I know what you’re thinking. How can you take a train from Unpubbed Island?
Yes, there’s no free ride. 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, in your writing. Study the market, the craft. Finish the book. Enter the contest. Submit and submit some more. If you don’t have the ticket, somewhere along the line you’ll topple from the train.
|This train circles our tree. Not a train you want to board.|
Before we examine the train, let's look at the tracks—that path that’s in place to reach traditional publishers via contests, submissions and conferences. Indie publication may be the route you plan to go, but be sure the story is ready. You may need to hire an editor, have the manuscript formatted and a cover designed. Don’t be derailed by releasing anything less than a top notch book free of errors. After all, your name will be on the cover.
You’re the Engineer of your train. No one can make you climb aboard but you. You may need to switch tracks (different genre perhaps), see the places to slow down (make 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.).
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 steep the hill, no matter how daunting the odds. 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.
Coal Car—this is what powers the engine. It’s a gritty place, not for the
faint of heart. I love 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.” Makes sense. Start with a paragraph, a sentence. In other words, be the fireman and shovel that coal if you plan to go anywhere. That’s hard work that requires planting your behind in a chair. Set up a writing schedule, make a realistic daily goal and stick to it, even if it’s only a paragraph. If you’re doing this, but you’re getting closer, then 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. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. This will revitalize 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 another writer. Meet with other writers. Keep in touch by e-mail. Establish relationships so that on the dark days, someone will understand and care. If you don’t write well in a vacuum, find a critique partner or group. Be a mentor to someone with less experience. Judge contests. You’ll benefit from teaching and helping others along the way. Compete only with yourself. Comparing yourself to others is defeating and pointless. Aren't we thankful God doesn't do compare us to others?
Freight Car—the place you stow the equipment for the journey to publication. Suggestions for what to take with you: Fiction—to read and study, “How To” books/magazines/tapes, movies to watch. All these will help hone your craft. Don’t forget to pack pencils, pens, paper, computer, printer, AlphaSmart—whatever keeps you writing. Keep paper/pens on the nightstand and in the car. Listen to tapes while you get ready or drive. Edit hard copy while waiting for appointments. Be productive whenever you can. Don’t waste that precious commodity, time.
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 don’t know about you but I miss that red car at the end of the train. My train is steam powered so the caboose still exists and with good
As I mentioned, you’re the Engineer on this train. If you’re teachable, work hard and don’t give up, then I believe you’ll get published or be multi-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 God. Remember the journey itself is important—not just the destination. God may have lessons He wants you to learn along the way. Enjoy it. Write because you love it and don’t let your quest suck the joy out of your gift.
In bird by bird, Lamott says: “I look into my students’ faces and they look solemnly back at me.
“So why does our writing matter again?” they asked.
Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”
I don’t always take my advice, especially this time of year. If you're feeling your schedule is a lost cause, don't get discouraged. Each day dawns anew, bringing a fresh start. Do you hear the clack of the wheels over the tracks, the haunting sound of the whistle as the train passes through the countryside? If so, you’re on the train, doing the best you can.
|If a train is too slow for you, maybe Santa will give you a lift!|
I brought egg, ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches, tomato juice, tea and coffee, along with an assortment of Christmas cutout cookies. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.