Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 3 P's To Writing Success by Gini Koch, Part 2

Time for the second part of our 3 part series on The 3 P's to Writing Success as given us by the lovely Gini Koch. In our first section we tackled the first P: Professionalism, in which we learn the importance of acting like a professional for the aspiring writer. In this second post we will tackle the next P: Patience.

If you need to catch up with the class, check out part one.
Without further ado, here's what Gini has to say about the importance of patience when wanting to become a published author:

Part Two
Okay, you’ve made the commitment to become a professional, or at least play one on TV. Now what? Now you have to face the biggest hurdle any aspiring author will -- learning how to chill your jets.

Patience
This is, apparently, the hardest thing for any aspiring author to accommodate. But publishing is a very slow business. And the more impatient you are, the slower it goes.

Most newer authors are impatient with everything, and they make the mistake of giving themselves unrealistic deadlines, and then send their stuff out well before it’s ready for prime time.

What’s an unrealistic deadline? Saying, “I want to be published by X date or age”, “I want to win this contest and that’ll prove I’m good”, “I’m going to finish my first book by X date”, and so on.

What’s wrong with those statements? They put a limit you, personally, have no control over, and put another limit onto what others will do. You can’t know when you’ll be ready to publish. If you’re 25 now, it may sound realistic to say you want to be published by the time you’re 30, but what do you mean by published? If you have a blog, guess what? You’re already published. It’s not paying you anything nor landing you an agent, but hey, it’s published.

I firmly believe that you get what you ask for…but only what you ask for and only if it’s in the realm of reality. So, if you give yourself an age limit, you’re assuming that your writing will be ready…and you’re likely to be wrong.

Focus on contests is also a waste of most of your creative energy. Contests aren’t necessarily a judge of whether or not you’re good -- they’re a judge of how your particular piece stacked up against the other entries. Can contests work for you? Of course they can. But most cost money and it’s the rare author who sees a return for that money.

So, better to say, “I want to be a successful, published author” and let the rest of the whys and wherefores take care of themselves. You’ve still put out the ultimate goal, you just haven’t put limitations on it -- limitations that are likely to slow you down, not speed you up.

But there are other forms of impatience in this business. Thinking your book is ready before it is, and/or ignoring when someone says your book isn’t ready, is one form. Watching the incoming mails and emails when you send out a submission or a query is another. Fretting over how long a reply from an agent or editor takes is another. And so on. Any time you’re fretting, worrying or complaining about how long something is taking, or how you want X so you can do Y, you’re being impatient.

And impatience is a killer. It kills drive, morale, creativity, and karma. Impatience is the single worst flaw you can have in a business that moves at a glacial pace.

So what to do? The best way to handle impatience is to write another book or short story. Keep yourself focused on writing, on creating more and better product to sell, as opposed to focusing on what’s already out on submission or that things are taking a long time. The more you write, the better your writing gets. The better your writing gets, and the more product you have to sell, the more likely that you will sell.

Another way to fight impatience, and the despair and frustration that goes along with it, is to have your markets identified. If you’re subbing short stories, have your markets for each story on a list. Send your story to Market A; if they reject, heave a sigh and then immediately sub it out to Market B; repeat until it sells…whether that means it sells as is or you have to revise it in order to sell.

Looking for an agent? Make sure your query letter sparkles (oh yes, it matters because, let me say it again, nothing you’re writing is all that different and special, and your idea is neither new nor so intriguing that an agent’s going to wade through a crappy query letter to read your literary genius), and ensure that your entire manuscript is perfect and ready to go. Then identify the right agents for your book, query 6-12 of them and then…work on another book. When one rejection comes in, go to the next agent on your list, send them a query, and go back to writing.

You got an agent! Whoo hoo! The waiting is over, right? Wrong, oh so very wrong. Now you get to wait, and be rejected, at a higher level.

Editors read new stuff slowly, as in, you’re at the bottom of their pile. The better your agent, the faster you’re read (my agent got “Touched by an Alien” read by the Sr. Editor at DAW in less than 6 months…this is very fast), but the fact remains that you will wait much more than you will not wait. And then hear a no, and wait some more, as your agent sends your book to the next editor in line.

If you publish with a major, it’s going to be 18 months to 2 years, easy, after you sign your contract to when you see your book on the shelves. Spend that time writing. Create more product for your agent to sell. The more product you have out there, the better your odds.

But remember -- it’ll happen when it’s time for it to happen. You can demand all you want out of the universe, but the only thing that really works is the last P on the list.

Gini’s Motto: The moment you stop asking ‘when’ and demanding ‘now’, the moment you say ‘whenever I’m really ready’, is the moment everything truly starts to work for you.

Gini Koch speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and other aspects of writing and the publishing business. The first book in her Alien series, “Touched by an Alien”, released April 6, 2010 from DAW Books, receiving a starred review from Booklist as well as other excellent reviews. “Touched by an Alien” has also been named by Booklist as one of the Top 10 adult SF/F novels of 2010. “Alien Tango” releases December 7, 2010, and “Alien in the Family” releases April 5, 2011, with “Alien Proliferation” following later in 2011. You can reach Gini at her website, http://www.ginikoch.com, or via email, gini@ginikoch.com.

Gini will be stopping by to answer any questions in the comments, so if you want to ask her anything, fire away! LOL.

6 comments:

Amber Scott said...

The wait is the hardest part but I wholeheartedly agree that writing is the cure. I always feel better when I'm immersed in my next big project, dreaming away.

Gini Koch said...

It also focuses your energy on positive things. I pretty much sold "Touched by an Alien" while I was in the middle of writing it because I was asked about the project I was most excited about, and you're always the most excited about what you're working on "right now". (If you're not excited about it, leave it and work on something else that does excite you.)

Positive forward motion always trumps negative fretting.

Sullivan McPig said...

Thanks again for a very interesting and informative post. I'm taking notes for my owner, Carien.

The Queen B said...

But I'm so *good* at negative fretting.....sigh....guess I'll have to get a new schtick. :P

Danielle87 said...

"nothing you’re writing is all that different and special, and your idea is neither new nor so intriguing that an agent’s going to wade through a crappy query letter to read your literary genius"

LOL - so true!
I'm studying professional writing and editing, with the aim to get into the editing/publishing side of things. And all my teachers who work in the industry say the same thing. It's not said to break morale, it's said because it's true.

A very enlightening post - impatience is key, I agree. We've had publishers come in and say that their number 1. pet peeve is author's saying "here's my manuscript, it still needs polishing/isn't quite finished, could you read it anyway?" and the publisher's response is always: "then why are you giving it to me?"

Gini Koch said...

LOL, QB, yeah, no more negative fretting for you.

Sully, glad this is helping!

And Danielle's gonna be an editor! *does the happy dance* I don't really understand why patience is such an unattainable virtue for some -- I learned it, so anyone can learn it. They just have to be WILLING to learn it. And therein lies the key. As I'm sure your teachers tell you frequently. LOL

 
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