Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Talentless Hack? Or Writer in the Making?

Advanced warning... abnormally long post below.

Someone asked me a brilliant question. Something I have never been asked. Here's what she said:

So you got started by writing an hour a day? What made you continue when you reread what you had written and you felt like a talentless hack? I want so badly to write all of these stories in my head, but I feel like I can't do them justice and so I don't write very often because I'm so afraid of it turning out horribly.

This really hit home, guys! I could have written this very same question to an author seven years ago. So brace yourselves for my bitter truth.

(WARNING: If you think becoming a published author is easy and you don't want your hopes and dreams taking a reality check, don't read on!)

The first book I wrote took me almost a year to complete. It was 700 pages, a terrific story with beautiful characters, and an absolute prose NIGHTMARE! In fact, it was so poorly written, when I tried to start editing, I gave up on it completely and stuck it on my Shelf of Things Best Forgotten (right beside my dreams of being a musician, famous inventor, and doctor).

I wrote another book, much shorter... about 300 pages. Again, a great story, great characters, slightly better writing. I polished it, wrote up a horrible query letter, and started querying while penning part two. That book went nowhere. I racked up about fifty rejections over a year and then stuck it on the The Shelf, along with book two.

So with three shelved manuscripts under my belt, I did what any sane person who discovered the relentless drive to write would do... the inevitable. I wrote a forth manuscript. I wrote a decent query. I queried agents. And I got rejection after rejection after rejection after...

The only thing that made the rejections not sting as badly was writing. So I started manuscript #5. As I wrote this manuscript, I laughed, I cried, I'd stay up half the night with my heart pounding, jumping at the smallest sounds as I wrote terrifying scenes, and knew what I was writing was magic. And it was. Still is. But it was magic that had to be edited and edited and edited until it was good enough to get me a fantastic agent (thanks Marlene!), and an amazing publisher willing to take a chance on me (thanks Walker!).

Let's jump to today. I wrote for years, wrote thousands of pages to get where I am, spent days, hours, weeks, months, years in front of the computer honing my skill. And if I hadn't...

THERE IS NO WAY I WOULD SURVIVE IN THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD OF WRITING!

It doesn't get any easier! I still work until I can't see straight, the only difference between now and then is now I write better, faster. If I didn't, if I hadn't "practiced" for all those years, there's no way I'd survive the publishing world.

So enjoy every second of your journey. Embrace the editing process and what you learn from it. And most of all,

Never. Give. UP!

~Bethany

29 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, I never tire of hearing stories like this one!!! Thanks, Bethany!

Shari said...

I have been working on writing seriously for about five years. I have improved, however, it still feels like seeing one of my stories in book form will never happen. Thanks for sharing your story.

Kristi Helvig said...

I love how inspiring your posts are, Bethany. I find reality checks encouraging rather than depressing--if writing were easy, where would the sense of accomplishment be when you're finally published? Congrats on your book! :)

T C Mckee said...

Thanks so much for this post. I think every single one of us feel this way at some point and do the exact same thing. I have three myself, but I'm happy to say, I never leave them on the self for very long. I just can't leave my stories behind.

Tere Kirkland said...

This was exactly my experience, as well. I know that now I'm a better writer, but I also know it takes a lot of work and polishing to make my work query-ready.

Great post, Bethany!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

For me it was twelve years, four novels, seven picture books, and 300+ rejections before that one yes.

What kept me going over the years was believing I had something unique to say (...and it was also easier to keep moving forward than to just stop!).

Erin Cole said...

It is comforting to know that all writers struggle AND that if we keep plugging away, eventually the odds are that we will be accepted, published, a real author!

Thanks for this.

JEM said...

Great post! I have to admit, I PRAY that writing gets easier as you get better. At least that it would take less time, maybe one less round of revision. If everything pulled the blood from my veins like it does now...yeesh. But I have hope :).

Stephanie McGee said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing this. I totally need to remember this myself from time to time. Especially as that Shelf might be quickly joined by a new friend or three.

Angela Felsted said...

What a wonderful, inspiring post!

Karen Akins said...

Great post, Bethany! Thanks. :)

Meggan said...

This is great thanks Friend!

Bethany Wiggins said...

Everyone, thanks for your amazing comments!

Shari, hang in there!

Caroline, I FEEL you! I thought seven years was a long time. You are a writing rock star!

T.C.--Never give up. Follow your heart and your instincts!

Jem, It might get easier, but it still sucks the heart and soul out of me sometimes.

Stephanie, I know you'll get there.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent post. It does take hours, pages, blood, sweat, tears, and then more hours. And we wouldn't change that for anything.

Koala Bear Writer said...

The key is that each novel was better than the one before!!! I've got five or six novels sitting on computer; some, as you say, aren't worth resurrecting and others I think just need some editing. Then there's the ideas still hovering in my head... and now that I've been studying writing for ten years or so, I think that maybe I could do them justice. If I could find time to write a novel again. :)

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

True words, Bethany! Thanks for sharing! It's always inspiring to hear about a writer's journey. Me, um, decades? About 10-12 manuscripts, lost track of the number of rejections after a few years . . . have FILE CABINETS full of manuscripts and ideas and rejection slips. ;-)

G said...

Been going through roughly the same thing although part of my journey was performed in public where the masses told me in no uncertain terms what they thought of my work.

Although I've been writing for a little over 4 1/2 years, I have to say that my writing now has improved immensely over what it used to be when I started.

Normally I'm not a patient person, but with this current adventure, I'm learning to be patient.

Thanks for the insight on your journey.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Wonderful post, Bethany. I think this is very true. Long journeys are blessings in disguise. We get to the destination when we're supposed to. Definitely.

Amy

Jemi Fraser said...

Love this. Thanks for sharing. It's a long journey - and if we don't enjoy the steps, what in the world are we doing on the road?

Nicole Zoltack said...

Thank you so much for this post. I had an awful day today and really needed to read this.

Nichole Giles said...

So, what you're saying is that since I'm coming up on year number 7, I'm getting close, right? Yeah. Okay. Thanks!

Solvang Sherrie said...

This is great! I love stories of perseverance and never giving up. Thank you for sharing :)

J.N. Future Author said...

You're totally going to be published one day!!! I'd bet my life on it!

I love that picture ^.~ I use it in my own posts every now and again ^.^

Write Chick said...

This post really hit home for me. It's always good to know that all this writing that feels like it's going nowhere is building me up as a writer.

Inspiring! :-D

IanBontems said...

Great post Bethany, thanks for sharing!

DL Hammons said...

You're my hero! Really!! :)

Bethany Wiggins said...

Thank you everyone!!! May you be blessed with the success you seek and have the drive to work for it.

Kathy McIntosh said...

I love and admire your perseverance and your honesty about how hard it's been to get where you are.
You inspire me to keep trying and keep writing.

Jacqueline Howett said...

Keep up with the positive thinking its contagious. Have a great Xmas.

Jacqueline Howett Author of The Greek Seaman.