Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Being Ready

I should be writing at this very moment—I'm under ten horrid deadlines today—but I just finished one project and I'm moving to another, so I needed a break from writing ... by writing. Go figure.

I want to talk about being ready. I'm not sure I understood what it meant to "be ready" until fairly recently. I'm an impatient guy—I've been known to query novels that aren't even close to finished yet. So in all this hustling and bustling, I never really stopped to ask myself if I was ready to go out into the world, just me and my little books, and go find a publisher. It seemed like a stupid question. Duh. Of course I was ready ...

But being ready as a person—impatient, driven, anxious, hopeful—is a very different thing than being ready as a writer. And I'm afraid somewhere along the way, I confused the two. I was awful close, perhaps, but if I'm being super-honest (which is easier said than done sometimes), I think I started to know about a year ago, maybe two, that I was almost there, but not quite. There were still things needing attention in my books.

This is a hard thing to accept, and I totally respect those writers who say, "I'm working at it, but I'm not ready to send out this book yet." Or, "I'm not going to send out this book at all. It's my practice book."

So I'm working on a book now—and this is a struggle—but every time I start to think about whether or not I can sell this book, I snip that thought like an evil little weed. Every time I start to wonder if it's pitched at the right age group, at the right length, if it's funny enough or deep enough, or whatever, I stop. Those are the thoughts of a writer who is distracted by the market, by the dream, not the thoughts of a writer who is only focused on the book.


Mark Terry said...

I'm not sure this applies to you, given that you're already a professional writer, but I find most unpublished novelists to be unaware if they're ready or not, and all too often they jump the gun. What I see, particularly given how it's such a big freakin' emphasis on writer blog these days is writers whose work really isn't at all ready spending a ton of time and energy on figuring out how to market instead of how to write.

Natasha Fondren said...

That's a tough line. I'm very grateful I never tried to write a novel for New York even a couple years ago. I've always kept in mind that you only get one debut, and I don't want to go out of the gate with a book that I don't think could compete on the front tables.

I'm so grateful for my path. I sucked at the beginning, and I honestly don't think I would've kept writing if I hadn't needed the money, and lord knows I needed the practice.

LurkerMonkey said...


Honestly, I think it ended up applying to me, perhaps in part because I am a professional writer. Being in "the biz" enabled me to get an agent when maybe I couldn't have gotten one otherwise. I think you're right about the Internet -- it's got a lot of people freaked out trying to figure out how sell books or build a platform for a book they haven't even finished yet.

LurkerMonkey said...


I think about that, too: you only get one debut. Writers can easily get stuck at whatever "level" they debuted at ...

Merry Monteleone said...

Okay, there's a definite point to the internet thing, I never thought about the market for the book until I started researching the publishing end online and meeting other writers. On the one hand, I don't think this is bad - you do need to know where your audience is, what's saleable... there's a lot more to learn than you can grasp from writing on your own - there are rare exceptions, I guess, but for the most part people learn from trial and error or from other people's mistaks and experience.

I'm trying not to sidetrack myself with that while I'm working on this current wip. I've done it a few times - this isn't a strong enough hook... I can't pitch it in two sentences... all of those things that you really have to think about... but I can't right now.

I can't because it makes me stop writing. I need to get through the entire thing, and edit the hell out of it... and then, then I can look at it and see how to streamline the pitch... it's the backwards way of doing it, I'm aware. It's also the best thing I've written. So I don't want to let the doubt demons sidetrack me with sparkly other ideas that seem easier to blurb (that's what I do when I'm question this wip, think up twenty other plots that sound marketable).

I figure in the worse case scenario, it'll be another under the bed book... but I'm having a hell of a ride telling the story, so I can live with that.

LurkerMonkey said...


That's the exact same place I'm in with my current project. I'm having a hell of a time telling the story—there are some scenes I'm so excited about I can't WAIT to get there—so I just have to keep telling myself to simmer down about the sales prospects.

Melanie Avila said...

The thought of writing a practice novel terrifies me. I'm too much of a perfectionist to not have high expectations for everything I do.

I hope you're ready soon. :)