Last year I joined our local writers group. It’s a secular group with a broad range of writing experiences and goals among the members. And like any group of writers, there are a lot of aspiring authors who come to learn and grow. Several of the members have had some success in the indie publishing field, but I’m the only regular attender who is traditionally published.
That, plus the fact that I’m new means that they really aren’t sure about me yet. (That’s okay. Sometimes I’m not sure about them, either!)
One of the other members and I walked out to our cars together last month. She hadn’t realized before that meeting that I’m a published author with multiple contracts waiting to be fulfilled (i.e. I should spend all of my time writing!).
“How did you do it?” She thought she really wanted to know.
I hesitated for a half-minute. She wasn’t going to be happy with what I wanted to say, so I started with my standby answer for that question:
“I entered contests that put my name and my story in front of publishers and agents.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“You’re published by Harlequin, right?”
“Yes, by Love Inspired, Harlequin’s Inspirational line.”
She looked past my shoulder and unlocked her car door. “Don’t they have pretty strict guidelines? Don’t they make you change your story?”
“They expect you to make revisions to improve your story and so that it will fit their style. Every publisher does.”
She tossed her bag into her car. She said goodbye. She drove away. No, she didn’t really want to hear what I had to say.
If she had stayed around, ready to chat under the street lights on that unusually balmy February evening, I would have told her a secret.
Writing is an art. But once you hit the send button, it becomes a business.
When you’re in your writing cave, your story is all your own. It’s a wonderful thing to spend an hour or two every day in a world peopled by characters you’ve created. At this point, writing is all about imagination, craft, and answering the “What if?” questions.
I love this part of the process. It’s a little like giving birth, with all the pain, agony and delight that accompanies bringing a new life into the world. It’s exhilarating! And it’s all yours!
But if you want to become a published author, once you’ve finished your story you need to switch modes. This story needs to have a life of its own.
Let’s take the birth analogy a little bit further. If you’ve raised children, you know that it is unhealthy (and impossible!) to force them to remain babies forever. They need to walk, to explore, to become separate people from their parents. As much as we delight in babies, we don’t want them to turn into some twisted copy of ourselves. We want them to become the people God intended them to be. To become adults.
The same goes for your story. If you have any desire to publish your work, you must put it out there for others to see. You have to listen to and evaluate comments from critique groups, contest judges, and eventually, potential agents and publishers. Why? Because these are the people who are helping your baby grow into a self-sufficient adult.
Some authors hold onto their stories too tightly. They keep their writing snagged within their prideful grasp, thinking no one else understands their story like they do. They refuse to accept help to make it better, and they refuse to change anything to make it fit someone else’s standards.
If you want to be published, you won’t be that kind of author.
You’ll be the kind of author who understands that once you hit “send,” your story is now a business. Rather than keeping it close to your heart, you humbly open your hands and let it grow.
If an agent suggests that your story will sell better told in third person rather than first person, you start planning how to make that change and still keep the meat of your story intact.
When an editor sends you a list of revisions that need to be made and invites you to resubmit your story, you put everything else aside and make those changes.
When you get a request for a partial or full manuscript, you comply in a timely manner because that’s good business practice.
Soon you’ll find that those changes and revisions make your story stronger. More complete. Saleable.
And when you see your book for the first time, you’ll cry. You really will. Because that’s what parents do when they see their babies all grown up.
Which kind of author will you be? What do you need to do to move your writing from art to business? #NoLimits!
Today Jan is giving away 5 (COUNT 'EM. FIVE ) copies of A Mother for His Children to lucky commenters. Ecopies to international winners. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
A Mother for His Children
FROM AMISH NANNY TO BRIDE?
After her sweetheart's betrayal, Ruthy Mummert leaves behind the small-town gossip of her Amish community for the first opportunity she can find: a housekeeper position in faraway LaGrange County, Indiana. Ruthy didn't realize the job meant caring for ten children—and for their handsome widowed father.
To Levi Zook's mind, Ruthy is too young and too pretty to be anyone's housekeeper. A marriage of convenience will protect her reputation and give his children the security they dearly need. But it could also give them the courage to grasp a new chance at happiness—if Ruthy is willing to risk her wounded heart once more.
Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, their four adult children, two active dogs, and Maggie, the cat who thinks she’s a dog. If she isn’t sitting at her computer ruining – I mean living – the lives of her characters, she’s probably hiking in the Hills or the Badlands, enjoying the spectacular scenery.
Jan’s debut novel, The Prodigal Son Returns, was published by Love Inspired in May 2013, and her second novel, A Mother for His Children, was published by Love Inspired in August, 2014. Coming in September 2015 from Love Inspired is A Home for His Family.
Future releases include the series Journey to Pleasant Prairie, starting in March 2016 with Hannah’s Choice, published by Revell.
Find her here:
And on Mondays at the Yankee-Belle Café!