Thursday, April 29, 2010

Courage and the Writer....

How does a writer find the courage to keep going? 

That is the theme for this weeks post. Over the last week I have been thinking about the highs and lows of writing.

The lows. 
You look at some books that have been published and wonder how they got picked up and then you hear that the writer thinks ‘the work is wonderful and writing is easy and they’re going to publish another one of my stories.’ Meanwhile you struggle away researching, crafting strong plots and sentences, working hard on dialogue, submitting carefully, waiting for nine months... only to get a rejection.

The highs.
When the writing is flowing, the characters are real inside your head and you are just the medium to make them live. Your enthusiasm is high. Ideas are being bounced around your brain. Your writing buddies are just as inspired and the world is a sunny place.

The most successful authors I know summon up enormous courage and fortitude when they begin to plow through the long process of writing and promoting a new book. It amazes me how they do it but as a developmental editor working closely with writers for more than 40 years, I’ve learned what helps sustain such a Herculean effort.
Alan shares 11 tips to sustain the writer.
Tania Roxborogh shared a fabulous video with Elizabeth Gilbert the author of Eat Pray Love talking about the courage to write another book after Eat Pray Love was such a run away success. She talks about genius and how in ancient times it was seen as an external force but in recent times genius has become internalised and so we suffer.
Over On the Other Side of the manuscript, Agent Nathan Bransford has a series on his popular blog about being an agent for a day. He is stretching the day out to a week.
On Thursday we discussed the query process and whether or not queries adequately reflect a underlying work's quality. Can someone really make an assessment of a book project based on a query? Really really? Let's test it out.
Nathan solicited one days worth of queries from his readers. 150 responses. He used a random aggregator and selected five query letters which he put up on his blog. The next day he posted the pages that went with the queries. Each day the readers are asked to vote which one they would select. This is an interesting exercise and gives you a feel for what makes a query stand out. (its still going so check in to see what makes the cut.)
Continuing on the other side. James Bridle of Publishing Perspectives has a thought provoking post on Publishers and How they can learn fearlessness.
In the Penguincubator we see several desires converge: affordable books, non-traditional distribution, awareness of context, and a quiet radicalism. And it’s not a huge leap of the imagination to see how these apply now. I see the same bored gaze on the bus and tube today, as people reflexively flip open their phones and start poking at email or casual games, as Allen Lane saw on the platform at Exeter in 1933. And slowly — oh, so slowly — publishers are seeing that what we are presented with is not the death of everything we trust, value and hold dear, but a similar widening vista of opportunity to that which arrived with the mass-market paperback.
And back we go to the writer and the writing life.
As I was researching something else I came across the teaching author site. This is a group of six authors who teach writing in schools and workshops to children. As a large part of being a writer for children includes school visits, this is a great resource. These writers have put together a great blog which markets themselves and have extended it into the classroom to market their writing workshops.
I think in the future we will see more groups of writers banding together to market themselves collectively. As I am finding out in our collective author writing project - get a group of authors together and the energy ideas and enthusiasm of a shared project gives you wings.
This kind of networking among authors can only lead to a more positive environment for the writing community. I have noticed in my short time on Facebook that writers are using it very much like office people use their coffee break. Jumping in through the day to contribute jokes, advice and encouragement or shared anguish...the highs and lows of being a writer.
I have also noticed the blog comments have dried up because they are all commenting on Facebook...ah well.
Now in a link back to last weeks post...
Over On My Amplify Page
I have a link to,
An article about John Grisham’s first book for children.
Cory Doctorow on e-rights on your work.
An article about YA authors tweeting advice to their younger selves (what would you say to your 15yr old self?)
Do aliens exist-if so will they kill us? - advice from Stephen Hawking.
A very costly typo in a Penguin cookbook.
And a link to a mind meld cap the Pentagon want to use...
Finally a little video with some Pitching advice...because I was asked by an august writers association to give them advice on running a workshop on it...because of my involvement in the Spinning Gold conference last year...funny how doing such things spark ideas for other people... 



Melinda Szymanik said...

Sometimes its not courage Maureen, its sheer bloody-mindedness ( a good kiwi attribute). Some days I give up at least a thousand times but we authors do tend to be suckers for punishment and keep going. And when you are part of such a groovy collective its a little easier to hang in there...

Maureen said...

Hi Melinda,
I think courage = bloodymindedness.
And you are right about the inspiration of author collectives making it easier to keep going....

TK Roxborogh said...

And, I think there's something in my blood which says not to start something I don't finish or finish what you start.

Personally, I have found that writing these past 12 months more of an effort with less joy than before. Lots of frustration and boredom

Maureen said...

Tania were you brought up by my mother. Every time I think about abandoning my current novel I get this litany in my head...finish what you are doing first before starting another thing...oh and tidy your room it looks like a pig sty...

Melinda Szymanik said...

no Maureen, that's my mother

TK Roxborogh said...

MY mother! solo, hard working, talented, loud, embarrassing when I was a teen, dependable, creative, impulsive... Oh, the days of cleaning the skirting boards of the five bedroom Kauri villa we rented out in the wop wops; or finishing with the garden when it was finished with an bugger if the sun had gone down!!
Don't think she ever said I had to tidy my room. It was matter of childhood despair that it mostly shared it with my very messy younger sister. I always kept my side tidy (I even drew a line with a crayon!)

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Maureen,
I'm glad you found our Teaching Authors blog. I actually started the group blog because I wanted to have a blogging presence that wouldn't suck too much time away from my writing. The blog has grown into so much more. As you mention, it promotes us and gives us more exposure in schools, but we've also found a new network of friends in fellow writers online, like you. :-)

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