Eileen Gardner has just become Publishers Weekly’s 200,000th follower on Twitter. Turns out she’s an aspiring novelist and blogger; to mark our Twitter milestone, we asked her to contribute a guest post to PWxyz.
I think sometimes in life it is better not to know how difficult something is going to be before you attempt it. I can now file “publish my novel” under this heading. The odds of seeing my work in print are frighteningly small, but I didn’t know that when I started my quest for publication. If I’d known the odds going in, I probably wouldn’t have gone in.
Ok, that’s not true. Writing for me is not a choice. It’s a passion, it’s a calling. I couldn’t stop writing if I tried, and believe me, I’ve tried. But like a siren’s song, writing keeps calling me back. I am a writer.
About two years ago, I had that thrilling spark of a great idea. I sat down in my chair and put my hands on the keyboard. Every day. I fell in love with my characters. I thought I developed an interesting plot. And I did something I’d never done before: I finished.
I think we should give out awards to anyone who actually finishes a novel. It is a major accomplishment.
But as every author knows, once she’s completed her latest opus, no book becomes “real” until someone else reads it. My first question of course was “to whom do I mail this to for it to be published?” Oh, how I wish it were that simple.
While I was writing I never gave any thought to the publishing process or the business side of a writer’s life. I had no idea you need a Pulitzer Prize-winning query letter just to get an agent’s attention. Or that once you have an agent (another major accomplishment), he or she still has to sell your book.
I didn’t know about all the negotiating, editing, and marketing that takes place every time a new book comes into the world or the virtual army of people needed to make this happen. Some days, the two years I spent writing the book seems like the easy part.
I certainly didn’t know about the rejection. Nothing prepares you for the soul-crushing rejection that is an inherent part of every author’s life. Writing is definitely not for wimps. You have to grow a thick skin. You have to keep putting yourself out there again and again and again, risking heartbreak every time.
I wasn’t hip to the necessity of a platform. I didn’t know I would have to tweet and blog and Facebook my little heart out if I wanted people to read my novel. When I am published, I don’t know if I’ll ever sleep again, but that is a worry for another time.
What I do know is this: there is something magical about storytelling. There is something truly wondrous about the power of words and their ability to move, frustrate, delight, and inspire us. That is why people write. That is why I write, because I love being a part of that magic.
So besides writing, I do something else; I persevere. Each day, I say a little prayer to the query gods and send out another batch. I tweet, I blog, and I try my best to enjoy the journey. I write new stories. And on the days when rejections fill my inbox and the magic is hard to find, I take a deep breath and call to mind the words of that great philosopher and statesman, Han Solo, who I think said it best, “Never tell me the odds.”
Read Eileen Gardner’s blog here.