I heard from one of you today via email with a strong and upbeat report on where you’re at now compared to where you were just a few months ago. That made me so happy that I thought it’d be fun to hear from more of you. Take stock of where you are now. Have you developed an action plan in the last few months? Have you figured out where you are on the road to publication? Have you developed new skills?
If so, I’d like to hear about it. Go ahead and post a comment here and tell us all what you’ve learned or achieved in the last few months, and what you have planned for the next few months.
In the meantime, I’ll answer a couple of the comments from yesterday:
You said, “Folks, don’t settle for “I’ll try.” Take action and keep taking action until one of two things happen:
1) You realize that the goal you chose is impossible, or
2) You realize that you don’t want this goal anymore–you want a different one”
I believe there is a third option – Take action and keep taking action UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR GOAL.
I realize this was an OBVIOUS oversight.
Randy sez: Yup, I guess I kind of assumed that. But it’s a good point. SOMETIMES YOU REACH THE GOAL! In fact, a lot of times you do, if you just keep trying. I personally know many dozens of novelists who have reached that goal. Many of them I knew before they reached the goal. The common denominator with all of them is that they didn’t give up.
One question on your post. You said “A lot of writers have to write about [5-6 novels] before they break in”. Do you only recommend abandoning a novel if it has irreparable problems? My thought is that as long as the premise is good I should just keep re-working it and rewriting until it is publishable?
Sol Stein said in one of his books that he told someone what they needed to fix in their novel, and then instead of doing that they went off and started on another novel. If I remember it, he didn’t seem to approve of that.
Where do we draw the line on DO vs. REDO? At what point do we need to buckle down and fix it until it’s right?
Randy sez: OK, here’s the deal. If you know the project is hopeless, then shoot it in the head right now and walk away. There is no point working on a project you know is fatally flawed. I did that with my first novel after working on it for two and a half years. But I didn’t walk away from the general idea. I ultimately published several books that are essentially offshoots from that idea, and the book I’m working on right now is also an offshoot. I walked away from the specific implementation of that idea that I realized could never work.
If it’s not fatally flawed, then keep working on it. At a certain point, you may well realize that your heart isn’t in this project anymore, and that you’ve grown as a writer or a person and you have a substantially different vision for the book you want to write. In that case, again murder the old project and walk away. No point trying to sell a book that you aren’t excited about. Your agent and editor won’t be at all interested in a project if you’re bored with it.
Finally, it’s possible that you’ll work hard, believe your book is good, love the book to pieces, finish the thing, and submit it to every agent you can find who might be interested. If they all pass on it, then that is a very good time to set it aside. DON’T kill it. Someday when your skills are sharper, you may be able to revise it and sell it. But if you’ve given it your VERY BEST effort and it still doesn’t sell, then lay it aside. For awhile, not necessarily forever.
In any case, try something new. Work on it, again, until you know it’s fatally flawed, or you lose interest, or you just can’t sell it, or . . . you SELL IT.
This is the procedure that all published novelists have followed. Few of us took the shortest path to success. (I didn’t.) But you can’t get published unless you follow this basic strategy.
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment and tell us how you’ve changed over the last few months and what your action plan is.