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

11 comments:

  1. I'm seeing lots of great news from writers recently — some from super highway paths and others from the back roads. I need to personally speed up a few things on my end. I feel like I've lingered at a few rest stops recently. So, it's time to get back on the road. Thanks Debbie.

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  2. Sometimes it's easy to hang out at rest stops, or switch roads entirely! Glad you're getting back on the road, Stacy!

    ~Debbie

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  3. What a brilliant analogy! I loved this. Remind me to come back and re-read this next rejection I get.

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  4. Thanks for this great post. The back roads in life have the same lessons for living day to day. Like the saying (sort of) goes....stop and smell the roses, they are so very sweet.

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  5. Thanks Debbie for the awesome post that reminds us aspiring writers that the long way is usually the right way.
    I believe in trusting that you will end up where you are meant to go and we should learn to relish the individual journey. Although, this view can chip away at your confidence when you see others publishing around you and think to yourself "why not me?"
    Of course the answer is...when no one picks you, pick yourself. In other words, keep at it!
    Again thank you for the post. It lifted my spirits.
    Kayla

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  6. I'm in a permanent rest stop until I get out of the revision mire ;) But I think I find it easy to just stay where I am. Which is not good, 'cause I don't WANT to stay where I am!

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  7. Such great advice from everyone. We all need the encouragement to keep going, especially when we see others enjoy (seemingly) quick success.

    ~Debbie

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  8. This was a lovely post, and so true. You learn much more when you slow down and pay attention and get acquainted with others on the same road. I think my writing has improved over time in a way it might not have if everything had come too easily. (I do have an agent now, and good prospects for the book.)

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    1. Best of luck to you, Elizabeth! Sounds like your journey has gone the right way. :)

      ~Debbie

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  9. Great analogy here, Debbie. I can just picture an author beaming at his instant success, yet soon crumbling under the immense pressure to reproduce that success quickly despite lacking the thick skin or writing skills to go the distance. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

    You made me smile when you said we writers should take time befriending one another. I've met mostly supportive writers during my (continuing) journey, but also some condemning, arrogant souls. I'll stick with the former, thank you!

    Solid advice and well-written piece. Be well, my friend.

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    1. You're always so encouraging, Janette. I agree about meeting (mostly) wonderful people in my literary circles.

      ~Debbie

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