Monday, June 20, 2011

In It To Win the War

Okay, so I've been thinking a lot about what it takes to "win the publishing war," and I finally got my thoughts to congeal while watching (okay, listening to--I was admittedly on the computer) a documentary on the Civil War.

Someone said, "Robert E. Lee wasn't looking to win another battle. He was trying to win the war."

I liked that. Sometimes it is about the battles. We tell ourselves we can rest when the next scene is done, or when we've written 1000 words for the day. Those are battles. Because there are a lot of things competing for our time.

But in the end, we're not looking to simply win battles. We want to win the war. And that takes a little bit more than just writing and revising.

It means submitting. I've known a few authors who are afraid to submit. I don't know if this is you or not. But if it is, you've got to get your armor on, write that query letter, pick up your helmet, polish your manuscript, and submit.

You can't win the war without submitting.

You also can't win the war if you don't finish a book. So if you find yourself "battling" with the same pages over and over, maybe you should leave them in the dust and finish the book. Then you can go back to the battle with the goal of submitting in mind.

That's how you win the publishing war.

So are you fighting battles in the hopes of winning the war? Or are you editing the same pages over and over again?

53 comments:

Theresa Milstein said...

Don't worry, amidst the battles, I have my eye on winning the war.

These days, I'm editing with hopes of querying in July.

I'm surprised when I hear someone has been writing for years but hasn't submitted. Some haven't even shown their work to other writers. It's hard to improve if you battle alone.

Andrea Mack said...

You're right. Thanks for the reminder to get putting my stuff out there. It is easy to get caught up in writing and rewriting and wanting to make it perfect.

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

So true. Success is the sum of the whole. Or it's kind of like putting together puzzles. Each piece connects to the other making the whole picture.

Carrie said...

Great advice. I had to do leave pages in the dust to get through a recent revision and now I get to go back and rewrite pages/scenes. But it was good to get through the revision and get feedback and know what's working and what isn't.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I am slow, but I am trying to move toward the submitting. Because you're right, you must finish a book and submit to get published.

So I am trying to squeeze in more writing time. But I also recognize that with a demanding job and a busy daughter, I may have to go slower than some. But I am productive almost 100% every day.

Jen Daiker said...

Great post. I'm not one who is afraid to submit though I do think the first round I did I was a little to eager.

I think it's all a learning curve. Now understanding how the query world works along with the agenting one I'm better able to understand what happens with novel #2.

By then I'll have my revisions complete, my list ready, and the query available to knock the socks off the agents (yes... I remain optimistic.)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This sound like my mom. She's mades tons of quilts (and they look amazing), but she won't show them to anyone, sell them, or enter them in contests. So she hasn't tons of quilts lying around the house (other than the ones she's made for my kids).

This was enough for me to know I don't want to be like her. I don't want to hide my mss on my computer and never take the chance. I don't want to be a coward because I'm afraid someone will see a flaw (which is all my mom can see in her beautiful quilts). I didn't write them so no one sees them. I want them to be seen . . . even at the risk of rejection. ;)

Matthew MacNish said...

Great points, Elana!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

For me, it means trying to make sure I keep a balance - between different writing projects, between writing and life - so that I can endure. Sometimes, it's a war of attrition.

Great post!

khashway said...

My rule is that I have to have multiple things on submission at once. That way I don't feel too bad any one rejection. I write a lot of short stories for magazines and educational websites so that helps me get used to submitting on a regular basis.

Now when it comes to my books, well, I'm not so easy going. My middle grade novel is out on submission through my agent and I'm biting my nails over here--well, not literally. I have long nails.

Crystal Cheverie said...

You are so right. I'm in the midst of fighting the battle (10k words or so to go!!!). I've also been trying to submit my short stories whilst working on my WIP because, as you've said, you can't "win" (read: get published) if you don't put your work out there and submit. Hopefully I'll win the war soon! :-)

Marisa Hopkins said...

ELANA! I just bought Possession!! (what took me so long, seriously?!) I am SO excited to start reading!!

Excellent post! I am on the tail end of my 2nd draft of my current WIP. Most days I'm ready to quit (how you balance work and family and EVERYTHING ELSE with writing is AMAZING, yo) but then I remember how much I love writing and that I'm not the quitting type, so I keep on!

Terrified to query, but I still have time before I'm there!

Christine Fonseca said...

Such a great post!

lynnrush said...

Great post. You're right on. My best friend--the one who told me to "take the next step" after I'd finished my first novel has a fun saying that kicks me in gear. "Time to put on your big-girl panties, Lynn."

She's had to say that to me a few times over the years to get me back on track. To get me to face my big fears. I love her for it.

Write on, my friends.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Bird by bird, battle by battle. Absolutely agree.

Or as my good friend Bob says, "Baby steps. Baby steps." ;)

~ Wendy

Renae said...

Such a great post! As usual!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Elana,

I'm still battling with my last edit of my second novel before sending to crit partners.... For some strange reason the last edit always takes me the longest. My mind wander and I can only do a few pages at a time before I get distracted.

Any advice? I can sure use it. Thanks.

Michael

Lizz said...

Thanks for the reminder and encouraging post!

Deana said...

Oh I get stuck doing this and for some reason I don't want to pass the scene that has me floudering. I don't know why, it's like I'm afraid to jump ahead or something. I need to get out of that mindset though. Thanks for reminding us all that it's ok:)

Joy D. Fanning said...

Good post! I am battling getting my book down right now. I took about a year break before I decided I wanted to write again and it's not coming as easily as I would have liked. I know my book is worth being written though, so I'm making the effort to win this war! Also, I never understood not attempting to publish. There is nothing to loose, but so much to gain!

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful post. I'm in it to win the war. I lose some battles, but that's just a part of it all.

Laura said...

I will win or die trying. At least the publishers can't actually kill me ;)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Hmmm. I think the tough thing for me was winning one battle, thinking the war was in the bag, and then getting slaughtered.

But don't worry, I know the war is not over. I've picked myself up, gathered my troops, and I'm swinging into battle again. :)

Stephanie McGee said...

I'm working toward it. Getting there. Lots of battles to overcome first. Great post.

Shari said...

Excellent post! I'm trying to win the war, but I have found myself trying to fix a certain part of one of my manuscripts over and over and over. So, I guess I'm doing both!

Alleged Author said...

Fighting to win the war but, oh dear, I seem to have misplaced my armor. I doubt everyone wants to see me in my skivvies.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Ugh! You've been watching! Submission is so scary. I can continue in my delusions as long as I don't submit.

Stasia said...

Thanks, Elana. You have an uncanny ability to write what I need to read when I need to read it!

Krystle said...

I'm bad about wanting to stop and revise when I can't quite get something write (guess it's my inner perfectionist). Great advice!

Heather said...

I want to stand up and cheer for this post! Too many of the writers I've known in the past have been trying to win the battle, revising and revising and never sending it out there. You're right, we need to fight to win the WAR, not the battle. Love it!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Thanks, Elana, that's exactly what I needed to hear today. I've been putting off submitting for a long time, I guess I should just put on my big-girl pants. :) It's a little nerve-wracking, though, isn't it?

Melanie Stanford said...

Great post! I'm trying my darnedest to win the war. With this post I just picture myself on top of a horse, face painted blue, and yelling "FREEDOM!"

Emily Rittel-King said...

Elana,
I read this blog and then walked away, thought about it, and here's what I have to say:
I was the opposite of shy when it came to submitting; I was cocky. I queried too soon, and maybe ruined my chances at finding an agent or publisher. I wish I had the opposite problem (a dynamite MS hiding in my computer), but I don't.

Also, what do you think about telling people when you're querying? I've done this, and I had to live with the rejection AND my friend and family's disappointment. Do you think submitting should be private or publicized?

Taryn Tyler said...

Lately I've really been trying hard to keep my armor on and submit. I just always tend to think if I have more time to tweak and play with everything one more time it will be flawless and submitting will be easier. Not true of course but it justifies my inclination to put it off just a little longer.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Oh, I'm in the trenches. Taking bullets left and right. I think I might die out here.

lol. (kinda)
#NoButSeriously

Melanie said...

Great friggin post. Just what I needed. I'm finding that i'm a perfectionist in my writing and will often linger on a chapter/scene/senetence trying to get it to say, show or convey EXACTLY what I want it to and that is definitely slowing me down. I need to just get through the first draft and then I can go back and meticulously fix everything.

Steena Holmes said...

I'm not only in full gear wear but I'm winning this battle. There's no other option! This is my career and if its important enough to me then I will succeed.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Armor on, amid the battle, bloody and torn but fighting the good fight! :-)

Jeff King said...

Writing and composing are practicing or training for battle. Actually submitting the work and having the perseverance to push through rejections is the battle… getting published is winning the war. Getting out and marketing your book, doing everything you can to get sales, is keeping the peace.

Nice post be the way, I just see it this way.

And one day I will win the war.

Marsha Sigman said...

I'm winning. And just to prove it...Robert E. Lee plays a big part in my current wip ghost story.

Oh, yeah.

Nichole Giles said...

I hate the war. Plan to win it, but still hate it. It's a never-ending cycle. Determined? Yes. Every day. Otherwise, I'm just another person who once considered writing a book.

*heads into the armory*

Wish me luck!

Leslie Rose said...

I look at the war as puzzle pieces that got knocked off the table by the cat. Hopefully one piece of the writing puzzle didn't slide under the couch, but there are days when I'm sure something is missing. I like your perspective on the "long haul" of the war.

Krispy said...

What a way to remind us of the big picture. That's a great metaphor too because a lot of times, writing does feel like a battle.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm not the best for being brave - but I'm getting better. I take baby steps - but I learn from each step and stop to make changes and improve what I've got. It's slow, but it's progress!

Meredith said...

Ugh, so many battles. But you're right: focusing on the bigger picture is the best motivator. I love that.

Lisa Gail Green said...

You're always so awesome and encouraging!! It helps when you go into the war with other loyal soldiers. (Help I'm drowning in my metaphor)

Amber said...

3 years = 35 pages
2 weeks = 372 pages

Coming to the realization that my first book was just bad and being ok with it, because now I know how to write another one.

saraflower said...

Great post! It is good to improve your work, but a writer also needs to get her stuff out there.

Besides, many agents will scoop up a story because they love the voice and plot. Editing can always come later. :)

Corey Schwartz said...

Awesome post. For me, "winning the war' also meant figuring out a better strategy- I started looking for the marketing hook FIRST. Once I starred writing the pitch BEFORE the book, I started to sell manuscripts!

Colene Murphy said...

Way to rev up the troops! Awesome advice.

K.V. Briar said...

Wow, that was exactly what I needed to hear today!! I find myself editing and editing and editing (I'm on my sixth draft) ... I know that its a form of procrastination. I seriously need to start the queries.

Thnks for the pep talk!!

Rebecca T. said...

Ouch. Yeah. Needed to hear that today while I'm avoiding my WIP because I can't figure out how to make this scene work. You always seem to know that *peers suspiciously around* :)

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

Brilliant analogy.
I feel like I've been fighting for so long. I'm going to need bombs to end this sucker.

Planning to work on my bomb this weekend!

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