“If you don’t finish college, you’ll never amount to anything.”
“You need to get a real job, something you can fall back on.”
“Why are you wasting time writing fantasy?
You should be writing about things that matter.”
This is just a sampling of things people have said to me over the years as I pursued a career in writing. I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of two. I don’t have a degree. My writing background lacks some serious credentials. The odds were definitely NOT in my favor. (Can you tell I write YA?)
So I had to make a choice. Writing a novel meant late nights. It wasn’t going to be easy. Not even close. I had to ask myself, “Do I really want this?”
I couldn’t answer that question right away, but then some things happened that caused me to take a serious look at my life. I decided I wouldn’t put it off anymore, I WOULD write a novel. Because despite what so many people said, I COULD write a novel.
And. I. Did.
It didn’t happen overnight, and I didn’t do it alone. It took about twenty versions of my first chapter, countless revisions, awesome critique partners, contest feedback, a mentor who loves red ink, and a no-nonsense freelance editor to get my story into shape. That was over a period of about two years. Surrounding myself with the right kind of people made all the difference. Once my manuscript was ready, the time came to put it to the ultimate test. Despite the odds, I WOULD get an agent.
And. I. Did.
He (my agent) knew he was taking a risk. My story would be a hard sell, but he liked it and stood by it. He believed in me, despite the more likely outcome that he’d never see a return on all his hard work. Having an advocate, once again, made all the difference. So I prayed. And waited. Despite the odds, I WOULD get a contract before I turned thirty.
And. I. Did.
Here’s the clincher: the offer from Thomas Nelson/ HarperCollins for my YA romantic fantasy trilogy came three days before my thirtieth birthday. Isn’t it funny how life works? So many people tried to limit me. Went out of their way to tell me I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t do it. But when I changed direction and surrounded myself with the right kind of people, my life changed. I defied gravity. The world tried to bring me down, but the right people showed me “everyone deserves to chance to fly.”
Maybe you’re in a similar situation. You’re struggling and wondering if pursuing the author life is even worth it. To that I say, YES! If you are passionate about writing, if you find yourself tapping out dialogue in the Notes App on your phone or perusing Spotify for the perfect theme song for your story, don’t give up. College degree or not, your future is unlimited, but it’s up to you to grab it.
There’s no formula for getting published, whether you follow the indie or traditional route. I can’t tell you that following my suggestions will get you an agent or a contract or on the New York Times Bestseller List. But I can say that one major thing helped me become a better writer. If you’re in it because you love it, paycheck or not, then read on.
• “…if I only had a brain.”—Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz
[Writer’s think differently from the rest of the world. If you don’t have other writers you can connect with in real life, fear not! I don’t either. The online writing community has been a huge encouragement to me. Joining organizations like ACFW or attending a writer’s conference or even just lurking here on Seekerville has made all the difference. I Skype with my critique partners every week. They think the way I do. Surround yourselves with like-minded people, whether you join a critique group where you live or connect with one online.
• “…a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Your work is a reflection of you. So write what you love. Don’t write to the trends. This industry is constantly changing, and no one can predict what will be hot or not next year. Find writers who have a passion for the same things you do. Whatever your genre, it makes a huge difference to have people you can talk to about it, because they’re the ones who will understand and listen without judgement. Ultimately, they’re the ones who will see your heart, the ones who will love your story most.
• “Come on, get up and fight…”—Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz
Whether you’re an emotional sap like me or have super thick skin, rejection is never easy to take. But it does make you stronger. Don’t let rejection stop you from pursuing your dream. Have the courage to keep going, and surround yourself with people who can en-courage you (See what I did there?). Fight for what you want, and find others (writers or non-writers) who can fight alongside you.
You’ve probably noticed an ongoing theme here. Dorothy didn’t make it to Oz on her own. She had help. Her story ended with “acknowledgements” to the friends she made and what they taught her. And those friends ended up being her “home” all along. You may feel isolated and alone in this writing thing. But you don’t have to look far to find your people. If you’re reading this blog, they’re closer than you think.
Not sure where to begin? Connect with me in the comments! I’d be happy to try and answer any questions you have about starting a critique group or finding your own writing community. Thanks to Seekerville for having me on the blog today!
Once upon a time, SARA ELLA dreamed she would marry a prince (just call her Mrs. Charming) and live in a castle (aka The Plaza Hotel). Though her fairy tale didn’t quite turn out as planned, she did work for Disney—that was an enchanted moment of its own. Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. Oh, and her husband is far more swoony than any cartoon character could ever be. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away” for those who put their faith in the King of kings. Sara Ella is all over social media, but her favorite places to connect are on Twitter @SaraEllaWrites or on her YouTube channel.
Seekerville is giving away the winner's choice of any ecopy of any 2015 ACFW Carol Award winning book. Leave a comment to be entered. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!