It doesn’t matter where you are on the publishing pathway, the publishing blues will blindside you at some point.
When you first start out on the writing journey, you’re excited. You have hopes (even if you’re not willing to admit it aloud) that an agent will grab your query from the slushpile, immediately request the manuscript, then offer representation a mere five minutes later. The book will sell at auction the following week (because it’s perfect as is), and will quickly become a bestseller (thanks to the publisher support that would make most authors mossy green with envy).
But then reality sets in.
You send the book out to critique partners and beta readers, and they either tear it apart (which results in you ripping your hair out and consuming an unhealthy amount of chocolate), give you great feedback that helps improve the story, or tell you it’s the best thing ever written and an agent would be an idiot not to offer representation. Either way, none of this prepares you for what comes next: the rejections. It also doesn’t prepare you for the emotional roller coaster you can expect during this stage. Be prepared to stock up on metaphorical anti-nausea medication. But also make sure you CELEBRATE the good points on your journey to publication. This includes celebrating the completion of your novel, a request based on your query, a request based on your partial. Relish each moment. You’ve earned it.
Now, maybe you’ve landed an agent and this led to a book deal. The emotional roller coaster has only just warmed up. Many unknowns still lay ahead. You’ve got deadlines now to deal with. Some of these deadlines will overlap, which makes you wonder if sleep is truly necessary. You’ll kiss your family vacation goodbye, or spend a good portion of it editing your manuscript to meet your deadline (hopefully you have an understanding family). You might discover at the last moment that all the PR support you were promised is nonexistent. Or you might end up dealing with other frustrations from either the publisher or agent side of things. You might realize that with all the traditional and self-published books currently available, the chance of succeeding is not what it used to be, especially if no one knows your book exists.
Disheartening, to say the least.
Now take a breath and remember why you’re on this crazy journey. If it’s to become a bestselling author, you might want to rethink that. With so many books out there, it’s becoming harder to make the lists. But if you started writing fiction because you love creating stories, and you can’t imagine not writing them, you might simply need to take a step back for a moment. This happened to me in December. I was working on a new book, but due to circumstances that were out of my control, I’d lost that spark I needed for me to keep writing. I felt hopeless and depressed. I didn’t want to give up and I loved the story, but I just couldn’t get motivated to write.
So I started writing a new book. One no one was waiting for. I changed how I wrote. Instead of plotting and outlining the book, I came up with a loose plot based on the standard story structure format. I knew my characters and trusted they wouldn’t lead me astray. I started listening to music while I wrote. I’d never done that before, but with the kids home for the holidays, I needed to block out their noise. And I started doing writing sprints, writing as much as I could in that hour, before taking a short break. Even my novel was different to what I was writing or had written before.
The benefit? I relocated that joy for writing I had lost.
We place so much pressure on ourselves to be published, it’s easy to lose the passion we once had. For some people, they need to step away and take a long break. But if you’re not willing to do that, or have deadlines that prevent it, try writing something new. Try writing something for yourself that no one will see. Experiment with a style you’ve always wanted to try or experiment with a new genre. If you’re on deadline, try writing a short story (or if you’re a fast writer, a novella). Have fun! But most of all, don’t set any expectations on yourself. Just let the passion you used to have for writing poke through.
In the end, you might discover you’ve created something that will give your writing career a kick in the right direction. You might discover a genre or writing style that will change everything for you. But more importantly, you will have found a healthy method for dealing with publishing blues.
What positive things do you do when faced with publishing frustrations?
Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult and adult contemporary romances. In her spare time, she’s a photographer, loves hanging out on Pinterest, and can be found at her blog/website. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.