Carry On Trench Soldiers

In writing to a new friend, I realized I was in a bad place, wanting out of and into a career of writing all at the same time. I like to keep this hidden – what I call the tussle – the pejorative state of being…a writer? We can both believe in ourselves and in our work, while at the same time, cut ourselves down for everything we’re not, and never will be. Maybe we’re all like this to some degree, or maybe it’s just me.

On a Journey
I’ve been writing since middle school, mostly awful poetry, but didn’t take writing seriously until six years ago. And though not coupled with a literary agent, this trek toward carving words for a living has not been without encouragement from publishing professionals. There’s been open doors, revise and resubmits, and comments like “great potential,” “it moved me,” and “there’s no doubt you’re talented.”

If you haven’t heard these words said to you, don’t disparage, you may not have been around long enough. It’s been four and a half years for me, of querying over 100 agents, so someone was bound to say something kind. There are good people out there.

Nevertheless, all the good comments in the world, don’t equal a publishing contract, and when months and years go by without a signature, most of us writerly types start doubting our abilities, our future, and start looking into anything that could turn into a career – including selling chicken eggs. (Speaking of which, which logo do you prefer?)


It’s a Tribe
Don’t give up, find your people. This is the single most important lesson I’ve learned along the way. There’s a great community on Janet Reid’s blog, as well as flash fiction writing contests, and query advice by the Queen of the Unknown Universe¬† Query Shark website. There’s the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, in which I’m a member, with a robust support system.

There are writing contests on Twitter – #pitchmad, #querycombat #wfpitch, #pbpitch – the list is endless. These contests are a great way to learn the art of pitching your book in one or two sentences, to get your name out there, and to get to know other writers. They’re also free!

In person writing groups abound in your community, check with your local library. Or if you’re like me, and find it hard to get to meetings, put together your own circle of critique partners and trade work online.

If all of this intimidates you, know you’re in good company. Many writers start off with a dream of obscurity, only to find that if they want their words read, they have to get out there. Once our work is published, it’s blog tours, library hops, book store signings, and in-person interviews. It’s enough to scare even the strongest dreamers, but at the end of the day, we either have a message, or we don’t.

Looking Back
It’s easy to be critical of our own work. We can read something we thought was prolific at the time, and want to trash the entire 350 page story months later. But the words, though maybe not perfect, can be better.

Deleted excerpts, characters, and chapters can be salvaged for new stories. Even horrible writing can make us realize we’re improving and be enough to crutch us on another day.

The hormonal poetry I wrote in middle school is laugh-out-loud funny now, and journal entries of past help me to see that the goals I never thought I’d reach, I have now.

So where are you at in your writing journey? And how do you keep going? Or is it easy for you? Would love to know.


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