Turning Whine Into Gold
As writers, we are used to making choices on behalf of our characters. As characters in our own life stories, though, we also make choices. We set a goal, pursue it until we come to a fork in the road, and then deal with the changes and challenges this new direction brings to our lives.
Hands down, the goal that inspires the most rabid pursuit among writers is to see their work through to publication. Note “rabid.” Since rabies is an infectious disease that creates unquenchable thirst and madness, and the treatment is painful, it behooves us to look at our choices in a healthy way.
First, let’s be clear: despite the rancor often found on the front between the indie vs traditional camps, this is publishing, not war. No one is holding a gun to your head. You have entered this publication story’s plot of your own accord and can leave at any time.
You always have a choice.
In fact, the number of publishing choices for authors nowadays is unprecedented, a fact that in itself is anxiety producing! People bank on the fact that each choice will lead to “King”-sized income and best-sellerdom. It could—I’m not trying to take that dream away from anyone. Heck, I have that dream too! But let’s look at the cold, hard math:
(Assuming: same # of readers consuming same # of books)
(unprecedented # of authors getting published in an unprecedented # of ways)
= fewer readers per author.
No amount of wishful thinking can change that math.
Oh, but we want to blame someone for it, don’t we? This is where disease sets in.
But there’s an antidote for the soul-rot caused by blame. I covered the first steps to take beyond emotional reaction last month, so we could deal with our anger before spewing it all over social media. But when met with an unexpected plot twist we aren’t just going to sit in the road adapting while any old truck comes down the pike to hit us, are we? Heck no—this is our career we’re talking about.
When change provides new information, we must choose again.
How quickly we disempower ourselves by saying we “had” to go in a certain direction! If you are one who is “defaulting” to self-publishing, what you are doing is deciding to put yourself out of the misery of waiting, and choosing to take on the misery of an outcome that was less than your goal. Think of the word “de-fault”: it sounds like there’s blame hiding in there, doesn’t it?
After owning a few small businesses, I know that disempowerment is not the foundation you want to build on. You are the brand, and people want to believe in you. Being an author requires an entrepreneurial spirit, self-published or not, and to think otherwise is to live in another century.
Incontrovertible truth: You will never be able to drive forward while looking back!
There is no reason to park your creativity at the door when it comes to your publishing choices. After all, even a fork in the road has many tines, right? A choice isn’t always either/or. The language of “choice” will empower you. Here’s an example, using the self-pub default example:
I can’t get an agent/I’m too old to wait for an agent. I’ll have to self-publish.
• You could choose to stand firm and continue to submit the same, always-improving project to agents in other geographic areas.
• You could choose to start a new project and resubmit to see if agents deem it more marketable (once an offer comes through, multiple completed projects are a huge bonus—and in the time it takes to write the new novel, a new spate of hungry young agents will have arrived on-scene).
• You could choose to up your game by learning more about writing and storytelling and publishing. Knowledge breeds confidence!
• You could choose to submit to one of the many small and micro publishers that you can access without an agent.
• You could choose to begin an education in the many aspects of book production and marketing and see if the self-publishing option beckons to you. If it doesn’t, you will be that much more knowledgeable about publishing when the offer comes. If it does, you have an exciting new career option!
“Exciting new career option” sounds a lot better than “default,” right? I know people who have taken each of these paths and called it a win—because after considering many options, they owned and fully embraced the choice they made.
It is my opinion that fiction writing makes authors more empathetic people. We deal daily in human failings, deep motivations, emotional scars, and irrevocable change. Why not extend some of that empathy to ourselves? Make the choice, today, to let the protagonist in the story of your life own his or her own path. After all, you chose it.
To what aspects of your life do you feel enslaved? Do you “have” to work a day job, or care for an elderly parent? How could choice language help you honor the part of yourself that holds to this agreement?
Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, and The Far End of Happy, due May 2015.
Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing.
Kathryn lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Although a member of The Liars Club, she swears that everything in this bio is true.