I believe that everyone walks their own road, in their own way, in their own time.
I know I did.
But... (there's always one of those, right?)... here's the thing. I get a lot (A LOT) of emails and letters from aspiring writers asking how to break into publishing. When I'm out and about at regular ol' life events, and people ask what I do... there is ALWAYS that person who is writing a book and wants to know the trick, the secret handshake... who I slept with. All that. So, I'm going to break it down for you in two parts. One quick list thingie about from whence I come, and then I'll expose the secret handshake. And no, I didn't sleep with anyone. So I can't go there. But if I HAD done that... (think casting couch), I probably would tell you, because... why not! But no. Anyway, here we go.
ONE: Quick List Thingie about ME
- I was a young single mother on welfare. (I learned to hustle. I learned persistence. I learned humility)
- I was a young single mother on welfare. ( I learned how, and WHEN, to ask for help, take it graciously, and hold my head up high)
- I was a young single mother who finished her education and got off welfare. (Nothing is ever beneath me. I'm not better than anyone.)
TWO: The Secret Handshake
It's you. YOU are the secret handshake. When I started writing, I didn't write to get published. I wrote because I was having a huge life tantrum and writing seemed to keep me sane. I didn't know anyone in this business. I didn't know about agents, or publishers. I didn't have an MFA. I made all the mistakes. I wrote TWO novels before I scored an agent and landed two 2 book deals. (That's a LOT of two's aint it?). It took me two years. 287 query letters with the first novel. 187 queries with the second novel. 11 queries and an agent with the third.
So here's what I tell people in person, via email, Facebook, etc.... "NO I DID NOT SLEEP WITH ANYONE." Ha! No. Really... here's what I say:
When you write, write for you. Write because you can't NOT write. Write because you would explode if you couldn't lace those words together. Write because it's a compulsion, a joy, a drug, an obsession. Write for for bliss, for therapy, for aching out all that pain of yours. Write the story that you always wanted to read, and weave your own lovely words together so they make sense TO YOU. Laugh, cry, kick, scream. Live inside your pages... your words strung together like the clothes on the line when you were little. Smell them, fix them, own them. Hate them, delight in them.
The love you have for a story you write for YOU will waft out through your query letter. It will interest an agent and it will excite an editor. Mostly, it will (oh god please let me be right!) give your readers a piece of your soul.
That's the secret handshake. There is no genre. No market. No agent. No publishing house. There is only you, and your words, and your passion.
That's the end of my PREACHING. Back to nostalgia and self doubt tomorrow. XO Suzy