Occasionally, I have the good fortune of encountering others along the same path in my publishing journey. At the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, I found Liz Newman. She has just signed her first publishing contract! Below, she shares the myriad of emotions and some wisdom that reaching this milestone has brought her. I’ve asked her to be a guest blogger. Enjoy!
Dear Fellow Writers,
I hope you will indulge me by picturing this scenario. Your mail icon begins to flash on your computer, your hands begin to sweat as you point your mouse and click. You see an acquisition editor’s name in the sender section of your inbox. Your heart drops, and the unwelcome thought that it is going to be another rejection pops up in your psyche, pinching you like a bee sting in the bottom. It’s almost comfortable to think you are getting a rejection, because then you can go on just like days past, searching for another publisher who fits you and sending the manuscript off to them. But an acceptance letter is there, and the feelings of elation, confusion, fear, and accomplishment are so overwhelming, you almost believe the acceptance is a mistake. It’s so easy to forget the day-to-day joy, grind, pleasure, and pain that goes into writing a novel, so when it is released into the world it is no longer something that only existed in your mind. The characters are real, and they have taken flight. Although I’ve never experienced the scenario of my children leaving home and heading off to college, I suppose the signing of a publication contract feels somewhat like this.
Before Gypsy Shadow Publications extended an offer of contract to my first novel, An Affinity for Shadows, I believed a publication contract would be a panacea to validate myself as a writer. Not so. And this is a good thing. After the publication contract was signed, the bar was set even higher. My second novel, The Last Day King, has surpassed the query stage and is on to the second round of editors at a larger press for possible publication.
I remember when I was in my 20s and received a compliment, and was thanking the giver profusely when some nasty person passed by and muttered, “Get over yourself.” I felt hurt, at first, and then I realized they had a pretty damn good point. I did need to get over myself, because the same sensitivity that made a compliment from a stranger brighten my day was the same weakness that made a jealous stranger’s offhand comment hurtful. In the end, it’s not about you as a person. It’s about the story. It’s about your characters. It’s about the life that you are giving them, and their actions within it. When you believe in your story, when you have invested your heart and soul in your characters, and pray someone sees the amazing, compelling qualities in them that you have envisioned, you realize the clever prose is a result of the driving elements of the work. Not you, not the great writing classes you took, or the poet’s voice you forced into the mouth of your characters. It’s always about the story.
Sound nervewracking? Well, muscle up. Or, as a true writer, if you quit you will be sleepless at the thought of words, haunted by the characters in your mind who long to have a voice, and pursued by stories in your psyche that insist on being told.
You must keep writing. You are, after all, a writer, whether a stranger chooses to believe it or not.