Saturday, March 5, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

It's blog chain time once more and today's question is brought to us by Sarah.

what has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have predicted? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

There have actually been lots of unexpected parts to my writing journey, but maybe that's because I didn't have a whole lot of solid expectations starting out. Even though I've always known that I wanted to be a writer, I'm not a sit down and write down time specific goals type person. Instead, I use the "well let's try this" method of living my life.

That's how I ended up getting a BFA in theatre instead of the english degree I'd originally intended on receiving. And when I realized that might not have been quite what I wanted, it was off to film school in California - the other end of country from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I met my husband and we both earned MFAs in Film and Television Production, but finding a job in the LA industry was tougher than we'd expected so when he got a job offer in Tennessee - I didn't even hesitate. Sure, why not - let's go for it. Once settled down South with full health insurance benefits my husband and I saw an opportunity to join the great "let's have a kid" experiment. And because we never do anything halfway, we had two (not at the same time though. gah. I shudder at the thought.)

Okay, but this is supposed to be about my writing life. And that big paragraph above this one is just about my life life. Well that's because my writing life has always happened in between my life life. And I really only got serious about the writing part of my life in between having those kids. That's when I started my first novel, not even knowing it was going to be the first novel that I actually finished. So that was kind of unexpected. It was the fall of 2007 and my son was four months old. By December I finished it and by the Spring I was itching to send it out into the world.

This is where the really unexpected part comes in. I had no idea how much there was to learn. Or how much was involved in the "trying to get book published" process. Going into it, I figured it would be similar to putting a worm on a hook, casting it out to sea, and waiting for the fish to bite. Okay, so I know nothing about fishing, and I knew nothing about getting published. But I do now. Well, the publishing part - still not real clear on the ins and outs of fishing.

At first it was mind boggling how many resources were available out there FOR FREE to anyone who had the ability to Google and then read until their eyes bled. And I did read until my eyes bleed.

I hunted down every agent blog. Every editor blog. Every writing forum. Everything ever written on how best to write a query and how best to write a synopsis. And how not to write a query and synopsis.

I found a crit group, and realized got some good feedback.

I wrote a query and then I rewrote it five hundred thousand times. And then I rewrote it again.

I found out what books were trending hot. I found out not to follow trends.

I learned about blogging and leaving comments and started my own blog and hoped to one day get my own blog comments.

Sometimes I would remember to blink, and then I would read some more.

I entered agent contests and read about what to do when you get the call, and what to do if more than one agent is interested - even though by this point I was packing poor novel number one away and starting work on novel number two, because I had also read that this is what you are supposed to do.

I learned the difference between New York publishing, online publishing, and self publishing.

I read success stories and felt envious and wistful and more determined than ever.

I found Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Dear Author, Book Smugglers and lots of other great review sights that added to my pile of books to buy or get from the library and I read those too.

I cross referenced agents on QueryTracker and AgentQuery and felt like Santa Claus writing his list and checking it twice.

Yes, several times I purposely Googled something along the lines of, "authors who were rejected a million times and then went on to become kiss my a$$ rich and famous."

I learned about publishing contracts and edits and the whole process that goes into making the books that end up on the shelves.

I read agented authors saying that it didn't get easier after having an agent, and read published authors saying it didn't get better after being published, and thought "well that's just frigging great."

And then one day I got to the point where I'd click on a link to an article on how to write a better query, and realized... hey, wait, I already knew this. I've done this.

At that point I could've printed myself out a BS in Writing degree to hang on my wall. I didn't though.

One, because that would be lame and a little delusional, especially since I don't have the actual diplomas I have earned hanging on the wall.

And two, because I don't think my education is complete. I'm not anywhere near to how obsessive I once was in my online agent, blog, and forum following, but having that time when I was really plugged in was a huge help in getting closer to my writing goals. At the same time it was also a hindrance to my having any time to do some actual writing, which is why I've cut down significantly (child #2 in the "let's have a kid" experiment didn't help with the time constraints either). Overall though, time spent learning the business has probably been the most important unexpected detour I've taken on this writing journey.

That's it for this unexpected post. But there are more surprises to be had! Go find them with Sandra, Cole, and the rest of the blog chain.


  1. Kate, I think that's such a good point. We can become obsessed with learning all we can online. But that takes time, time away from actual writing. Great post!

  2. Oh, golly, yes. The amount of learning that goes into just figuring out what you need to do to be published is insane. And it's ever-evolving. It's very different from how it was when one of my friends gave me a "how to get published" book for our high school graduation 12 years ago. And writing does happen between the unexpected parts of life. I never expected to go into preterm labor and be on bedrest with no access to the computer when I was pregnant with my daughter, never expected that would nearly end my writing career before it ever began. But we do get our writing feet back under us again. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer than expected.

  3. Wow! What an adventure! And I can relate in so many ways.

  4. It's always hard to integrate writing life with life life, especially with kids. But yes, it's important to learn about the business aspect of writing.

  5. At a time when obsession is a GOOD thing :) Great post.

  6. LOL, I so feel your pain (okay, not the "lets have a kid" pain, since it was my wife who dealt with that part of it, but anyway). This is a great post and a great read, which is why I'm positive you'll be a great writer someday with tons of accolades. You already have awesome skills at storytelling.

  7. Kate, I love this post and your determination! Keep going!!

  8. This is a really great post. I don't know how you all with kids find the time to write.

  9. I love this post - love everything you have learned, unlearned, and learned again. WOOT!! Keep it going girl!

  10. I've used the "let's try this" method of living for the past 30-something years. I wouldn't have it any other way. :-)

    BTW: I read this book the other day where the main character had me thinking in the back of my mind, "I bet that's what Kate is like." Seriously the main character's voice reminded me of you.