From the moment you touch fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, you dream of this moment.
Through the long months or years. The worry. The fear. The crushing self-doubt that makes your cursor hover over your project, knowing that all you have to do is hit “delete” and no one will ever have to know you tried.
This guest post is by D.W. (Wendy) Vogel. Wendy Vogel is a veterinarian, marathon runner, SCUBA diver, and breast cancer survivor. She is currently head cat-herder of Cincinnati Fiction Writers where twice monthly she wages war on comma splices and point of view shifts. She and her chef husband Andrew live in Cincinnati.
There are highs along the road. Scenes that make the outside world spin away until there is nothing left but you and your words. Your world. Milestones like “one chapter down,” “halfway through,” and “The End.”
Some days you know it’s awful. The worst book ever written. A great steaming plop of dinosaur poop on a foggy Cretaceous beach, and the best thing that could happen is a well-placed meteor strike.
Some days you soar. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. It will fly off the shelves and the literary world will fall at your feet, showering you with champagne and those little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
Your friends don’t understand. If you’re like me, it’s because you never told them you were writing a book. Just in case you didn’t finish it. Just in case you did finish it, and it was terrible.
But you do it. You finish the manuscript. Where nothing was, something is. It’s your story. Your world. Your people facing your trials.
That’s a great day. And its shining light dims behind you as the darkness of querying and submission wraps you in its soul-strangling shadow.
If you think that sounds melodramatic, it’s because you haven’t started querying yet.
Trust me. Soul-strangling.
There are a million blog posts out there about how to query, how to submit, how to revise and try again.
Read them. Revise, reimagine, recreate.
Because one day the light will shine again.
One day you’ll hear the most beautiful word in the English language.
Someone loves your book. Someone wants it. Someone believes in your writing enough to spend their company’s time and money to make it perfect and birth it into the world with their name behind it.
The first thing you’ll feel is elation.
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But in the weeks and months and years of self-doubt, you’ve gotten a lot of practice at fear. Now you have new things to be afraid of.
What will the editors want? What if they want changes that make this “not yours” anymore? What if they don’t?
That last one is scarier than you might think. Because they’re your words. People you don’t know, who aren’t your friends and don’t love you are going to be reading your words. The very letters you typed on your keyboard in a fever of inspiration or scratched into your notebook when the muse arrived to whisper in your ear…those words are going to be out there. In the world. In the hands of strangers.
At least, you hope so.
Maybe no one will buy it at all.
Everything changes when a manuscript becomes a book. It doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the readers, that adoring audience you imagined on your morning commute, or in the shower, or while cleaning the cat box. To the crowd of eager fans lined up around the block for your new release.
Now that’s something to daydream on.
Landing a book deal is strapping on a parachute and opening the airplane door. Wonderful things can happen, and it only takes one small step.
When you get here, you’ll understand.
And when you finally hear that glorious “yes,” you’ll realize that “The End” is really just the beginning.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.