The Journey of Writing Pt 2 - What the Process Looks Like: from Pen to Publisher

Everyone’s journey, process, road – whatever you feel like calling it – looks different. Some people are 21 years old, write a manuscript, and voila! Presto Change-o, someone they know knows someone else and suddenly they get a publisher right off the bat. Those are exciting stories. Yet for the 99.999% of other writers, like me, stories like that are not inspiring. They’re absolutely crippling. Because your journey does not look like that, and it makes you wonder if you really have what it takes. You struggle and write, and sometimes chapters upon chapters practically write themselves and you’re giddy with how much joy you can receive from it all. Then something happens at work or home that derails the momentum for a while. And it goes on and on. Back and forth like the relentless pendulum on a grandfather clock.

Since everyone has a different story, what I can tell you is what my road looked like. I hope it’s encouraging. One of my greatest joys is helping other people feel good about creating and cheering you on.

It started with an idea. You can read more about how to actually write your book even when life is complicated (because when isn’t it?) in Part 3. And it’s more fully explained with room to write your own thoughts in my field-guide book Brass: Stop Sleepwalking Through Life

After I finally got to a place where I was satisfied with the manuscript (see Part 5 on editing LINK), I decided I wanted to go the route of trying to get published at a traditional publisher vs. self-publishing. The first place to start with that is procuring a literary agent. Only 1% of writers have an agent. So there’s that. But I wanted to try anyway. So I embarked on what I like to call, the Agent Quest. It’s a process that helps you develop your pitch about your book to anyone, whether you go directly to a publisher, an agent, or self-publish.

I did get an agent, then came more editing from her suggestions. Brace yourself for a world of editing.

So… It’s been five years now. 26 rejections. Twenty-six. Not that I’m counting. I hired a freelance editor to look at the first book. I started to feel that I should get the book “out there” this year. There were several reasons for that, but suffice it to say, I was earnest in my love of the book, the love of writing, and perhaps this book needed to be out there and I would go ahead and self-publish it. I knew beyond a doubt I would keep writing; I have to find out what happens next! And I also knew I was not a closet author. I wouldn’t let these rejections make me quietly place the manuscript in the closet and never write again. No way. So I hired the editor and I was waiting for her revision suggestions.

This past summer, my family took a little vacation. One morning, I was just waking up and looked at my phone. It was 9:15 and I saw that I had a voicemail. I lazily picked up my phone and listened to the message from a number I didn’t recognize. Instantly, I jolted up practically levitating, landing on my knees on the bed, slapping my hand down repeatedly while tears streamed down my face. I scared the bejeezus out of my husband. He was now yelling, “Who died?!?” I tried to give him the thumbs up, telepathically telling him I’m happy despite all the signs. I put the phone down and squeakily, said, “It was my agent! She didn’t get just a book deal. She got a THREE BOOK DEAL!” For at least ten times of telling family members my exciting news, I cried every single time.

This is why this is worth it, people. Even before getting signed, I’d accomplished a dream of not just writing a book, but becoming a writer. It’s part of who I am now, recognized or not. It’s a love – a passion I enjoy and it makes me feel more alive. And going the traditional route, I honestly wanted the validation that other people like my work. I wanted to see my book in Barnes and Noble, darn it. I didn’t want to just audit classes, I wanted the degree that validated what I’d done. I had put myself out there for judgment and critique. I kept on editing and learning. But I wouldn’t have even had a chance at validation if I’d skipped out on the hard work. That has been worth it, too. A good manuscript will open doors, but there’s no guarantee on how long that will take. And with the hard work and the fortitude, I now have a team of people to advise and help me in the next part of the journey. The work doesn’t end here. In fact, it’s just starting.

After all these years… Do you know the most interesting response I get from people after telling this story? From veterans of art, business, and education, I frequently get a response I love. It’s an unexpected response. It’s not about the fact that the books will, in fact, be in Barnes and Noble. Nor from the fact that they’re wowed from the news of getting a good, big publisher. No. It’s not that that they’re impressed with. It’s the the long road and the fortitude to keep going to the end. They say, “Wow. You’re a real writer.”