No one told me that writing a book would be so emotionally draining. Of course there are fun times in the creative process. And since my stories often entail a lot of humor, I've been known to laugh like a crazed loon while pounding on the keys. Even so, I have to pay attention to my weak areas: lie or lay, let or leave, sit or set (I must have been absent from school the days those rules of proper use were taught). There are point of view issues to observe, rules of grammar to follow--or break for dramatic effect--and dialog to keep sharp, engaging and true to the character. One can't have all the characters talking alike, after all. Then there is the choice of a name for your main character. Few romantic heroines are named Bertha (sorry to all you Berthas out there, I mean no offense); instead, heroines' names are sweet, yet sensual and often a shade exotic. Can you imagine readers sighing over a tall, hunky Dale when Slade, Brody or Cade evoke more dramatic images?
Writing is a lonely craft. At our house Calvin goes into his den to write. I sit on my recliner with my laptop. For hours we live in our created worlds, grumbling to created people as we endeavor to produce a story that will engage and inform readers. Even when we come together for dinner and a Netflix movie, our subconscious minds are mulling over what our characters are going to do next. These stories invade our dreams and from time to time wake us. I've been known to suddenly awaken from a sound sleep, thinking I need to change the second paragraph on page 89. Sleep does not return until I get up, turn on the computer and make the change. I now know why many writers drink.
But, folks, writing is only the beginning. We also have to promote ourselves. First we have to promote ourselves to an agent. One outside the writing arena might think that you choose an agent like a car mechanic or hair dresser. Not so. They choose you. You apply to an agent, so to speak, with a carefully crafted query letter and hope he or she will honor you by asking to see part or all of your manuscript. Expect to query dozens of agents--agents in large agencies recieve 130-300 queries a day. To many of them, you are just another bump on the pickle, so you must stand out.
Part of your query to an agent, and later to a publisher, is your list of credentials showing why you qualify to write. For those writers not yet published, this can be daunting. I mean, you can't get ahead by saying I've always dreamed of writing or I got A's on all my papers I wrote in college. One suggested way of building your resume is to enter and win writing contests. Should you choose that route, an easy one-stop list of contests for poets and writers alike is http://www.pw.org/. Click on the listing for writing contests and a pages of contests, their sponsors, contest deadlines, reading fees and prize amounts appear. To learn more about any contest, click on the name of the contest and that will take you to an information page.
OK, time goes by--years in many cases--and you finally have a publishing contract in hand. Get ready to start selling your book. Yes, YOU!!! Publishers might devote two weeks to pushing the book of an unknown author; their funds and energies are mainly devoted to big name, "money-cow" authors. That means you will have to promote your book.
Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, spoke about this process at a seminar I recently attended. It took her eleven years until she finally held her book in her hand. Her initial agent dropped off the face of the earth. The publisher who originally bought her manuscript went bankrupt. A larger publisher secured all the contracted manuscripts, then, in many cases, ignored them. Rebecca had to fight for release from a contract with a publishing house no longer in business. Thankfully, she was successful. She found another agent who secured another publisher. Now she is promoting her book. She left her home in January for speaking engagements she arranged herself and is still on the road. She's developed relationships with book sellers and book stores. In her words, "In today's economy, writing is only the beginning." Hearing her remarks, I could have bawled.