Writers, I know many of you are dealing with obstacles right now. I've heard from several of you recently. You're having issues with focus, clarity and discipline. You're having trouble with your revision. You're stuck in query letter hell. You've got something on your hands you know is great (others, well-read, super-smart others, have told you!) yet you can't land an agent. You've got a published book, yes actually published(!), but it's not selling as quickly as you had hoped. You have this goal - to be a successful author - but all this stuff is getting in the way, dang it!
My dears, let's break this down. I'm going to do this blog post a little differently this week. Today, we're focusing on issues with focus, clarity and discipline. Revision issues will follow on Tuesday; query letter hell on Wednesday; agent limbo on Thursday; and book sales on Friday. We're not gonna let these issues get in your way! Let's keep moving forward. Keep your goal, change your action steps.
Issues with focus and clarity. Ok. You know you're passionate about writing but don't know where to start and how to stay on track. This is an issue with knowing your authentic voice and knowing your audience. If you were to choose a writing career path, what would it look like? What are you passionate about besides writing? What issues do you connect with mind, body and soul? Do you love travel (and actually travel often)? Do inspire others into action? Are you a natural born advocate with a lot specialized knowledge/training in a particular field? Love genre fiction (romance/sci-fi/thriller/YA/suspense, etc....though not all in one!)? Feel your heart lies in narrative nonfiction, literary fiction or short stories?
Hone in on what interests you and hang out there a while. Read loads of books on your subject of interest/genre of interest. Learn. Then write like some of your favorite authors. Try on their voices and see what happens. But ultimately, this getting to know you phase is meant to help narrow down your interests and get you working on finding your own voice. For more on this topic, read my blog with editorial consultant Marcela Landres. [Side note, before Marcela became an independent editorial consultant, she was a phenomenal editor at Simon and Schuster who for several years oversaw their Spanish language imprint, Libros en Espanol. She rocks.]
One you're focused on what you want to write, see it. Visualize yourself actually writing it. Outline your novel or nonfiction book. How does it take shape? Imagine the cover, the blurbs, the reviews. Now see it in the context of your life. Is this work something you want to continue with...the genre, I mean? A traditional publisher wants an author who, beyond having a great platform, has another couple of books up their sleeves...in the same genre. I know...a lot of you want to publish cross-genre, but your publisher doesn't care about those aspirations...yet. They want to see how you can establish yourself as a YA or Mystery author, for example. Once you're bringing in the dough and you've established your name...they may consider letting you try your pen at something else, as long as it's not too far from your home base. As in, it's doubtful a chick-lit author will get to publish a cook book unless there's a great, easily identifiable hook.
For more on how to attain Clarity, check out these past blogs about Clarity Through Goals and Clarity Through Workshopping, with bestselling authors, Chelsea Cain, Chuck Palahniuk, Suzy Vitello Soule and award-winning broadcast journalist, Diana Page Jordan.
Discipline? Just do it. Just find the time, carve it out, sacrifice an hour from TV here, an hour of sleep there, an hour from housework, from whatever and do it! We're all faced with challenges that get in the way of our creative time. C'est la vie! Make the choice to work around them! Now, of course there are times when you're just too emotionally fragile to write (or you're sick like I was this weekend, ugh!) By all means, take a time out...a big one. Get the help and support that's necessary. Take care of yourself. You need to. But please, do come back to the table where you'll be welcomed with open arms! Read author and writing instructor at Boston University, Michelle Hoover's blog about her long journey to publishing her novel, The Quickening, to inspire your inner Rocky, Rudy or Billy Elliot (your choice...I love all three, but Billy is my favorite)!
Now, writers. During this time of honing your focus and gaining clarity about where you want this writing career to go, try not to get buried in all the "how to get published" stuff out there. Let that be your focus when you're ready for that step...when your work is finished. Focus on your voice and craft. Voice and craft. Voice and craft. All the best advice on how to lure an agent isn't going to help you if you haven't crafted something truly remarkable and compelling. Publishers publish great writing, not great ideas. Got it? Great!!
Stay tuned. Tuesday we'll get into how to tackle revision issues.
Have a great, productive Monday, everyone!
Your Action: For my Focus/Clarity/Discipline challenged souls, no assignment other than reflect on this post and re-read the other suggested postings for clarity and inspiration.