Guest blogger Marilyn Brant

MarilynBrant[1]Annoying Things About Publishing That I’m Thankful For…

Publishing is an odd profession. For anyone involved with it—as a writer, editor, agent, etc.—this is hardly a newsflash. There seems to be an endless stream of irritations, frustrations, annoyances and challenges within an industry that can be crazy-making just because the task itself is so difficult and the bar to succeed, particularly under the traditional publishing model, is set so high.

I’m not above ranting about some of these issues, by the way, but we’re on the verge of Thanksgiving…and sometimes you have to bless the things that are hardest to deal with and find the gifts buried within them. So, here are a few items stashed in my Cornucopia of Publishing Irritations/Blessings:

  1. The path to publication is long, uncertain and resistant to shortcuts. This is a really big one. Aspiring writers (and, incidentally, published writers, too) don’t enjoy hearing this. But, the truth is that it’s an interminably long road for most of us, not only to get published initially, but then to stay published. If we’re not a celebrity, or in some way intimately connected with one, we’re not going to get a book contract based on “a little idea” we had or how cute we’d look in a back-cover photo. We need to spend years, sometimes decades, honing our craft, and we need to keep proving our writing mastery, our marketability and our sales/promo skills over and over and over again. So, what’s good about this? Well, by the time we’re close to signing a book contract or we’ve got one of our novels in a publisher’s catalogue, we’re no longer novices in any area of the industry. We’ve seen agents and editors live and in person, and we’ve communicated with several of them via mail or email. They are no longer untouchable gods/goddesses in our eyes; they’re real people who make their living by getting our stories to readers. We’ve written hundreds of thousands (in my case, over a million) words and have practiced the craft of fiction so we are comfortable with our own writing voices and styles. We’ve networked at workshops and online, and we’ve made friends who understand what we really do and why we’re passionate about it. These gifts do not come quickly or easily. Not for anyone. Once we have them, though, we can be proud of the fact that we earned them.
  2. The money, generally speaking, is not plentiful. This problem speaks for itself, but the upside is that it does tend to weed out—and with some alacrity—people who jump into writing for any reason other than pure passion for telling stories. It would be a tremendous blessing for any writer to someday say she was able to support herself and her family on her writing income alone, but even for those published authors who achieve this dream, it very rarely happens within a year or two of selling. A decade is the more likely timeframe, if it happens at all. So, those of us who are in this game, we’re in it for nothing short of LOVE.
  3. The hours are long. Oh, yeah…very, very long. (I got up today at 7:15am, and I’m typing this at 1:30am.) So, what’s the benefit? Aside from building up our endurance for sitting at the computer, we learn to prioritize. We know that in order to do this thing we love, we have to give up other things—like TV shows that aren’t our absolute faves or time to just veg-out on the couch or, occasionally, sleep. We also learn where we have to draw the line—that time with a loved one is priceless and necessary, and getting in that workout will benefit our health—so we figure out where writing fits in order to honor the passion but not become obsessed with it to the exclusion of everything else that’s important to us. Balancing the intensity and commitment of writing with the rest of our real lives is not for wimps, and we’re trained to master this juggling act.
  4. accordingtojane[1]

  5. Self-doubt stalks at every turn. Even while we develop skills to improve our craft, we encounter writing elsewhere that’s stronger, more thoughtfully constructed and/or more expertly promoted. We wonder if we’re cut out for this profession… But, without these great examples of writing, would we be nearly as motivated to improve and challenge ourselves? I say no. I say that those waves of self-doubt are indications that we dream of being better. I also say that the drive to achieve that gorgeous narrative vision we have for our new novel starts at the point when we realize just how far away from it we are…but we channel the fear of not reaching our ideal and use it as fuel to move forward.
  6. Criticism is intense and praise is slight. True, true, true. However, this means we must learn to develop thicker skin than babes, trust in the value of our work and have faith in our own stories. We will NOT be universally loved. Just in case you were lucky enough to miss this lesson in high school (I wasn’t), you won’t be able to overlook it now. The gift, though, is that when we’re certain of our own worth, stone-throwing (or negative Amazon reviews) might bruise our egos, but it won’t break our writing spirit.
  7. The real job is arduous, unrelenting and solitary. Unlike the TV version of “being a writer,” where there are huge book deals, frequent cocktail parties and lots of (very hot) fans clamoring for our attention (I adore the show “Castle,” but c’mon!), most of us work alone, at home, largely anonymously and in sweats. That means that to survive the frustrations of a temperamental industry, we have to reach out to each other in person and online, find those people who are genuinely supportive and give ourselves the opportunity to rise above any leaning toward pettiness and professional jealousy so we can be unified in this grand quest. Sadly, it doesn’t happen that every person saying they’re “happy for you” really is, but when you find the ones who are, you’ve got a treasure in your hands. Cherish it.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May your cornucopia be overflowing with purely positive things this holiday season. May you see the gifts hidden underneath any challenges you encounter, too. And may you be grateful for each and every blessing.

~Marilyn Brant

http://www.marilynbrant.com

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21 Responses to Guest blogger Marilyn Brant

  1. Liz Kreger says:

    Terrific blog, Marilyn. Thanx for joining us here at MM and that is a great cover on “According to Jane”.

    Totally with you on all points. As far as prioritizing, I’ve given up most (if not all) television. It helps that there’s crapolla on television, but I’m at the point where I rarely watch it.

    Self-doubt does leak in ‘pon occasion, but I generally stomp on those. No time to indulge in those little seeds of doubt because I’m way too busy juggling the many hats I wear day in and day out.

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Marilyn, thanks for being our guest today. Great blog! I go through the self-doubt thing all the time. Then, like Liz, I stomp on it. At my core, I believe in myself and my writing.

  3. Kath Calarco says:

    I’ll echo what Liz said, especially in regard to television. I’ve complained for the last five years (or more) that t.v. writing has hit an all time low, so I’m thankful for that, otherwise I’d never get anything done, lol.

    Thank you, Marilyn, for boiling down what I think every writer has felt at one time or another. My feeling is that writing has chosen me, and therefore it’s impossible to walk away from, no matter all the roadblocks and frustrations. It still puts a smile in my heart through it all.

  4. Liz~I wish you were wrong about the “crapolla on TV”–LOL!–but that’s been true for me, too. And it *has* made it easier. There are a few shows (like “Castle”) that I’ll watch, but most of what’s out there I’m indifferent to and don’t mind skipping if I’m busy–which, this year, has been pretty much always… Glad you stomp on that self-doubt!!

    Edie~Thank you so much for inviting me!!! I just put up a note on my blog for friends to stop by here, but I need to get you ladies on my blog roll, too. I love reading the Magical Musings posts :).

    Kath~I’ve seen you on Robin’s blog, too–hi!! I really like what you said about writing choosing you, so you can’t just walk away. I know exactly what you mean… There are so many times when I still feel like the math-geek girl who crashed some kind of literary party. To be a writer just seemed so unlikely for me, and it would’ve been much easier to do something else–except there was that persistant little voice that couldn’t give up the stories. After a while, I gave up trying to fight the desire for it. It made no sense and it was going to be hard, but blah, blah, blah. I needed to do it. So glad you do, too :).

  5. Theresa says:

    Right now I’m working at finding the balance in my life. So I’m trying to balance the writing, with the exercise,and the house/yard work and the day job and my other time-consuming hobby which is showing dogs.

    I don’t have a hubby or kidlets to balance in there either, and I already find the time a stretch. I know this is something I need to do now though, before I’m thrown in the frying pan of publication. I think trying to find somekind of a balance after signing that first contract would be a serious nightmare.

  6. Cynthia Eden says:

    LOL, what a great list!!! Thanks for sharing it! And I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, too!

  7. LaDonna says:

    Marilyn, so great having you at Magical with us! I really loved your list, and nodding my head right along with ya.

    Your first one, about the long road, is something that you just can’t wrap your mind around in those early years. I smile now thinking of how I thought I’d sell that very first, poorly written, story, and how the rejection burned and I stepped back wondering what the heck have I gotten myself into?

    Many years later, I know it’s the place I belong and glad I rode the bull, and that I keep getting back in the saddle. Not a great analogy, but hey I’m still having coffee here. :lol:

    Best of luck with your career, and I adore your cover. Lucky girl!

  8. Theresa~That balancing act is tough, isn’t it?! Some days are better than others for me. I had a year and a half between selling the book and its release. I *knew* going into those last few months that it would be hectic but, despite thinking I was prepared and having all this time up front to get ready, my life was still incredibly imbalanced from July through October. My goal is to try to handle it a little better next year, so I won’t be quite so exhausted and scattered. ;)

    Cynthia~Thank YOU! Glad you liked the list. I appreciate your stopping by!!

    LaDonna~Thanks so much for the good wishes. Re: that long road — I KNOW!! It’s crazy how many years it takes. I had that same experience with my first (dreadful) manuscript. I thought for sure it would sell. A few years later, with more skilled eyes and a couple of other completed manuscripts under my belt, I looked at it again and understood immediately why it was so unpublishable. Sigh. Wish it were easier for all of us…

  9. Well said, Marilyn! Your list provides hope and encouragement with a heaping dose of realism–all necessary for the artistic writing life. Thanks for sharing.

  10. mary Jo says:

    Marilyn,

    Fantastic post, but this loop always rings bells in me so you continue the flow. :-)

    All your points are so valid. Just to address #1. I’ve written fiction since I first learned about sentence and paragraph structure. I didn’t chisel my first ms in stone or quill pen, but let’s just say manual typewriter and long-hand?

    Finally, after all these years I’ve seen a book published. What kept me going? My passion to write, my belief in my stories and voice, my incredible support system among writers, friends, and most of all, family.

    I count my blessing as I approach Thanksgiving.

  11. Quilt Lady says:

    Great post! I am also a self-doubt person. There is still a few things I watch on TV but most of the time I read during TV times. I also give up these things if I have pressing things that need to be done.

  12. Lydia Hirt says:

    Marilyn: You are oh-so-right on “endless stream of irritations, frustrations, annoyances and challenges” found in the publishing industry, but I think that’s also why we love it so much! If it were easy, everyone would do it, and exceptional writers like YOU would have a harder time standing out from the crowd. Thanks for sharing this “cornucopia of {publishing} blessing”.

  13. Pamala~Thanks, my friend, for visiting me here and for being a part of that support system I need :).

    Mary Jo~Hello and thank you! I so agree with you about this being a fabulous loop–I’ve really enjoyed the posts I’ve read on MM. And HUGE congrats on getting a book published!! Passion. Belief. Support. They’re golden…

    Quilt Lady~Hi :). I think most of us feel that sting of self-doubt far more often than we’d like. Sigh. The important thing is to just keep going, right?

    Lydia~What a sweetie you are for saying all of that! I know you’re often in the jet stream of the craziness, but you handle it unbelievably well and, on top of it, still make time to be supportive of newbie novelists like me. Thanks, hon!

  14. Pamela Cayne says:

    You mean we *don’t* get paid seven figures for each book?!? Hmm, I’m going to have to re-think this whole author thing and see if I can fall back on my plan of becoming Wonder Woman instead. Unless of course you forgot to mention you got an invisible jet out of the deal?

    Happy Thanksgiving, Marilyn! And thanks to the ladies of Magical Musings on having such a wonderful writer and person as your guest blogger!

  15. June Sproat says:

    Wonderful blog Marilyn. It’s all so true! I really enjoyed it. I also wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving and try to get some rest!

    Best,
    June

  16. Robin says:

    This was a terrific post, Marilyn! Your words really struck a cord and reminded me how important it is to find even the tiniest bit of good in something that may not feel so great. This journey isn’t an easy one, but it can be a fulfilling one. Thank you Edie, Michelle, Liz and LaDonna for having Marilyn guest blog today, and happiest Thanksgiving wishes to you all!

  17. LOL, Pamela!! I totally didn’t get an invisible jet… I’m now feeling very envious and somewhat resentful about this omission from my publishing contract. Tomorrow morning I’m calling Kensington and telling them they have to fix this ASAP. ;) xo

    June, thank you! 2 nights in a row I got to bed before midnight, so I’m getting there :). Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, too!

    Robin, my dear, I know you’re headed in the right direction on this journey. I look forward to celebrating all along the path with you!

    Thanks so much to everyone who took time to visit today! Have a tasty turkey day!! (Or, if you’re not in the States, have a really great week!)

  18. Michelle says:

    Marilyn, thanks so much for joining us here at MM. I love your list :) . I’m a glass half-full girl myself.

  19. Thanks, Michelle, it was a pleasure. :) (And a standing ovation to you for all you’ve been doing for our new Women’s Fiction chapter–thank you!)

  20. Maria Geraci says:

    Marilyn, Sorry to be late to the party, but as usual, your cornucopia of wisdom was just what I needed to read this morning! Great post;)

  21. Maria, it’s wonderful to see you anytime!! Thanks for taking a few minutes to stop by, hon :).

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