks, the haunting sound of the whistle as the train passes through the countryside? We're on the train, doing the best that we can.