Friday, February 29, 2008

2. Fiction writing realities - the uphill climb

Michael W. Davis

(a.k.a Big Mike)

Author of: Tainted Hero (Champagne books, 1/08), The Treasure (Golden Acorn Publishing, 12/07), Forgotten Children (Champagne books, 7/08)

Thanksgiving day, a good friend I’ve known since I was a teenager (centuries ago) ask me, “What does it take to write fiction stories?” Being the wise cracker that I am, I replied, “It depends.” She was silent for a moment then pushed, “Depends on what?” Again I responded, “On what your purpose is for writing fiction.” Truth is, the answer to “What does it take” depends on whether your goal is to write “good” fiction and enjoy the writing process, or to get what you write published. Just because you create a story that people love does not equate to getting it out on the selves. Because of the saturation that publishers and Lit agents deal with every day, each submission is but a grain of sand on their beach. I remember one reply that provided the encouraging words, “we receive 23000 submissions a year and accept 12 to 15”. I used my hand to force closed my jaw and thought, “Holy crap!” Honestly, when I started writing, I was very naive. I had no idea how flooded the pipelines were. How can any agent or publisher deal with such volume? Fact is, they can’t. That’s why many close their doors to submissions and stick with existing authors, social buddies, referrals, etc. I’ve read several articles, blogs, and rejection letters that affirm the general rejection rate usually exceeds 99% (one actually stated 99.98%). Those are some hard obstacles to over come. With that many competing drops of water in the fire hose of submissions, just being good, or even great, is not enough. I know, it’s a hard lesson for something you’ve dreamed of, or always planned to do when the time was right. Most that eventually succeed accept this slap in the face and push on. In coming posts, I’ll offer some lessons I learned of things that “might” help your chances, and things that don’t mean squat. In summary, at least for me, it boiled down to recognizing six things: a willingness to learn, an open ear to feedback, developing a really thick skin, focusing energy into the right avenues, not wasting silver bullets, and fortitude. That last one is essential. If you don't have persistence , you won't last the course. Each day, after you visit the mail box and receive your share of "no thank you" letters, repeat the words, "I think I can, I know I can", until you believe it. I remember reading stories of well known authors that struggled for five to eight years before their first story hit the street. Come to think about it, my two years climbing that mountain doesn't sound so bad anymore. Till next time.

Big Mike


Kimber Chin said...

I read somewhere that the average romance author takes 10 years to get published.

For me, it was about 6 years.

Anonymous said...

I think the same is true, not just for romance, but for any genre in fiction, unless of course you know someone, or have been in the news. Consider how the wifes and offspring of actors/politics/etc get books published almost overnight. I recall one recent politician that entered the fiction writing world very quickly, even though he treated women like trash in his stories, and had voiced his demeaning views on women in the public record. Even in writing, sometimes it depends more on who you were or know then on your writing talents. Of course, that's just my view. And as always, good comment Kim.

Big Mike
Michael Davis