Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Road to Publication: Backroads vs. Superhighway

By Debbie Maxwell Allen

It's a dream most writers have. Shaking hands with an agent at a conference, showing a sample of your work, and receiving an instant offer of representation followed by rapid publication. Who wouldn't enjoy getting on the fast track, not to mention receiving a check for the years of work already put in?

But I believe a short-cut to publication can actually short-change authors. Why?

High Speed. On a highway, your speed keeps you from absorbing the nuances of the scenery. In the same way, getting published quickly can mean you miss working on important elements of the craft of writing. A delay in publication forces writers to work harder. They join critique groups, read writing books and excellent examples of fiction. This makes for a deeper writer, rather than a quick success who has trouble with subsequent books.

Smooth Pavement. A smooth road means  traveling faster, but if you hit a pothole at that speed, it can be disastrous. On the bumpy back roads to publication, writers get familiar with rejection. Critique groups, contests, and the query process all help to develop the thick skin necessary for future success. Without this rhino skin, authors can be in danger of writer's block, or even depression when they discover that not everyone enjoys their book. Reviewers and readers are not shy about expressing their displeasure in books they've read. As writers, we need to get accustomed to criticism early. Bring on the bumps.

Anonymous Travelers. High speeds keep drivers from interacting with others who share the road. In fact, drivers see other travelers as competition, people just getting in the way. Back road drivers expect the trip to take longer. They have time to wave at those they pass, even offer a hand to someone that needs it. 

If you get published rapidly, you are immediately thrust into a world of rewrites and marketing that precludes much of the time you might like to spend helping other writers. Writers who experience a lengthy path to publication have the luxury of developing deeper relationships, and cheering each other on.

None of us knows how long our journey will last. Some writers have labored for decades, others just a few years. The important things to spend time on are craft, accepting rejection, and befriending one another. Enjoy this part of the journey. All too soon, you'll be looking back wistfully. And telling wonderful stories about the years of waiting.

Are you content on the back roads?

About the Author: Debbie Maxwell Allen writes young adult historical fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. She blogs about free resources for writers at Writing While the Rice Boils