Thursday, July 23, 2009

Overcoming Inertia

I thought long and hard about what I’d talk about in this guest spot, and finally my husband suggested I talk about the life of a struggling writer and how you should never give up, so I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

My life as a writer started two and a half years ago when the real estate industry and I parted ways by way of a lay-off. Once the euphoria of being “free” wore off and the realization that I needed a new job set in, I did the job-hunting thing. No luck. No one was hiring in that field. So, six months later, and with my husband’s support, I decided to “get serious” about my writing. I’d scribbled down stories and books for years since the fifth grade and always wanted to be a writer. The only problem was, I didn’t have a clue. None. Being a writer is much more than dropping words on paper or banging them into a computer.

The first thing I did was enter what I considered a worthy first manuscript into a few RWA-sponsored contests. The mindset of an early writer is very naïve and pompous. I envisioned this book winning all sorts of awards and accolades, then I’d be set.

Fast forward a couple of months and the results of those contests came in, marked up in red, comments everywhere saying “nice voice but needs rewritten.” Finally, after many tears and coming to the realization I didn’t know everything, I bid goodbye to that book and finished another, determined to “show them.” Sometimes, criticism of one’s work is the best motivator. I joined a critique group and learned more stuff.

The second novel did much better. I’d learned a bit of the craft of writing, did some research on how to better my writing, etc. Never, ever think you know all there is to writing, because you don’t, know matter how many successes you have. This book actually finaled in contests. Confidence surged in.

I wrote another book, this one in a totally new genre I’d never attempted before: paranormal. It was the most fun novel I’d ever written to that point. Contest judges liked it and it finaled in four contests during the next year or so, but even though I’d had requests for partials and fulls on it, no one wanted to take it on, which is more disheartening that a flat, standard rejection because they’ve actually read the books. Depression set in during the fall of ’08.

I had no job, no money of my own, no book contracts. The only thing I had for my hard work was a pile of rejection letters. I kept sending my books out into the world, but the fun had been diminished. I turned my attention to writing short stories in an effort to keep writing, keep working on the craft. Fall in the Midwest inspires me like no other season and I knocked out a short in September, containing paranormal elements, but it was a trip to a local Penzey’s spice shop that truly inspired me. I penned another short, this time about magic and food.

They both went through the critique group with flying colors (after many revisions) so I shut my eyes and submitted them both to e-presses. Big time scary moment and I truly expected another rejection. In a few weeks, I’d gotten my first “revise and re-submit” letter from one of the publishers. So, I did, totally excited that someone thought so much of my writing they’d ask me to do this. A few days before Thanksgiving, I was offered my first contract from the other publisher, and I’m pleased to say FOODIE’S GUIDE TO KITCHEN MAGIC released from Lyrical Press in May of this year. The other short THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA PRITCHART will release in September of this year with The Wild Rose Press.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, those two books that did well on the contest circuit? Both will be published in the next year. NOT JUST MAKE BELIEVE comes out in December of this year with Desert Breeze Publishing and THE ART OF FANG SHUI will release in January of 2010 with Eirelander Publishing. Please see my website http://www.sandrasookoo for further details.

Long story short? Even though it seems sometimes that the road to publication is a long, dark, depressing journey, you can’t give up. No matter how many people say no, it only takes one yes to change your life and your perception. If you have the drive and determination and an active imagination, you will succeed, as long as you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and work hard for it. If you have the opportunity to snag a good critique partner, do it. They’re an invaluable help in the journey, and mine tells me when I’m not being honest with myself and pushes me to be more than I think I can be.

Am I perfect? Heck no! There’s still much to learn in this business and I still make mistakes in my writing which is where the critique group/partner thing comes in real handy. Am I successful? Depends on how you define the word, but in my mind, I’m having the time of my life and I can’t complain. I’ve signed numerous contracts and people are reading my work and enjoying it, so yeah, I think I’m a success. Maybe not like Nora Roberts or Mary Higgins Clark, but they had to start somewhere, too, right?

But the thing I’m most proud of? When someone asks me what I do, I say, “I’m an author.” And let me tell you, it’s the best feeling in the world. I can’t wait to see what comes next in my career. Writing rocks.

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