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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How Old Is That WIP?

I was going to talk about something else, but LDS Publisher had a good post from a reader, asking how long is too long to wait for that novel to be published.

Am I right to assume that EVERYONE would like to get published their first time at bat? And yet, that rarely happens. So let's back up.

How long do you keep fighting for something before you toss it out the window? I've known writers who have been working on the SAME story for years. Writing, rewriting. Moving words around, tweaking paragraphs.

For me, that would've been too long. I don't have that kind of patience. I want to get things right and I want it done yesterday. It killed me to have to start from scratch and learn the rules of craft. But it had to be done. And when I say, start from scratch--I mean it. Heck! English isn't even my first language. I started from the basement, folks. So nobody whine to me about how hard it is. I have that tattooed on my chest.

Greg will back me up on this. I have been absolutely single-minded in learning all I could about writing fiction. I took my lumps and learned from them. Those knots on my head have been hard won and I'm proud of them. I didn't let ego stand in the way of progress.

Yet some people can hack at the same WIP for twenty years without moving one step closer to publication. I think there comes a time when you have to be honest with yourself. And some people can't do it, no matter how noble their intentions.

You can't offer advice to people with blinders. But for everyone else, I strongly recommend having a plan. Decide in black and white what you want to accomplish and when. Pick out your troops, those people who will watch your back and your dangling participles. Join as many organizations as you can handle. Participate and volunteer.

Write. Not just your old work, but new stuff. New ideas. New styles. New genres.

Read. (see above--DITTO)

Next week, I'll post my business plan and detail what I did to get to this point in my career. Make a decision to turn the corner and stamp a date on it. It can be done. I promise you.


Kaz Augustin said...

Great topic, M! Okay, so we're talking about the economics of being a writer in the 21st century here, so I think it's important to be able to move beyond that first wip. It's great that a writer is polishing work, but concentrating on that one book may blind her to other possibilities that may springboard into other, perhaps even more interesting, books.

Also, cleaving to that same wip puts too many eggs in the one basket. In order to develop as a writer, you should really be open to experimenting and writing, as much as you can, with as different scenarios/takes as you can.

I can really understand the "holding onto that first wip with a death grip" because I did it myself for years. It really takes courage to let go. But it's helped my writing enormously. My CP even comments now on how my first drafts are much more polished than they used to be, and I think that's because I'm trying, or thinking, something different every time I approach a new project. It's write, write, write, isn't it?

My 0.02

Maria Zannini said...

I was determined not to move on until my first novel was published, but I realized soon after that was counterproductive.

It's making the rounds again now that the interest is there, so it might get there eventually. Meanwhile I'll concentrate on other stories.

You can't move forward if you keep walking in place.

Heather B. Moore said...

I had a lady tell me once that she had an agent who was trying to sell 7 of her books--for over 10 years. I told her to get a new agent. I love this post because it is hard to know when to move on from your WIP. Have 3-5 readers go through it. Make the editing changes. Then start submitting. You have to keep writing something new. I have 3 novels that are on the shelf, but that won't stop me from taking a crack at the next one.

Maria Zannini said...

Oh my! 10 years? Damn straight I'd get a new agent. That's not much of a business partner.

I agree with the 3-5 readers too. But it needs to be the right readers.

Sometimes people get scared and they surround themselves with a security blanket of cheerleaders who love their stuff no matter how much it sucks pond water.

If you truly want to get the truth, go outside your comfort zone. Post where no one knows you. If you start to see a trend of tough love, chances are your regular CPs have been shielding you and in fact, holding you back.

It's an individual call. One that is not easy to make if you have a frail ego.

rcloenen-ruiz said...

Thanks for sharing your writing journey, Maria.

Something non-writers don't know about the business of writing is how much hard work it involves. A lot of non-writers I've talked to, imagine that it's just a matter of sitting down and writing...they don't take into consideration the need to master the language, the revision, the polish and the submission process.

I certainly believe that the writing business isn't for people who are faint of heart. And success comes to those who are willing to push themselves to be better than their best.

Maria Zannini said...

You and I are in the same boat, Rochita. I know English isn't your first language either.

And you are right about non-writers. I try not to discuss process with them because as you've discovered, they think it's an easy task to write and get it published. LOL! If only!