First off, thanks Tina for the invitation, and a big hello to all the folks in Seekerville. A lot has happened since I visited back in November. It’s obvious a lot has happened here, as well.
Congrats to all of you who’ve escaped from Unpubbed Island since then. It’s not that surprising considering the tremendous amount of help and support you all give each other around here.
Tina suggested for my second visit I answer this Question: “What do you wish you’d been told before getting published?” I loved the idea, because this year has gone very different from what I’d expected.
For those who’ve joined Seekerville since my last visit, here’s the link to what I shared then.
It explains why I have no idea what I’m doing, and why my expectations about the world of publishing have so often been out of whack. For those a little crunched for time, here’s the short version. Before getting my contract with Revell for The Unfinished Gift (my first novel):
- I had never been to a writer’s conference.
- I had never read a single blog about writing.
- I had never been to a writer’s group, had never had a critique partner.
That’s just how my story went. In a way, I think I missed out. I think these are good things. Not just to help someone become a better writer but to better understand all the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of a writer’s life.
Besides missing out on these things, because my book sold so fast, it set me up for a few more unrealistic expectations. Most writers, as you all well know, take several years to get published. They learn to adjust to a process that moves very slow and is often trying. But when I sent The Unfinished Gift out, two of the first three agents I contacted asked to read the entire book. A month later I signed with one of the top agents in the business. Two months later she secured the contract with Revell. It was all terribly exciting, but as you can imagine, I was clueless about what to expect…on every conceivable level.
What did I expect? Honestly, I’m embarrassed to say (I may actually lose a few of you after I explain). Well…you’ve seen the movies. You know how authors are generally depicted. He (or she) gets a huge advance. They stick the money in the bank and head off to a secluded place, say, a cozy cabin. A picture began to form in my mind that looked something like this:
A light breeze sweeps across the lake, becoming almost visible in the morning mist which yields politely to its touch. A blue heron swoops down from a mossy live oak and begins to bob in the shallows for its breakfast. Tiny waves lap on the beach, not fifty feet from the porch. My Adirondack chair is perfectly positioned on that porch to catch the sun as it rises above the treeline. My Netbook is perfectly positioned on my lap to capture a surge of words, the essence of literature itself. A perfectly blended cup of coffee sits beside me on an overturned peach crate. My mind, is free from all care.
Here’s the thing…that didn’t happen. What really happened after I got published is not even close (but you all knew that already). Please understand…what comes next is not me complaining. Let’s just call it a reality check.
For starters, I didn’t get the cabin by the lake; it wasn’t part of the deal. I’ve learned the Hollywood version of a writer’s life is really something like Writer’s Heaven. Only 5% of published writers get to go there. If you’re good, and I mean really good, and everything goes just so (say Oprah or Glenn Beck invite you on their show) then you, too, might get there someday.
Here are some other things I wished someone would have told me. For some reason (maybe because I write fiction?) as I thought on this, it came to me as though listening to a voice, like an imaginary Writer’s Angel was explaining it to me. He had a strong Bronx accent. He told me things like:
- You gotta make yourself a website. I don’t care you’re in your 50’s and you never even learned how to program your VCR. (So now I’ve got one: www.danwalshbooks.com)
- Then you gotta start a blog, and you gotta come up with all kinds of interesting things to say (So I started one. Still haven’t got the interesting things part down yet. http://danwalshbooks.blogspot.com) .
- Then you’ve gotta join Twitter and start Tweetin’. I don’t care you’re a guy and you don’t want to tell anyone you “Tweet.” (http://twitter.com/authordanwalsh)
- You gotta read the email loop on ACFW every day, interact with your readers on Goodreads.com and The Book Club network, and respond personally to every reader email.
- And you’ve gotta do dozens of blog interviews, write articles you don’t get paid for, go to book signings nobody shows up for.
Then the Angel looks at me and says, “And while you’re writing your next book, you’re going to have to make time for emails from your publisher’s editing, marketing and publicity teams, and do radio interviews on short notice, some of them live. And these interviews…they gotta be short and sweet, five minutes max. No long-winded answers.”
I tell him I’m a preacher, I can’t talk in sound bytes. I need ten minutes to say anything worth hearing. “Well, you better learn.” Then he adds, “And you’re also gonna get handed major rewrite assignments on the books you already turned in. But you can’t fall behind with your next book. You’re on a deadline now, a lot of people are depending on you to get it done on time.”
Then he says, “To top it off, you’re not going to make enough money to do this fulltime. You’ve gotta do all this and keep your fulltime job as a pastor.”
“Wait a minute,” I say, “I’m with a major publisher, the book sales have exceeded all our expectations. Foreign companies are picking it up: South Africa, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Oasis Audio has made a first-class audio book out of it. The sequel has just released, and my publisher just offered me a new three-book deal.”
“That’s nice,” the Angel says. “I’m happy for you. But you ain’t in Writer’s Heaven. Get back to work.”
Is it Worth It?
See…nobody told me any of these things. They certainly don’t talk about this in the movies. I guess you have to have the kind of friends you all have here in Seekerville to learn them. I’ve wondered if I’d known all these things beforehand, would it have scared me off? I think it might have. I wouldn’t have thought I could pull it off. All I wanted to do was write.
But God knows what’s best for me, knows how to lead me through His pasture. Because this is also true…now that I do know what it’s like, I’m SO glad to be a part. I have met so many wonderful people and have learned so many wonderful things. It’s not Writer’s Heaven (and to be honest…I’d still like to go there someday), but it has been a remarkable adventure.
For me, it’s still about the writing, first and most. I love to write. I can’t stop now. I don’t want to stop. But I thank God now for every email, every phone call, every blog interview and article. I still don’t have the hang of how to do all these things well (I still won’t tell anyone that I Tweet). But the folks at Revell are giving me all kinds of solid help along the way. And my agent gives me great advice every time we talk.
So…I’ll keep doing it all as God leads, even if I never make it to Writer’s Heaven. And if I never make it to that secluded lakeside cabin, at least I can write about it. Make it the place where the murder mystery gets solved, where the young couple falls in love, where the lost traveler finds a refuge from the cold. That’s why they call it fiction, right?
So tell me…what are some of your crazier dreams, illusions and unmet expectations?
Dan Walsh Bio:
I’ve been happily married to the only woman I’ve ever loved for the last 33 years. We have two grown children (one grand baby on the way). We’ve lived in the same house in the Daytona Beach area for the last 25 years (we really like it here) and I’ve been a pastor for 25 years. My first book, The Unfinished Gift, released last September and is doing well. In June the sequel released, called The Homecoming. Both books received 4.5 Stars from Romantic Times. My publisher, Revell, signed me to write three more books for them through 2012.
Today Dan is generously sharing two copies of his latest release, The Homecoming, with our Seekerville friends. But, please leave an email address in the body of your post if you want to be entered in the drawing. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
Please note, every now and then Blogger is finicky. If your post does not show..it will later in the day. No worries. Apparently, posting anonymously still works, but don't forget to leave your email address. To thank those of you who go to the extra trouble of posting anonymously and leaving a valid email address, Seekerville will give away their own (a third copy) of Dan's book to one of you patient posters.
Three copies and the three winners will be announced in the weekend edition. So post your heart out and give Dan a Seekerville Island welcome!!