When I started writing my first manuscript in September 2010, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t know the type of battle I was in for. I had a wonderful story idea so I started writing, and writing, and writing, until it was finished two years later. Then I was faced with the BIG question: What do I do next?
That was when I first realized I was on my own, and I had to take ownership of my writing journey which I’m dubbing “my battleship.”
When I embarked on my journey, uh, climbed aboard my battleship, I didn’t think it would require so much work. I didn’t think it would be easy either. The fact of the matter is, I really didn’t give it a whole lot of thought one way or the other. I just wrote and surmised I’d figure things out as I went along.
Well, I learned pretty quickly that in order to be successful in the wonderfully fascinating world of writing fiction, just like going into battle, you must have a strategy to be successful. Initially, I didn’t have a strategy. So I had to prepare and equip myself for battle along the way. As I ventured forward, my battle plan emerged. Below is what my strategy eventually looked like:
1) Identify the Enemy
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Pogo
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the enemy I was facing was me: my lack of knowledge about writing creatively, my lack of knowledge about publication, my lack of knowledge regarding social media, overcoming the feeling of inadequacy, and learning how to deal with rejection.
These are the main challenges I faced as a new writer. Either one of them could have crippled me and forced me wave the white flag of surrender. But I was determined. I’d accomplished one important feat, completing a manuscript. That gave me the courage to press forward in battle.
2) Choose the Right Weapons
According to my battle plan I needed to equip myself. So the question was, what weapons do I need to face the enemy? My first step after finishing my manuscript was to Google for what to do next. Several responses suggested finding a local writers’ group. Which is what I did.
By joining the Dallas Area Writer Group (DAWG), I was able to hear published authors and literary agents give excellent guidance on writing dialogue, scene-building, creating believable 3-dimensional characters, plot development, creating conflict, and so much more.
I received recommendations on the top writing books to read. I also learned about writing conferences which provide additional learning opportunities on craft, as well as, how to get a literary agent and how to get published.
Another valuable service DAWG offered is holding critique sessions. In the critique sessions, writers are given an opportunity to read a portion their work and the panel provides constructive feedback within a positive framework. The feedback I received was helpful by letting me know what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.
And last but certainly not least, I found a professional editor through my writers group.
3) Engage in Battle (Face, Fight and Conquer)
Once I had my manuscript professionally edited, I felt ready to find a literary agent to represent me in the traditional publishing process. This has been the toughest battle yet!
I did the research on how to write a query letter and synopsis, and I crafted those to the best of my ability to meet the specification of each literary agency.
Then, I started querying. Just as fast as I could send out one query letter, I’d received a rejection letter back with matching speed. That’s when anxiety set in, and I started to doubt myself and my abilities as a writer.
It helped to know that even great writers received rejection letters initially. Here are a few examples:
• After 5 years of continual rejection, Agatha Christie finally landed a publishing deal. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.
• John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 agencies and then 12 publishers.
• Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published.
• Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times and J. K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”
So, hope springs eternal!
Next, I started attending writing conferences and began pitching my story to literary agents face-to-face. This process is very unnerving because you only have 10 to 12 minutes to sell your story idea to a literary agent.
During the pitch, you have to succinctly convey your story in a way that will intrigue the agent enough to want to see more in the form of sample chapters or if you’re really successful, the entire manuscript. Boom! You’ve won the battle — but not the war!
4) Achieve Victory!
Victory is not achieved in the world of traditional publishing until you sign a contract (book deal) and your work is published. I have not achieved victory yet, but I persevere!
Publication can be accomplished through self-publishing or traditional publishing. I have not attempted to self-publish my manuscript. I’m still pursuing the traditional route, which as you can see can be a real tough battle.
The choice is yours to make. Either path you take will require time, effort, determination, and learning. So, suit up, choose your weapons, and man your battleship!
PS – Drop me a line and let me know what you are doing to man your battleship.