MYTH #1: Once you’re published, you’re “in” and will never experience rejection again.
MYTH #2: You will keep the same publisher for the rest of your life.
MYTH WHATEVER: All agents know what they’re doing and who to approach and how to best represent you to the publisher.
YEAH, AND (while we’re at it), you can protest honestly about how badly you have been treated without serious or fatal repercussions.
Writer’s groups help sharpen your skills and boost morale. But they don’t, and I’ll tell you why:
Most people in them don’t know how to critique, so they just put down an opinion which may be very uninformed and of no use to you at all. And the following:
(i) Most of the critiquing isn’t critiquing at all, but consists of “oh, that’s awesome/lovely”, or words to that effect.
(ii) Everyone will strive to find the atom of good in your piece and play it up so as not to hurt your feelings.
(iii) NO ONE takes criticism well. If they are pretending to, they’re phonies. In fact, no one really wants criticism at all. They want to hear, “oh, that’s awesome/lovely”.
Writer’s groups are a great source of mutual support, no? Guess what. Sharing secrets of what makes writing work for you is deadly. If you were a tennis pro, would you sit down with your competition and say, “Now, here’s how I do my killer backhand”?
Publishing, like most things, is a pyramid, with 98 or 99% of writers at the bottom or in the middle somewhere. Only a couple of percent make it to “the top” and make any real money or get movie deals, like everyone expects to. If you “support” other writers, you are in effect saying to them, “Here, let me give you a leg-up on the ladder and take my spot. I don’t want it.”
Some writers are absolutely ruthless (see “only a couple of percent”: that’s how they got there) and, if you’re any good at all, will do anything to obliterate you and your work. Watch your back.
Some writers, usually those in writer’s groups, will sabotage you in all sorts of subtle ways. They wear away at you like a worm until you are completely undermined. It’s not that they want to succeed; they just want to see you fail.
Rejections never stop hurting, you never get used to them, and they always come on the same day the plumbing fails, the dog dies and you have your period.
(Here’s another reason why not to exchange work with other writers.) Be careful no one steals your stuff. It happens, and it’s devastating. It isn’t usually the whole manuscript, just the spiritual core of it, ripped out and shamelessly exploited. If it’s published before yours is (which it probably will be, given the 2-year lag that no one knows about), you will be branded a plagiarist, or at least unoriginal. If you protest or even say anything about it at all, you’ll be considered defensive, insecure and unprofessional. Practice the indispensible skill of enduring abuse silently and with a smile.
Coming up to a published author (especially a famous one) with manuscript trembling in hand is a bad idea. They don’t have time to read your stumbling efforts because they are busy writing their own work. If they did read it, they would likely tell you what they really think. They won’t read it, say “God, this is the best thing I’ve ever seen!”, hand it to their publisher and say, “Here’s the next best-seller. Publish it.”
If the famous author turns down your work, don’t go around telling everyone he/she is a jerk. It’s ungracious and unfair and not true. Well, probably not.
How-to-write books can’t teach you how to write, because writing can’t be taught (though it can be learned). Amassing shelves of them does not mean you are serious and dedicated, it just means you never get to your desk. Why not just pick one and do what it says?
Don’t talk about it endlessly. Most people who say they want to be writers don’t write. It’s easier than facing the blank page/one’s limited talent/terror of being rejected and found out.
I hate to say that the best part is the writing itself, but it is. It’s maybe 90%. It had better be, because your chances of being a real success are slim to none. There – are we feeling better now?