Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to write. She wasn’t thinking about getting published or becoming rich and famous (okay, maybe a little), she just wanted to write. She took writing classes, joined writer’s groups, and let the words pour forth. With a finished manuscript in hand, a writer friend suggested she should try to get published. Huh, why not?
So she joined more writer’s groups, took more workshops, partnered up with a critique buddy, wrote a query letter, researched agents, rewrote the query letter, researched more agents, joined more writer’s groups (even helped found one 😉 ), wrote another manuscript, created a website, developed a platform, wrote another query letter … yeah, okay, you get it.
She devoured every bit of generous advice from her just agented, just published author friends. And she played out scenarios of what it would be like to get “The Call” and what life would be like after “The Call.”
Then one day, she got “The Call.” She knew she was ready. She’d been working for this moment for years. The call came and the girl stood in her living room waiting for everything to change, for the harps to play, the birds to sing, for the big-girl author panties to finally fit.
Guess what happened next.
Are you ready?
No harps, no birds (other than the one who pooped on the grill), and the big-girl author panties promptly gave me a wedgie.
Seriously? All those years imagining the perfect scenarios for revealing my big news, the way I’d feel, the changes that news would unveil … all wrong.
I thought I’d scream the news from the top of the house, squee on social media, change every bio I’ve ever written. I told my two closest writing friends and my family. Then spent the next couple of weeks texting Laura some variation of “ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod” (actually, the only variation was the punctuation at the end of those texts). And Laura would respond with some variation of “Get over yourself and announce it already” (Actually, the only variation was the level of expletives as time went on).
I was totally unprepared for how possessive I would feel about the news. After that many years, and so many near misses, I’d connected with someone who loved my writing and believed in my ability. I kept staring at my new agent’s website and my name under her client list, hitting refresh a gazillion times just to make sure. I updated my website with “represented by,” and I’d answer the “any news” questions with “actually, yes.” But the idea of broadcasting the news—that scenario I’d played out, written and edited in my head countless times—no longer appealed. This was my happy place that I’d been working so hard for and I wanted to savor it.
I thought I had all the pieces of my platform perfectly placed and ready to take me to the next level. I’d followed all the “should dos” you read about. I had a website, twitter account that I remembered to access every so often, I was active on Facebook, even had a Pinterest account although I’d never gotten around to setting up a board for the book that actually got me the agent and sold to an editor. The more I looked at everything I’d worked so hard to build, the more I realized how much more work I had ahead of me.
My to-do list went from revisions and start new project, to revisions, start new project, get author photo taken, redesign website, develop Pinterest boards, outline/research marking ideas, catch up on Goodreads reviews, go meet local bookshop owners, set up Facebook author page, and on and on and oh my god how did I ever think I was ready?!
The other side of “The Call” was suddenly looking way more stressful than I’d imagined.
I didn’t think it would change the way I felt about writing. In all the years I was querying, I never doubted my path to traditional publishing. I wanted to work with an agent who saw something in me and could help me build a career. I wanted an editor who believed in my writing and could help me polish those word rocks into diamonds. Having those people in my corner gave me a confidence boost. Suddenly the new story I’d been noodling for ages felt doable.
And yet the moment I sat down to begin writing on that new project, I got hit with a “holy poop can I do this again” panic. Now if I don’t deliver, it’s not just me I’m letting down.
For years I watched my friends sign with agents, get publishing contracts, release books into the world. I watched how they acted and reacted in public, and I devoured their advice in private. I thought I knew exactly how I’d feel and how I would act when my time came. Not even close!
Maybe it’s because I’m not a public spectacle kinda of gal. Or maybe because I’ve embraced my inner troll. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve matured as a writer and what I thought would be the fireworks end of the journey is more of a comforting hug during the journey.
That journey, like the writing, is personal and often surprising. You may think you know where you’re headed, but things don’t always go as planned. I’ve had plenty of characters in my stories throw me plot curves. So I suppose it’s not that surprising that the well thought out scenarios for my writing career would meet with a couple of plot curves as well. The key … acknowledge and adjust.
What surprises have you found on your path to publication? Have you surprised yourself with your reaction or have you stayed the course with the mental picture you drew early on?
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After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut novel, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.