That's all there is to it, right? Well, not quite. You need to keep writing. You need to keep learning. You need to write, revise, repeat, rethink, edit, query, submit, garner rejections, and learn to be resilient. And then - if you are lucky enough to find an agent or a publisher - you get to keep repeating the process (and maybe even get paid for it.)
Why do writers keep going? Especially those of us whose debut novels may have gotten wonderful reviews but not the sales? Whose second novels may be languishing with a defunct publishing house who never sent out royalty checks? Why would a writer - like, umm, me - keep going?
Hope. The idea that One Day something Great might happen.
And, believe it or not, we keep writing for our Readers. The idea that people are reading our books and being transported into the worlds and scenes we imagine is a powerful motivator.
They say the definition of insanity is to repeat the same actions but expect different results. But in the case of writers, the actions are never quite the same. We should keep learning as we go, and our writing should keep evolving.
And in the meantime, it's hundreds of little things that keep writers going. A compliment from a friend. A compliment from a stranger. The support from fellow writers, in person at critique groups or on blogs and Facebook. A scheduled book signing at a local store. An email from a random reader, asking when your next book is coming out. Or an email from a book group who loves your work.
This is a photo of my mom and her sister, my Aunt Kate. (And yes, I'm named after her.)
She let me know afterward that the women in her group loved the book. Her email made my day.
This time she didn't ask, as she'd heard from her sister that our house troubles have escalated. But she did send an email yesterday to let me know that the "No Rules" Book Club of Annandale, Virginia read and discussed my debut novel, UNFOLDING THE SHADOWS, this week. And loved that as well. And can't wait to read the next one.
My aunt has always encouraged me to write, and to believe in myself. When I was in second grade and started writing stories, she told me if I finished a whole book, she'd publish it. I did, and she did. The slim volume was bound in heavy yellow velum, with illustrations she added herself and hand water-colored, and entitled "The Mystery of the Haunted House." I was thrilled. And hooked on the idea of being an author.
I can't thank her enough for encouraging me at a kid, and for her continued encouragement even now, when I'm supposedly all grown up.
I hope every writer out there has at least one person like this in his or her life, sending cheerful emails out of the blue to brighten a day and reinforce the idea that You are a Real Writer. I'm lucky enough to have several people like this in my life, but today I'm really thankful for my Aunt Kate.
What keeps you going?