Being an unpublished writer can feel a lot like you’re on one of those birthday party scavenger hunts. You know, where you would knock on neighbors’ doors and ask them for random items like a q-tip, a banana, a Britney Spears CD, a penny from 1982.
You set out with a list of things you know you need to collect, but you have no idea how many houses you’ll have to visit to gather everything. Maybe you’ll find all the items. Maybe you won’t. What if you don’t? Well, you don’t win the prize.
And while you’ve got a group of friends with you, they’re in the exact same situation as you: hoping you get everything you need, but with no more clues than you. You all hope for the best, suggest to try this house or that one where that lady lives with all that random junk in her window, but really you all are grasping at straws and making your best guesses.
It’s fun, frustrating, and feels like it could go on forever. And sometimes it’s difficult to make sense of the list. Often times, you aren’t meant to.
Writing and revising on your own feels like this. You type words on the page, then find yourself in an endless loop of rewriting, hoping your manuscript is improving but not every knowing for sure. Will it ever end, and end well?
Bouncing your manuscript off your critique partners feels like this. They suggest edits and those suggestions sound awesome and look awesome. But would an agent or an editor agree, you wonder? How will they react when you knock on the door?
Querying definitely feels like this. You email lots of agents, effectively knocking on tons of doors. But it often takes them forever to respond. Some don’t. And if they do answer the door eventually, they may be sorry to say they can’t help you.
It’s the game that never ends.
Except unlike a partygoer on that scavenger hunt, you, writer friend, have way more than that list of must-have items. You’ve got a ton of optional, yet beyond valuable, resources at your fingertips that can help you get to where you need to go. It doesn’t have to feel like an endless quest. (But really, isn’t that what chasing any dream feels like?)
Apply for a mentorship with an author. Network with authors, agents, and editors on social media. Participate in contests. Go to conferences. Get yourself and your work in front of industry professionals and other writers. You never know…someone may take your hand and help you gather more of what you need on your path to publication.
You of course have to put in that solitary work. Writer’s got to write to improve craft. But putting yourself out there and seeking help from others can help you make sense of everything you are told you need to find and do on your path to publication.
That doesn’t mean the quest won’t present itself again. I often hear authors talk about how difficult it is to get that second book deal. After they win the prize, it’s like the hunt starts over again.
I guess what I’m saying is you have many opportunities to make this hunt of yours successful. It’s up to you to seek out those resources and figure out how they can help you make sense of this crazy dream.
Don’t scavenge your way to a book deal; bundle together everything you can think of to cross items off the list and win the prize.