What am I doing, really?
Until now I’ve climbed along with everyone else to that cloud enshrouded publishing peak in the sky without the proper tools. It wasn’t my intent but somehow I ended up on that path without meaning to. In part it’s because HtTS mostly teaches the tools needed to get a book written and then published. I knew that but when you work sometimes you don’t think, you just do. I genuinely thought it would be ok and it will be.
Over the last four months or so I’ve procrastinated. I’m not counting April or May because those months I barely remember. Those months will always be surrounded by the fog generated from the frozen, deep shock I felt over quitting my job. I still can’t believe I gathered what little courage I have in my hands and did it. There is no doubt it was the right thing to do but it was also one of the hardest. Quitting in the middle of a recession, knowing the scarcity of jobs, is the act of a nut job or desperation. Probably a bit of both.
So I’ve done some writing. Not a lot but some. Mostly I’ve thought and tweaked things here and there. I’ve read blogs/materials about the act of writing and publishing. I’ve joined two writing groups, one on-line through HtTS and one here in Randolph County. All this time I kept feeling I was missing something and I think I’ve figured out what it is. Not one of these sources, not even HtTS, is offering the tools I need. The knowledge has really been creeping over me the last few weeks and today it really hit me when I was reading over Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (really great blog about publishing, btw).
DWS really advocates writers knowing the publishing industry inside and out. He has nothing good to say about agents and has all sorts of dire warnings about them. His blogs are very intelligent well thought out essays on the state of the industry, the history of it and where he thinks the future is. He seems to know what he’s talking about and at this point I have no reason to doubt what he says.
So what has this to do with anything? Nothing really except I was sitting there reading his blog and one of his commentors was saying you had to know the industry even if you’re not ready to submit anything because it’s too late when you’re finally ready. It got me to thinking and it struck me I’ve been trying to play leap-frog when I’ve only just learned to crawl. At this point I really don’t need to be worried about publishing, I just need to write and develop the skills of my chosen craft.
For one thing it seems as though I am leagues behind most everyone I talk to who writes. Most of them will say I’ve written since a child or I’ve taken classes, things like that. I haven’t. Nope. Nada. I’ve read like mad but little to no writing. As much as I read I should have absorbed it all by osmosis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. I was more into playing the flute, drawing and later photofinishing and photography.
So what am I missing and need? Well, the basics in writing of course. Holly’s HtTS was never intended to teach those things and I arrogantly assumed I knew enough to take it and really I’m glad I did but now I’ve got to go back and plug some leaking holes in the dam(n).
Writing, like surgery, requires skill. If a surgeon goes to college but, instead of going to Medical School, just takes the final exam and declares himself ready to operate wouldn’t you think he’s lost his mind? I sure wouldn’t let him near me, let alone with a knife. It’s the same principle with writing. So what if I took the course for HtTS? It got me to the point where I not only know how to generate an idea but I can actually plan it and get it written. That’s all well and good but….
What good is it if my technique sucks and I don’t have a true voice? So second is I have to improve on those two things. I love Moonfire but I have serious doubts about my ability to write it the way it deserves to be written. I have the desire but my skills need improvement. While I have no plans to stop writing the story I do intend to change how I go about doing it.
Instead of collecting sites about publishing I’ll be looking for sites working on technique and voice. Oh, I’ll probably check in with DWS and the writers like him from time to time but I’m not ready for them and who knows? I may never be. Their advice to be ready when the time comes is sound and I’m not ignoring it. What I hope is I’ll know when or if the time is right to start a more intense study of the industry. At this point I know enough, thanks to DWS, to never trust an agent and keep track of any and all contracts with a publisher (if I’m so blessed) because if you don’t they sure won’t (in fact it’s to their advantage if you don’t).
Purgatory, it is said, is somewhere between heaven and hell. For me it’s somewhere between being a reader and a writer. At this point I’m neither nor. The ability to ignore or overlook bad writing is no longer mine but neither do I have all the tools to avoid those same mistakes myself. It’s for certain I’ve gone too far up this path to be able to sit down and no longer climb. That hasn’t been an option for sometime now.
Holly wrote a great article about the courage it takes to be a writer. It paints a grim picture but it also inspires you to grit your teeth and hang on tighter. I have a feeling I’ll be referring back to it often.
Here’s a video to listen to while you’re reading: