Writing for the Long Haul

Sometimes at writing conferences, I give talks to other writers, new or established, about writing for the long term. It’s hard to get that first book published, sure, but it’s also hard to stay published, given the industry’s ups and downs and twists and turns. At no time has that been more true than today as changes in technology affect us all. (There’s also self publishing, but that’s a whole other topic.)

I’ve been publishing with established publishing houses for over two decades–okay, well over two decades (reluctant grin!) but I still remember the early years when I thought I’d end up a little old lady and still be trying to publish my first book! And I well remember the amazing thrill of The Call–when you hear for the first time that you have an offer on your manuscript–an editor actually wants to publish it. She/he likes your work, is sending a revision letter to help you polish (yet again), is sending a check for real $–wow! Now, I’ve been in love, married, had two wonderful children, so I won’t say it was the most wonderful day of my life, but it certainly ranks high on the list! I’ve now published over 50 books, for every age level from chapter books to adult, but they’ve been mainly for young adult (YA) to middle grade (MG) readers. I can tell you the thrill never fades. And the fun comes not just in selling manuscripts, seeing your books on the shelves of stores or libraries, or signing books for your readers. The act of writing, of creating characters and stories–the process itself is and must be a particular pleasure (tho hard work, too, at times) if you want to be a writer for the long haul.

Early in my career, when rejection slips and letters descended like a New England blizzard, my family knew that I had to be left alone for a few days to work my way out of the dark hole that rejection threw me into. A hug was acceptable, but I didn’t want comforting speeches. When they heard the click-click of the keyboard, then they could stop tiptoeing around me, and life would be back to normal: Mom was writing again. Because a writer needs not only talent, constantly honed to make his/her writing skills sharper, but persistence as well. As Winston Churchill said, you never, never give up!

My visual metaphor for a genuine writer is that of old time lumber jacks who, for fun and games, would challenge each other to race on a rotating log in a river. They’d run very hard to make the log go round and round until one or both fell off into the chillly water. Running very hard to stay in the same place, like Alice and the White Queen–this is what authors do most of their careers–and when the inevitable dunking comes–you just climb back on the log and you start again!

Writers write because we love to do it, we love spinning our stories, creating our characters, growing our worlds, working with wonderful editors, and even the crazy ins and outs of the publishing industry will not defeat us.

Writers write, and we love every minute of it!