What comes to mind when someone says they are a writer? Is it a geeky introvert who hides away in their home office amidst their Star Trek and Lord of the Rings posters? Or is it the snobby intellect dressed in black, drinking a latte while trying to simplify existentialism in her latest work so the rest of us nitwits can understand it??
As I've become immersed in so many wonderful online writing communities, I'm discovering just how many writers there are in the world. Everyone from stay at home moms to publishing professionals to students to doctors. It would seem that everyone wants to write a book.
Perhaps it's the hope of fame and fortune that fuels their ambition. Or perhaps it's the sordid past that haunts them to a point they desperately need to get it on paper. Perhaps they come from a long line of gifted storytellers and just naturally dazzle others with their elegant prose and clever characters. Whatever the reason, writing is an art that is so huge that it's an industry within itself. That's right, companies are making money off the hopes and dreams of writers everywhere. Not all maliciously, mind you. But there are those vanity presses that, if the writer hasn't done her homework and research, will con hopeful writers into spending buco bucks just to see their words in print.
For those who don't know what it takes to be a successful writer--be it fiction or non-fiction--there's a whole heckuva lot more to it than just putting the words down. That's just the tip of the iceberg (and a challenge in itself.) After a writer has his story down and manuscript nicely formatted as a word document with double spaces and edited for the um-teenth time, he may decide he's ready to seek publishing. Of course, right? Why wouldn't some major publishing house want to print the blood sweat and tears that went into making this story the potential NY bestseller that it is?? You just send it off, wait for your victory, then go out and celebrate your bookdeal, right?
Next comes the research on markets, agents, & publishers. Oh my! Once the writer has her idea of who her readership is and who may be interested in her book, she has to begin the tedious and grueling query process. And all my writer friends who have begun this process can tell you, it's a chore to get your query just right. In 250 words or less you have to be able to sum up the gyst of your story--stating what makes your story unique and what the main conflict is--and do it in such a way that you spellbound the literary agent to want to read more. For those who don't know, the lit agent is the gatekeeper to publishing. And for the thousands of agents out there, the writer has to go fishing for the 1 agent who is right for them. I've heard it described as dating/marriage. You don't find the right one right off the bat. It's a process... and it's subjective.
So after the amazing query you write, you have to form a synopsis( ie: boil down the bones of your story to a 1-2 page summary of events.) These are even more of a pain than the queries. But because agents don't have time to read every single manuscript they request, they often need a synopsis to tell if the story flows and ends well. A writer can spend days on end coming up with a decent query and synopsis... and she just doesn't know what to expect until she sends it out to the wolves.
Let's sum up what we've learned so far : A writer must dig deep into the dungeons of their soul to create the break out masterpiece. After numerous edits and critiques and inner battles over which punchy verb best suits the sentence, the writer must research agents and markets to see who may take best care of their precious baby. Next, he/she must create a dazzling query and synopsis and sit at the computer for hours on end--when they'd rather be writing stories--to email mass queries to the agents on their list of possibilities. All done? Not quite.
Then comes the waiting game.
Days, weeks, sometimes months later .... the responses start trickling in. The first few are rejections. Some are brief and generic. Others are pleasant but the writer's work just doesn't fit what the agency is looking for. With so many queries out in hopes of finding the agent who is right for you, rejections become plentiful. The writer pumps himself back up after each one--reminding himself that rejection is part of a writer's life and must be had in order to reach the sweet taste of success. At some point, rejection does take its toll and the writer's dream seems hopeless.
Then, alas! When she least expects it and is readying herself for yet another rejection as she opens her email, there is a glimmer of distant hope! A spark of possibilties reignited in her heart! Someone wants to see her work! The painful query process has paid off! The writer rereads the request, makes sure all her ducks are in a row and reads over her manuscript and synopsis one last time before sending it off. A huge sigh of relief. Her hard work has paid off, right? Wrong again.
Sometimes 3 months or more. What happens if it's more rejections? It's back to the drawing board because the story needs more work. If it's an offer of representation than you better believe that some celebrating will be done! But that doesn't mean the waiting is over. The writer still has to wait for the agent to sell their story to a publishing house.... and that can take months, even years.
So, what does a writer look like? An everyday, stressed and exhausted person just like you or me. Some weirder than others. Sometimes the writer is the quiet, observant one. Other times it's the mom with 2 little rugrats hanging off her. Or the single guy in the movie theater watching Twilight for market research since he writes Young Adult stories. You just never know.
And if you call us weirdos.... you're right! What other kind of person would subject themselves to so much rigmarole as I just described above. Weirdos, yes. But passionate, driven, artistic, ambitious, dynamic, idealistic people, too.
To my fellow writers who follow my blog out of the goodness of your weirdo hearts, I salute you!