Do you have a lot of good ideas for your writing, but are unable to stick to one long enough to bring it to completion? I have been that way for some time. At first, I thought it was a good thing. Hey, a never-ending toy chest of ideas to play with. Endless opportunities. The problem is, I ended up with a lot of half-finished writing projects and lists upon lists of ideas. I found myself boasting about some of my ideas, and even shared the first ten pages of my “screenplay” with my son. He read it and called me back, asking me when I was going to finish it so he could see what happens. (The script remains at fifty-seven pages, stuck somewhere in the middle of Act Two.)
I’ve learned that having a list of ideas is good, but there is much to be said for completing something. Yes, there are writers who work on more than one project at a time. Stephen King suggests writing more than one book simultaneously so you can switch between them if you are having writer’s block. Too many people, places and things for me to juggle at once. I would most likely end up getting confused and mixing up the story lines. I don’t seem to be able to multitask. What? Walk and chew gum? At the same time? Wait. Step. Chew. Step. Chew.
Those writers who fulfill their early promise, who achieve wild success, whose words seem to come effortlessly, tend to baffle the rest of us. I write because I have to. If I don’t, the “committee” in my head gets restless. Voices compete for my attention. Dozens of ideas fly at me all at once. I don’t write just because I can. I don’t write for money. My books will never take up two and a half shelves at the local public library. I can’t even say I will write one terrific hit, like To Kill a Mockingbird. At this point, my only hope is that I write honestly and as often as possible. If I develop a voice and remain candid, I stand a chance of being happy in my craft.
Getting published, now that’s a lot like trying to catch a Great White shark with a bamboo pole. There are so many manuscripts vying for attention it’s mind-boggling. How do you even begin? Obviously, the first step is a finished book that has been rewritten a number of times, which may have taken a number of years. Then comes the decision of how to market the book. I understand that editors and agents do respond to well-written cover letters and to opening sentences that bring a manuscript to life. Certainly, stiff and stale language in a letter will discourage an editor or agent, if not prejudice them to expect a poorly written story. Of course, you can have all your ducks in a row and still be told “No Thank You.” That’s a tough spot to be in. You feel like the word REJECT is stenciled across your forehead.
Remember, though, that being a writer does not begin and end with getting published. Many people write simply to write, and do not depend on their words to pay the bills. There is a lot of freedom in that. Here’s a thought. If you are only interested in writing a novel, and are not willing to write short stories or magazine articles, or have no interest in blogging, then go ahead and write your manuscript. Put a query letter together. Shop the book around. See what happens. Just know that there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes. If you have great writing and communication skills, and the drive to keep working in multiple media, then you stand a great chance of being heard.
Don’t be afraid of writing multiple “new drafts.”