The Life of a Writer
So you want to become a writer?
Congrats! You’re about to find out that things are not as simple as you thought. And just in case you think you’ve written a masterpiece, think again.
At first, dedicating several hours to your work seems fun, satisfying, even invigorating. Writing becomes a delightful process, a catharsis for all your thoughts and words that were bursting to come out of you. There are characters that are waiting to be born, to give their speeches and change lives. There is a story to tell, but more importantly, one you kind of want to live.
A world is creating in your mind, one you’re in complete control of. Seems so appealing, right? The whole writing process seems like such an important task that only you can spearhead. Everything depends on your nimble fingers, and your scurrying mind.
Then when you write the very last word, punctuate it and sit back...there couldn’t be a greater feeling. You’re proud of yourself for spending days, months, dedicated to your work. It is such an important work, after all. If you hadn’t done it, your characters would be imprisoned in the corner of your mind. You helped them escape. You gave them the breath of life.
You didn’t even know these characters before, now you’re super protective about them. They are your friends, family, everything. They were with you throughout the whole period of your writing process. You may have nurtured them, but they were the ones who let you control them and supported you. Without their submission, you wouldn’t have been able to manipulate them into the lives you chose for them.
So there it is, thousands of words of your story. Yes, somewhere in the midst of all those sentences, a little bit of you has crept in. You didn’t mean to, of course. It was someone else’s story. Not yours.
Yet, as you go through some of the lines, you find that you can relate to your own writing and that is not only because you wrote the story, it’s because you influenced it.
One of the characters, suddenly becomes too familiar. The protagonist, usually. It’s you! You let some of your characteristics seep into a fictional person.
Never mind. You’re an amazing person with an equally amazing personality. So what if people find some of your secrets in the story. They don’t know all of you and will think it’s just a clever twist you put into your stories.
Then comes the agonizing part where you have to wait. Leave that precious story lying on the laptop (after making copies of it for security reasons, of course) and wait for a few days before doing a bit of your own editing work. You don’t want to send the first draft of your story out to any publisher. It’s a rookie mistake and you don’t want to be the one who is guilty of it.
A few days later, you open up the document and start reading it, but not as a reader, but someone who is acting like a detective, looking for faults. You know the story by heart, so reading it just like that isn’t important to you. You want to send it out and it’s time you push away the artist and bring in the businessperson inside you.
You want to create a work that is sale-able and the first step is to omit all mistakes.
The first paragraph itself, throws you back. There is a misspelled word your software didn’t catch. You change it and realize the grammar of the next sentence is all wrong.
You change all that, heart thudding violently in your chest. The second paragraph is a lot better, there are absolutely no mistakes your prying eyes can find. So is the third. The fourth has a tiny mistake in the sentence structure, but it is easily amended.
By the time you reach the end of your first chapter, you realize you didn’t add dialogue at all. I mean, the character was just waiting to be able to speak and you hadn’t given them a chance.
You go back. Dialogue is essential, but it was okay that it wasn’t inserted in the first paragraph. You want to set the story before the characters start speaking.
Changes are made, tentatively. You don’t want to lose the tone you had set for the story. It takes time, days, before you finally go through your manuscript and rectify the errors you found.
Now, it’s time to send it out! You have already shortlisted some publishers and start composing an email. However, the publisher’s site warns of following their guidelines closely. Or your proposal will not be considered.
Confident of your abilities as a writer, you click on the link and feel your jaw drop. Nope, your manuscript doesn’t fit the guidelines at all. Your font is all wrong, the font size is larger than was required and uh oh, you added page numbers.
You open up your document, quickly make the changes. Select all, change size and font. Okay, it’s done. That was easy. You read the guidelines once more, find a few other things required. Indents, page breaks, bold chapter headings. Now, that’s a little complicated, but you manage nevertheless. It takes more time though.
In the other window, your email is still open and the cover letter is waiting for an attached file. You get all ready to send the email when you find that the publisher only wants the first three chapters. Groaning inwardly, you select the first three chapters, open up another document, save it, only to find you saved it in the wrong format.
“I hate this!” you yell at your computer screen. More curses are muttered at the innocent screen and finally, you attach your sample and hit send.
Three months. That is how long you’ll have to wait to get a reply from the publishers. No simultaneous submissions, it says too. But you’re a rule breaker and send it off to the other publishers. Some of them have the same guidelines, others just want you to make minor changes. Some have written explicitly to send only via an agent. But you had already drafted an email to them!!!
You cancel it all. And start looking for other publishers. Three months is a long wait, after all.
Time passes agonizingly slow and in the meantime you consider starting work on another story, certain and confident, that one of the publishers will offer you a contract and will want to see your other work.
Three months pass, no replies. I mean, a few publishers had mentioned that they would respond only if they were interested. You start losing hope. The new story you started, is looked upon with doubt. Perhaps you weren’t such a great writer as you thought you were.
Days pass and you continue work on your other story. It’s a helpful distraction if anything. Then an email pops up. It’s from a publisher!!!!
You scan through it, just looking for the attached contract. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. You’re manuscript has been rejected.
It feels like a punch to your chest. You can’t breathe and your heart gets heavy. Inside your mind, you taunt yourself- Ha! I knew you sucked as a writer!
You don’t take rejections well. For two days, you sulk. The second story you started is at risk of being sent to the recycle bin. It probably is as bad as the first. You don’t want to tell your friends and family that you’ve been rejected; they will make fun of your talent.
On the third day, you tell yourself that you did send it off to ten other publishers. Someone would respond positively. Till then, you start work on your next masterpiece. The publisher who rejected you will rue turning you down, you think. You will be published and become famous and that poor publisher will live with the guilt forever.
This renewed hope adds to your enthusiasm to work on your story again. Days pass, and the rejection is forgotten. You’re in the middle of the best story you’ve ever written. The first one doesn’t compare to this masterpiece. No wonder the publisher rejected it.
Another email pops up. It is from the other publisher and it’s another rejection. This time you don’t fall into despair. You’ve already forgotten what your first book is about. The second one is way, way better.
The next day you receive another rejection and by evening, it’s another one.
You don’t take two rejections on one day, very well. At night, you’re in tears. You’ve failed. No matter how good your book and your writing is, you lack the luck to get ahead in the business. The second story must suck too, you think.
The next morning, you don’t write. You’re struck with writer’s block and you want to spend more time moping. There is another email waiting and without opening the email, you know it is a rejection. It’s in the subject line after all.
You look out the window, ponder on what a cruel world you live in and how things just never work out for you.
The next day, you think, what the hell, I’ll finish my second story and hope that it sells. If it does, excellent, if it doesn’t, who cares anymore.
Six months later, your second manuscript is ready and polished after a grueling editing process. It is longer than the first, but you feel, better than the first.
You start sending it out and a week later receive a rejection. Before you fall into depression, you read the whole email and find out it is for the first book. Your hopes don’t crash and burn just yet.
By the time the year ends, you’ve received nine rejections and one acceptance for your first book. The offer is terrible and you will never make any money, but at least it will be published in several platforms.
The second...guess what? It finally gets an acceptance from the publisher you want to work with!!! In just a month after you sent it.
You’re jumping with joy, dancing and signing the contract with so much pride. You dangle your acceptance letter in front of your friends and family and start working with the editor assigned to you. There are so many things you overlooked, so many errors, but you are patient with the advise you receive from your editor. They are helping you after all even if it feels like they are attacking the story you put so much energy into.
It’s time for the release. You’ve done all you think you needed to. Except what you didn’t envision is the hard work you are going to have to put in to promote your book. That leaves very little time to work on the third book you had started. But this is important- you need to sell your books.
You put in exhausting hours promoting your baby, your book, only to find that by the end of the month, you’ve sold none. Second month- someone bought your book. Just one person.
The third book you had started is put away for the time being because your first book requires some attention too. It’s an ebook and you are competing with thousands of other writers, some who are offering their books for free. You’re doomed.
Every night, you fall into deep slumber, exhausted from giving your mind a proper workout. You are promoting two books at once while writing a third. Your brain feels ready to explode.
You’re torn between two books you want to give your attention to, plus the publisher advises to start a blog or author’s website. You have to regularly blog now as well. More traffic to your blog means more people are exposed to your book.
By the end of another quarter, your second book was sold just once, but your first one managed to find five readers. Yes!
You don’t get paid because enough hasn’t been accumulated into your account, but you bask in the fact that someone out there, is reading your book, your masterpiece.
And one day, one of your books will find its way into the bestsellers list. You are a writer, you are gifted with a powerful imagination, after all.