Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Never Give Up - Never Surrender!



After Donna's post on Friday, I felt compelled to write this. Something I see time and again is how close to giving up some authors have been when it seems their hopes will never come true. I've been there too. But there's just one key difference between an aspiring author and an agented/published one. We didn't give up. No matter what happened. If I could only give someone with any dream just one piece of advice, it would be the title of this post - probably the best known line from scifi spoof Galaxy Quest.

So I thought I'd also share what I believe were the three key elements that helped me to become published.

1. Read. Most authors read prolifically. You'll pick up loads of skills and ideas simply from the act of reading (and for this reason it helps to read widely, but again you won't fail by not doing so). It's worth analysing the books you love though. What do you like most about them? How has the author hooked you? What is it about their style or word choice or descriptions etc that make the story work for you? Some people say you shouldn't read in the genre you want to write in case it colours or changes your voice. I disagree. Jessica Subject wrote a post on this recently with her arguements, and I agree with her view. You can read that here. (There's also a giveaway).

2.Write. Don't just wait for inspiration. Try to set up a schedule. I found that worked well for me when I got into a rut with not writing, even though it meant getting up at 5am to get an hour's quiet time to do so. Try different styles, tenses and POVs. Often if a scene isn't working, trying a different POV can give you a new...well...perspective. Nanowrimo can be a great way to kickstart yourself into a first novel ir a new project. Even if you don't complete it, at least you've made a start. Join somewhere like CritiqueCircle.com to get feedback. Network with other writers and exchange critiques. The beauty of the internet is it makes it easier to connect to other people in your genre.

3. Research. The biggest favour you can do yourself to increase the chance of an agent or publisher choosing you is to find the ones that fit you best. Look at the books/authors/genres that they publish/represent. Check them out with Preditors and Editors and QueryTracker, or The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook in the UK. Ask around. Follow your favourite authors on Twitter and you'll soon see submission calls and pitch contests by publishers and agents. Make sure you follow their guidelines and requests! Nothing annoys them more than being sent a genre they don't read, a format they can't accept, or information that they asked for being missing. Also research the facts in your story. Mistakes are inevitable, but try to be accurate if talking about real places, pwople, concepts etc.

But most of all, just don't give up. Not trying means you've already failed. Good luck!

6 comments:

  1. Great advice, Pippa. I'm always so sad when I hear some writer has decided to give up. Though I absolutely understand why it happens. We all have days (months? years?) when we think we're crazy. Actually, we ARE crazy, but I think for most of us the urge to write is not something that will ever permanently leave us.

    As for Galaxy Quest . . . "Listen, I only have one job on this ship. It's STUPID, but I'm going to do it."

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. I think there are always days when you wonder 'Why am I doing this to myself?' But I couldn't give up writing. I believe all writers have a touch of crazy. My husband certainly views it as some kind of insanity he hopes I'll recover from. It breaks my heart when I see someone give up.

      And lol! I adore Galaxy Quest, especially Sigourney Weaver. I love it when they're at the chompers and she's 'Why is this here?! Whoever wrote this should DIE!'

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  2. Great post, Pippa. I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was: "If you quit too soon, you'll never know how close you were to success."

    I think that's so true! Just like Donna, I've come very close to throwing in the towel in the past, but then I'd think about that quote and realize if I quit, I might miss whatever's just around the corner.

    And what were some of the things waiting just around the corner? Finalling in the Golden Heart. Getting an agent. And finding some fantastic peers to help share this journey.

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  3. Terrific post, Pippa. Virtually every great book I've ever read on writing has advised aspiring writers to READ and yet I hear all the time, "I don't have time to read." Make time--it's important.

    As for giving up, someone once asked SF writer Harlan Ellison why he wrote and he said, "Because I can't NOT write." I can't think of a better explanation.

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    1. I do find it harder to get time to read and have a huge to-read pile, but that's mostly because it's so easy to pick up Kindle books, often on sale or free. But I normally then read three or four in a weekend to catch up.
      I don't think I'd ever stop writing, but I might give up on seeking publication. I'm now mulling over whether I should be agent hunting.

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