Thursday, June 6, 2013

Trying to get published? Enjoying the process keeps you on the track to go the distance.

I have been writing and trying to get published for nearly a decade. And the entire time I have had a mantra, which I mutter to myself over and over. (It's my wife's mantra, actually, but I am taking credit for it.) Enjoy the process. Ohhmmmm. Enjoy the process. Ohhmmmmm.

I know what you are asking yourself. How could I not enjoy the process? I love to write, therefore it is a no-brainer that I will enjoy writing a novel or a work of non-fiction. I like this answer, and it is a good thing to remind oneself of on occasion, because you do love to write, otherwise you would never find yourself in this predicament. But it is nowhere near as easy as this, something you will find out for the first time about 75-100 pages in. Right about then your writing adrenaline runs out and you get a hankering to play golf, or take a hike or plant geraniums. And writing the next chapter becomes about as much fun as cleaning a year's worth of accumulation from the grease trap on your grill (yes, there is one, and yes, it has to be cleaned--otherwise a grease fire results, and, yes, that did happen to me just the other night.)

A lot of people start writing a novel (just ask my wonderful agent, Liz Kracht) but many fewer come even close to finishing the process, by which I mean completing the first draft, editing it, sending it out to Beta-readers and editing it all over again. So who are the lucky ones that finish the process? These are the folks, like me, that were successful in enjoying the process. The intent of this post is to lend you the ideas which worked well for me.

1) Dream. 

This comes easily to me, being the son of a dreamer. But if it doesn't come easily to you, learn the skill. My dreams kept me going when a dozen rejection letters screamed I would never make it as a writer. When query letters went unanswered, my dreams responded and encouraged me to press on. What did I dream about? Little things at first, like getting my first e-mail asking me to submit my manuscript. When that happened I dreamed bigger, imagining how I would feel when I got a phone call from an agent who was excited about the manuscript. And then I dreamed about getting a contract in the mail... the feel of the stationary (was NOT disappointed Kimberley), the sound of the words proclaiming you to be a legitimate writer.

I also dream big, about getting a publishing contract, making it to the NYT Bestseller list, winning an Edgar Award--I have as much chance as I do winning the US Open, and I dream about that as well. The dreams can be realistic or far-fetched--I recommend a smattering of both--the point is to keep the fun alive and it honestly has worked for me. The best part of the process so far was going to a private cocktail party thrown by the Kensington Publishing Corporation. Being a social person, I have entertained this idea often, and the realization of this dream was fantastic, without any of the let-down you might expect.  For starters, I was accompanied by my fantastic agent and her entire agency, all charming people. Secondly, I got to meet an editor I have followed for a long time on Twitter, and he was as witty and insightful as I had suspected he would be (you know who you are Peter S). Thirdly, the view from the 21st floor was spectacular, and the Tanqueray didn't disappoint. This may not seem like a huge event to you, but try forcing yourself to write a thousand words some afternoon when you would rather put a sharp object into your eye than sit behind the keyboard.

2) Celebrate the successes along the way.    

I am a glass half full guy, it's true (I credit my mother, who can spot the silver lining in an any cloud no matter how dark). But even if you are a glass half-empty person, it is still possible to see some victories along the way. And when you see them, celebrate them. I am talking about the small victories, because the big wins are a long time in coming, and you will never get to them if you don't enjoy the little ones that precede them. Just finish a really difficult chapter? That's an achievement; open a bottle of Switchback--the best ale in Vermont, if not the world. Work out a plot line that's been nagging at you? Take your kids out for an ice cream; I recommend Ben and Jerry's Pistachio Pistachio. Think of a character you just can't wait to flesh out on paper, brew a cup of tea and sit down and do it.

The more substantial triumphs should be dealt with more substantially. Finish the first draft? Take someone special out to a nice restaurant, such as Cafe Provence in Brandon, VT. Get helpful feedback from a Beta-reader? Make some of your favorite coffee and put that good advice to use. Get your first request for a partial manuscript or even a full? Take a long hike with your dog and think about how good you are going to feel when that request for a manuscript turns into an offer of representation. I realize that the most likely outcome of that request is going to be a rejection, but if you don't take a minute to smell the roses you are never going to go the distance.

Okay, you have been very patient, and although I could certainly go on (and on and on) I am committed to make these posts short--plus I have laundry to do. My website peterhogenkamp.com should be going live today, and I would be greatly appreciative if you would check it out.