Friday, August 3, 2012

New Writers—Patience

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

4357529719_5548c4fce6My son is a rising sophomore in high school. I’ve heard from several friends with older kids that it might be smart for my son and I to get an early start researching colleges.

I started looking up information on college admissions. I realized that there’s an overwhelming amount of information out there. In fact, there’s so much information that it’s hard to know where to start looking. Not only is there information on various schools, but there are tips for activities to get involved in that look good on admissions forms, college interview tips, essay tips, and a tremendous amount of info on grants and scholarships.

My head started spinning.

I reminded myself that we have plenty of time to figure this stuff out and that’s the whole reason we’re starting early. There’s no magic pill to take to immediately know all there is to know about the college admission process. We’re just gradually going to need to absorb it.

This is remarkably like the process of finding out about publishing. Yes, there’s a lot of information. There might be too much information.

I’ve recently had two different new writers contact me about publishing. They were both local writers and just starting out. They asked me to bring them into the loop when it came to information about pursuing publishing.

I’m always happy to help out new writers. I had helpful writers point me in the right direction when I was the one asking a lot of questions. (And boy, has the publishing landscape changed since I started investigating it in the early 00s.)

It’s very hard to know how to advise new writers. I think it’s necessary to know a lot about where they are right now. Do they have a finished manuscript? Have they been working with a critique group? Have they been reading writing or publishing blogs? What do they know? How long have they been serious about writing? Is it a lifelong dream for them to be on a bookstore shelf or will they consider other options?

When I’ve mentioned self-publishing as an option in the recent past, new writers have almost seemed rebuffed by my suggestion. As if I somehow thought their work wasn’t of good enough quality to submit to New York publishers.

That wasn’t the case at all—it was more that I wanted to encourage them to find out more about a viable option for their books that might even enable them to reach the audience they’re looking for.

What I think is one of the most important traits for writers interested in publishing (either traditional or self-publishing), is patience. We need to have patience with ourselves to fully learn and explore our options and patience with our story—the patience necessary to rework or revise it to make sure it’s ready for readers. And we need patience to learn our options and the current state of the industry. We need patience in order to develop our craft.

It can be nice, however, to at least have a starting point for our research (I’m finding one for the college search.) As a starting point for learning about publishing, I recommend industry expert Jane Friedman’s post—it’s sort of a beginner’s guide to publishing: Wanting to have your book published? A beginner's guide.

How are you approaching gathering information on the industry and the writing craft? Any other traits that could be helpful for new writers?

Image: By English106