Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I've Learned Since Getting The Call

By Jeannie Watt

1. Ideas and proposals still get rejected.

I thought that after receiving The Call that anything an author cared to write was automatically turned into a book. Not so, and that’s a very good thing. Editors see so many stories in the course of their jobs that what seems fresh to an author may not be so fresh to the editor. Apparently sometimes certain professions/conflicts/ideas will suddenly start appearing at the same general time. When I submitted my Too Many Cooks? trilogy idea, I found that there were a lot of chef stories being submitted at that time. I’d thought I’d hit on an untapped profession.

And then there are clichés—cliché plot devices, resolutions, conflicts. Too much telling, not enough showing. Too much realizing and not enough action. All of these are reasons that I’ve gone back to the drawing board after submitting proposals, and every time, it's been worth the extra effort.

2. Writing doesn’t get easier. You’d think after all this practice that it would simply flow. Other than the two books mentioned in #4 below, that hasn’t been my experience. Most of my books beat the crud out of me—sometimes more than once. Fortunately I love to write, love the challenge of creating characters and developing a story, even if I sometimes go to bed wondering how on earth I'm going to come up with an ending/deeper conflict/bigger obstacle to love.

3. You don’t have nearly as much time to perfect your books after book number one. I spent two years working on my first book, sending it in, getting rejected, rewriting and sending it in again. I could rattle off certain scenes verbatim since I’d worked on them so often. And then I sold my second book and I had a deadline. Deadlines move toward you at the speed of light. I had no idea.

4. Just because one book is easy to write, it doesn’t mean the next one will be. I’ve written two books that flowed almost effortlessly. There were a few problems, but for all intents and purposes, the writing was easy. I thought I'd tapped into some new source of inspiration, crossed some magical boundary, and writing would now be easy every time. I hadn't and it wasn’t. The next three books were very challenging and I learned a lot writing them—like don’t expect writing to be easy.

5. While your current book is beating you up, the next idea you have seems so perfect and fresh that you can’t wait to get going. Then you finish the killer book, revise it and finalize it and start on the new fresh idea, which then proceeds to beat you up. Meanwhile, the previous killer book is about to be released. You get your author copies and now the story is exciting and you love it and you wonder why you thought you ever had a problem getting the words on paper. If only the current WIP would be as cooperative…in other words writing is like natural childbirth. You forget what the process is like until you go through it again, but once done, it’s well worth it. 

I'd love to hear any additions to my list of things people have learned since starting to write. Remember that if you post, your name will be included in our next Super Author drawing.

43 comments:

marybelle said...

Who'd be a writer?? Not me thank you. This was very interesting thank you. I hope you don't get the crud beaten out of you too often.

EllenToo said...

Thank goodness there are people like you who are determined to write books for the rest of us to read in spite of the rejections or the rest of us wouldn't have anything to read.
Keep on writing and I'll keep on reading.

liztalley said...

Well, I'm so relieved to know I'm not the only one. :)

I stress over every book. They all wallop me at times, and I wonder why did I WANT to do this? But, I suppose it is good it's like childbirth and we forget or I'd never do it again. Or maybe I'm just too stubborn and love a challenge? Who knows? But it's good to see all writers go through the same process.

Now back to getting the crud beaten out of me. LOL.

Kate said...

I once tried to write a story longhand, but after five pages had to go back to the keyboard. Every word I write, I swear I rewrite it at least three times. And changing the point of view of some scenes to make them stronger? Or gritting my teeth and cutting entire scenes?

I'm one of those writers who prefers 'having written' to teasing the story out one day at a day.

Thanks for the post. It's always comforting to share the pain!

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Marybelle--I'm between beatings now, lol. And just so you know, there are moments of sheer joy while creating a story. But somehow it's never as easy to write a book as I think it should be.

Jeannie Watt said...

Ellen Too--It's a deal! I'll keep writing, you keep reading. Thank you so much for all of your support.

Jeannie Watt said...

Liz--I love knowing I'm not alone in this. It seems we all share similar experiences during the writing. When I first started putting pen to paper I thought that the established writers had "figured it out" and just cranked out stories. I didn't know that they could write themselves into a corner just as easily as I could. Well maybe not quite as easily. I spent a lot of time in corners in the beginning.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Kate--I can't write longhand either. I have too much to move around and delete, etc. And it does feel good to share the pain. The other thing that's fun to share is the elation of finally finishing. I love to hear when authors have finally finished a book and are doing their happy dance.

Vicki said...
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Vicki Essex said...

I'm currently in the special circle of hell where I'm trying to pitch, write and get my second book published. Everything you said is on the nose. So glad you shared.

JV said...

I've only had one column published in the newspaper, but I have learned from writing blog posts, email newsletters, letters, and email messages over the years that no matter how often I re-read what I've written and how meticulously I edit myself (or perhaps, in part, BECAUSE of editing myself repeatedly), there will be something wrong with what I've written that I discover just as soon as I've sent it on its way. I don't think that has ever failed to be the case. I'm sure this post will be no exception, even though I've previewed it three times now and edited it.

One extreme example is when I worked as records clerk for the Registrar's Office years ago. Pre-computer era, we typed up fill-in-the-blank form letters to send out when we needed to alert students about routine problems. I sent one letter out for about 7 years before we switched to computerized mail-merge letters and I discovered that my letter had said, "I regret any convenience this may cause you." It was kind of a Freudian slip because, in all honesty, I was mad at them for causing me the inconvenience, but I hadn't meant to say it. Oooops! And I never had anyone call me on it in all those years.

Mary Brady said...

Jeannie, I'm with Liz, glad to know I'm not the only one! I so love the process of developing a new story idea. If I could do that for a living I'd be in my idea of writing bliss.

Tammy Yenalavitch said...

I was a writer as a child, but I have never been a professional writer and i have no plans to be one. I do love to read!

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Vicki--I understand exactly what you're going through. When I was working on the proposal for my second book, I told everyone who would listen that the second book was the most difficult. Hang in there--it'll all come together.

Jeannie Watt said...

JV--That is too funny. Seven years? Love it. I'm terrible at proofing my own writing because my brain fills in the blanks.

Jeannie Watt said...

Mary--What a grand idea-professional idea developer! I love the writing process and all the nuances I discover as I go. Unfortunately that deadline means that I can't just meander along, developing as I go--although sometimes I do just that, lol.

Jeannie Watt said...

And we love readers, Tammy. Thanks so much!

Kristina Mathews said...

Jeannie,
Thanks for sharing. I have learned so much in the last year and a half since writing seriously. In a lot of ways it was easier before I knew anything.

I am now to the very scary point of getting ready to send my work out there. Part of me wants to crawl under a rock but they would find me. The stories always find me, and they will keep me awake at night until I get them out.

PatriciaW said...

Boy, doesn't this sound masochistic? " While your current book is beating you up, the next idea you have seems so perfect and fresh that you can’t wait to get going. Then you finish the killer book, revise it and finalize it and start on the new fresh idea, which then proceeds to beat you up."

But I love it. It lets me know that writing is about what you feel about the process. Because the process ebbs and tides.

Darlene Gardner said...

Writing is such a solitary pursuit that it surprises me anew when I read something like Jeannie's blog and identify with every word.

Something I've learned since getting the call is to guard my writing time. It's way too easy to get sidetracked with writing-related activities like blogging, promotion, posting on email loops and boards, etc. So I write on an Alpha Smart with no Internet access!

Kaelee said...

Another reader here that is so happy that all the authors out there keep getting beat up so that I can enjoy their stories. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have books to read.

I wouldn't even be a good editor as I fill in the blanks as well and tend to really enjoy most books.

Jeannie Watt said...

Kristina--Good luck with your submissions. Yes, it's scary, but it's also liberating. Lol at the stories finding you. I'd never thought of it that way.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Patricia--It does sound a bit masochistic, lol. There are so many good things about writing, though, and the good far outweighs the rigors involved. And you're so right--the process ebbs and flows.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Darlene--The internet is wonderful because it allows writers to share the process. I've also learned to guard my writing time, which is why I'm pretty much a non-social networker. Not enough time in the day to do everything.

Jeannie Watt said...

Kaelee--I love that you love our books!

Beth Andrews said...

Jeannie, I am in full agreement with your list *g* For me, the most important thing I've learned is that any book can be fixed. I have "Books aren't written - they're rewritten." up on my computer to remind me that first drafts aren't the finished product :-)

Beth Andrews said...

Oh! Forgot to mention how excited I am for your Too Many Cooks trilogy!! Can't wait :-)

Marcie said...

Love this blog!!

I automatically assumed that once you're in, you're in. I'm glad there are writers out there who don't mind sharing the truth and let us unpubbed know what to expect.

Thanks Jeannie!!

alinaduffer said...

Hi Jeannie! I am so happy to hear that lots of writers have these problems. I am in the process of preping two of my manuscrips to be sent out. I am so scared, lol! My first one took me over a year to write, but my second one just flowed out of me in 4 months. The Hero in that one drove me crazy until I wrote his story, lol!

Have a wonderful night!

Joan Kilby said...

Jeannie, I agree with everything you said! My current wip is beating me up as we speak. I've learned that if I force myself to keep writing, even if it's crap, eventually the ideas will come and the words will flow. And that I have to be disciplined to make that happen. I gave up lunch with a lovely friend today to write even though it would have been so nice to take off a few hours. Now, back to getting those words onto the page!

Virginia said...

I am not a writer so I don't have anything to add. I really did enjoy the post though very interesting.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Beth--I love that saying and I think it's going on my writing wall. Revisions are my best friend. The hardest part is getting that first draft down.

Thank you for looking forward to Too Many Cooks!

Jeannie Watt said...

Marcie--I thought the same thing! In one of Virginia Kantra's acknowledgments she thanked her editor for taking a chance on the story (which was excellent) and that was my first clue that not every story flew.

Jeannie Watt said...

Alina--Doesn't it feel wonderful when the story demands to be told? Sometimes, though, the ones I fight with the most end of being my favorites. I guess because we spent so much intimate time together, lol. Best of luck with your submissions.

Jeannie Watt said...

Good luck with the words, Joan, and sorry you missed lunch with your friend. I missed about half a season of my favorite TV shows writing a story. But it was worth it.

Jeannie Watt said...

Thanks for stopping by, Virginia!

Snookie said...

Interesting blog Jeannie :) Count me in with the rest of the readers rather than writers :). I write non-fiction technical/scientific reports. The occasional one has beaten me up, but not like yours beat you authors! Usually its my fault for not researching something beforehand!

linda s said...

That sounds like work... sigh. Another illusion shattered. But thank you. I really enjoy the results.

Toni Kenyon said...

Jeannie,

Why can't you just lie and tell us it's all a breeze after you get published ... sigh ;-)

Vicki - you made me laugh with your 'special circle of hell'. It makes it all look like so much fun! *grin*

I think some days that I preferred it when I just wrote and knew little about the craft of writing. There's a special kind of bliss in ignorance.

Toni

Na said...
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Na said...

Some great lessons learned. It's important to believe in yourself and to write consistently.

Rogenna Brewer said...

I read your blog on Tuesday and then time got away from me Jeannie and I forgot to post.

Good to know I'm not alone and everyone else is just breezing along with their writing.

Donya P said...

Great advice as usual! I love the way you all share, and help others like myself learn and grow. Thank you for taking the time to spread the wealth of your knowledge!

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