By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
Most writers who've been writing for any length of time learn the mantra, "Persevere, persevere, persevere."
In fact, you've probably heard statistics like these about famous writers who persevered long and hard before getting published:
• Agatha Christie went through FIVE years of continual rejection before landing a publishing deal; her book sales are now over $2 billion.
• Louis L’Amour garnered 200 rejections before a publisher decided to take a chance on him; his book sales are now over $330 million.
• Janet Evanovich wrote for TEN years before getting published; she now makes millions every year.
Yes, we all know we need to persevere. That's a given in the publishing industry.
Sometimes we have to persevere because WE aren't ready. Our writing techniques lag, our story-telling skills aren't honed, and we simply need to improve.
Other times the INDUSTRY isn't quite ready for us. Agents and editors have varying tastes, needs, and constraints. And sometimes it just takes time for our book to land in the hands of someone who loves it and wants to champion it.
There are even times when the READING PUBLIC isn't ready for us. Perhaps our genre or niche isn't commercially appealing, yet. The public doesn't see the value in what we're writing since they're still in love with the current trends.
Whatever the reason, many published authors can attest to the years of waiting before getting their big breaks. I wrote for about seven or eight years before I broke in to traditional publication. I had written at least seven books by the time I landed my first publishing deal.
In addition to persevering, most of us also know that we need to continue to write while we're waiting. It does us no good to pour our lives into one book and then sit back and wait for something to happen to our darling. We must keep on writing.
Continuing to write takes our mind off the waiting (mostly!). And it gives us more practice along with more books to potentially sell when we finally garner attention.
Yes. Persevere. And write, write, write. As I said, most writers get that.
However, I think there's one thing many writers neglect to do while waiting and writing . . . and it could be a factor for why some writers end up waiting for so long. They forget to MAXIMIZE practice time.
You see, it's not enough just to write. Anyone can continually write and have an enormous quantity. But quantity doesn't equate improved quality.
I liken the writing process to running (which I attempt to do with some regularity). I try to run every day at the same pace and the same number of miles. Over the past couple of years, I've accumulated quite a lot of miles on my Nike Running App. Such a regime means that I'm not getting worse, but it also means I'm never getting any better. I'm certainly not ready for any competitive races. If I really want to improve, I'd need to challenge myself to run a little faster or consciously push myself in small increments to go a longer distance.
The same is true of our writing. Yes, we need to keep steadily writing. But if we want to improve, we have to consciously challenge ourselves to take small steps forward by being intentional, incremental, and inspirational.
Analyze our words and sentences. Examine our weaknesses. Let others point them out to us (through critiques, contests, or writing partners). Then look for "coaches" either via writing books, blogs, or mentors who can help us improve our techniques.
Make a plan to implement new techniques in our writing. Take those small incremental steps to try something different. Practice with conscious effort (whether that's improving dialog or eliminating over-telling or any number of weaknesses).
At first we may have to go slower as we catch our mistakes and retrain ourselves to write differently. The process may feel cumbersome. But eventually, we'll find ourselves utilizing that new technique smoothly and even effortlessly.
Find ways to draw new inspiration, to invigorate our writing with freshness, vivacity, and uniqueness. (See my recent post on 15 Ways to Find Inspiration in 2015).
How about YOU? Have you had to wait? What steps are you taking to make sure you're improving and not just staying in the same spot?
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