• THE
    Writing Prompt
    Boot Camp

    Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the Writing Prompt Boot Camp download.

  • Guide to Literary Agents

7 Ways a Writing Career is Like a Theme Park

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, What's New.

1. You will spend most of your time in line.

Go to any amusement park across this great nation. You will see loads of people willingly lined up in very long queues to board rides which only last around five minutes. Writing is kind of like that. The period leading up to my debut’s release was a very long wait, with not very much happening. My actual release month was like the time on the ride—I could barely catch my breath. Also, when I was first starting out, I thought that at some point things would move faster. I know for a few folks, sometimes things do move very quickly (if you manage to snag a VIP pass, you can skip the line). But for the vast majority of writers, there are long periods of waiting in between thrill rides. Write something else in the meantime. You’ve got time.

GIVEAWAY: JJ is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: KarenLange won.)

 

that-time-i-joined-the-circus-book-novel     jj-howard-author-writer

Column by J.J. Howard, who is wearing headphones right now, most
likely. She grew up in York, Pennsylvania, obsessed with music, movies,
television, and pop culture. J.J. earned her BA in English at Dickinson
College and her MH at Tiffin University. She has been some of her
students’ favorite English teacher for a quite a few years (she even
has a mug somewhere to prove it). THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS
(April 2013, Point Books) is her debut young adult novel. Kirkus said
of the fun debut, “[It's a story] for any reader who ever has felt like
running away to join the circus.
J.J. loves to hear from readers
and is always ready to trade playlists. Visit her on Twitter.

 

 

2. Plan ahead.

I live in Florida, so I know it’s going to rain in the summer. Visitors to our theme parks generally walk happily through the gates at nine AM—confident that the sun will keep shining. Of course it rains most afternoons, and they wish they’d packed an umbrella or poncho. A writing career is very similar—learn the terrain, and plan accordingly.

(Why writers who don’t have a basic website are hurting their chances of success.)

Whether you are just starting out, or already partway there, it’s important to know that there’s a certain protocol to most aspects of the business, and you will generally get further by respecting the guidelines than going rogue. If you follow folks in publishing, any day on Twitter you can read about authors querying agents or houses with projects in the wrong genre. This is poor planning.

Speaking of Twitter (find JJ on Twitter here), I can’t imagine a better place to sit back, pay attention, and learn the lay of the land from the folks who make things happen in publishing. Ten years ago, there was no way for a new author to be able to eavesdrop on these in-the-know conversations.

Other important items to pack for the writer’s journey: patience, a thick skin (remember, it’s book business, not book art), and a snack. Hey, writing makes you hungry.

3. Mass appeal is a good thing.

Who doesn’t love a theme park? Most people do—because they have mass appeal. There are familiar characters wandering around. Each park is different, and the designers have put their own spin on the traditional elements, but there is an underlying familiarity there. If you want to sell your work, it’s hard to beat this story formula: characters and situations that resonate with a lot of people done in a fresh, creative way. You can try to come up with a story idea so unique that no one has ever, in the history of the world, attempted such a project. But think about who’s going to read it. Because in the end, that’s sort of the whole point.

4. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

Those people who just butted in line a little ways ahead? It’s not worth an argument. Let them get on the ride ahead of you. You’ll get there. Be patient.

The same is very true for writing: while you’re on Twitter, learning a lot about the publishing world, someone whose debut came out after yours will get their second or third book deal. Be patient. Keep writing. You’ll get there.

5. Listen to the experts.

If you’re going to a park for the first time and you’re with someone who goes there every weekend, you should probably let her forge the path. The same holds true in writing-world. If you are fortunate enough to have an agent interested in your work and in working with you, listen to all their advice. They’ve got the season pass. They know what’s up.

(Do you need different agents if you write multiple genres?)

6. You can meet great people from all over the world.

Just don’t give anyone your poncho. You might need that.

7. Realize that the plan may change

If it does rain, the park might shut down your favorite ride. You might drop your hat, or your money, or forget where you parked. Make the best of it all anyway, if you still want to have a pleasant trip. Same with your writing career: some elements will be beyond your power to control. In fact, a lot of elements are out of your control. I’d say, don’t worry so much about the stuff you can’t change, focus on the things that you can.

Enjoy the ride.

GIVEAWAY: JJ is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: KarenLange won.)

 

youngadultnovel_1

The Publish Your Young Adult Novel Kit has
three awesome items bundled together at a
great 55% discount. These three resources
teach you how to format your submission,
hone your craft/manuscript, and then find
agents & editors to target. Available while
supplies last.

 

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts
  • Print Circulation Form

    Did you love this article? Subscribe Today & Save 58%

22 Responses to 7 Ways a Writing Career is Like a Theme Park

  1. KarenLange says:

    I love this comparison! Writing is some kind of journey that’s for sure! Thanks, J.J. and Chuck, for sharing this.

  2. burrowswrite says:

    It’s great to see someone my age doing what I am doing. Keep it up! Can’t wait to read the book.

  3. hedgemeister says:

    I HATE theme parks, but the comparisons are dead on. Thanks for the reminder not to give away my poncho.

    Laura Hedgecock
    http://www.TreasureChestofMemories.com
    http://www.twitter.com/LauraLHedgecock

  4. tatumlight says:

    I say WAIT is a 4-letter word. It’s the hardest part by far. Thanks for your insight.

  5. Glindathegood says:

    Love it! This is a great post.

  6. LorelaiWilde says:

    I’ve never thought about it this way but it makes sense. I needed this! Thanks!

  7. ChrisVil says:

    Great tips JJ!

  8. donnadootx says:

    Great tips for the writing journey. And I love the cover of your book, JJ! Can I run away today?

  9. benbobbins says:

    Authors who have found success reassuring those who haven’t yet is always the strongest encouragement for me. Another possible analogy: facing your fears. Riding the newest scream machine might be intimidating. Yet in writing, I’ve found some of the times where I’ve forced myself to write in different styles and genres end up as my proudest stories.

  10. Silkienne says:

    That Time I Joined The Circus makes me think of a Grandparent telling tall tales to the grand kids. This could actually be a lot of fun and making up “fish stories” would make the suspension of reality an easy accomplishment. I can envision many ways this book could evolve, including a day at the Amusement Park!

  11. Mialie says:

    I love the cover on the book – so enticing! Of course we can’t judge a book by its cover, but the storyline sounds delicious too. Would love to get the giveaway copy!

  12. Gonzalo Salinas says:

    Fun to read. True. I used to live two blocks away from Busch Gardens and ride Sheikra roller coaster after reading Tolstoy!

    Great article colleague!

    Gonzalo

  13. DanielJayBerg says:

    Thanks for sharing this unique comparison. I’d love to learn more about recommended agents/editors/authors to follow on Twitter and other social media.

    • JJ Howard says:

      If you’re at the querying stage, you can’t beat @queryshark! My agency’s Twitter/Tumblr is also full of helpful questions and answers! @NewLeafLiterary (you can get to the Tumblr from there).
      Best of luck :)

  14. Lindsay Mead says:

    I love the cover on J.J.’s book. Just lovely. This was a very interesting and helpful article. Thanks for sharing it!

  15. Nvarm says:

    Thanks for the tips! The analogy was great!

  16. Katrina Rychling says:

    JJ Thank you so much for the writing tips. I’m sure your novel will be a great success.

  17. Tower_Keeper says:

    Another comparison is never eat anything before going on the Tilt-a-whirl because you will hurl. As in writing you…um…well darn I thought that there was a comparison but it would seem I am wrong. Great article though thank for sharing!

  18. Debbie says:

    Patience appears to be key. I would love to read your book to vision the analogy so defined in amusement parks and writing…clever! Thanks so much.

  19. burrowswrite says:

    Thank you for the great tips!

  20. Clae says:

    Yay, a fellow Floridian writer! Great column, good advice for both writing and theme parks. Can’t wait to read your book, looks like fun.

  21. Chuck Sambuchino says:

    Thank you for the column, JJ!

Leave a Reply