Skip the Tricks. How to be the Treat that Everyone Wants.
Writing is so solitary. Just you and the voices in your head which then turn into conversations that hopefully are not audible to everyone around you. Eventually, puzzle pieces of your story begin pouring into your computer and actually looking like a book.
But — most of us aren’t content to remain in that cozy little closet of self and book. We seek opinions, or contracts, or input into our hard, makes-total-sense-to-me work.
This is the beginning of what could be haunting for you and a nightmare for others.
Let’s look at how we can embrace the outside world and open the door to others. Kind of like Monday’s trick or treaters will be seeking candy handouts, we toss our nuggets of wisdom, our blood-sweat-tear induced works-in-progress into bags filled with others’ offerings. Once out of our hands, our stories may be handled with less care and tenderness than we’d like. Hopefully, they won’t be the item that gets traded or tossed.
There are aspects of writing where relationships matter. And the more we attempt to keep ourselves from flinging candy and laughing when it bounces off some insensitive idiot’s skull, the more likely we are to have successful relationships in the industry.
Grab your flashlight and put a sweater on over the costume. You know your mother would worry about you getting a chill. Got your bucket? Let’s go.
Big city, upscale developments ahead. These are the writing professionals. Editors, agents, the like. These are the kids who know the BEST neighborhoods for treats. They expect to be given the king-sized candy bars. Wait until you can produce the mongo name brand Swiss chocolate. When you offer them Dum-Dums, you ruin an opportunity. You must first learn, learn, learn, grow, grow, grow through reading, conferences, how-to books, mentors, critique partners, etc. fill-in-the-blanks. Don’t jump in willy-nilly and start flinging or grabbing your candy. Wear the grasshopper costume until you can hop high enough to move up. And if you are already there, don’t wear glass slippers. Crushed toes are something you can survive, severed ones make life a little more difficult. Professionals expect you to be the real deal, respect that and them and be the real deal.
Look, up ahead, it’s your neighborhood gang. These are your critique partners and encouragers. Free-spirit creative souls can learn so much from the folks who are grammar cops. You don’t have to be like them and blow your whistle every time someone uses an … instead of — but let them help you understand the rules. And detail folks, let your creative whimsical buddies help you to loosen up your prose so it sings. Very few critique partners set out to become emotional vampires and attempt to suck the marrow from your book. If someone doesn’t understand, or like what you are trying to communicate, learn to communicate a little clearer. Your neighborhood is where you gain street smarts, and your neighbors are representative of future readers.
Zip your jacket and hold your candy a little closer. We are about to become lost in the dark woods. You’ve been published, ushered to the edge of the forest, and it’s your job to get to the other side. There should be a party somewhere over there with all sorts of good stuff, but you have to enter the forest to find it. There are rumors the forest is haunted. The path is touch and go, and full of obstacles. This forest will bring you up close and personal with people like reviewers and readers who don’t get you and are very vocal about it. Numbers flash past you, your numbers on Amazon, your rankings and sales. Checks or lack of sneak up and scream boo when you least expect it. You can do nothing about sales except to do your best to help your publicist. Be your book’s best champion. Put yourself out there. At least you will know you gave it your best shot. If someone doesn’t get you, get over it. Frozen in the forest and weeping, wailing, arguing is going to draw the attention of more spooks. If someone is unkind or confused, let their words stand uncontested. Others watch from behind trees. Your forest conduct will color your future. Leave it better than you found it, even if you have to close your eyes, hold your breath and run.
Okay. To sum it up. Put on a costume you don’t mind being seen in. However, you must first put on your big boy or big girl panties. Smile and say thank you. Don’t gorge yourself on the front step, savor the goodies. And don’t forget to share some of your loot with others who may be a bit behind you on the path or those who may have gotten roughed up by a rotten trickster wearing a monster costume.