Work commitments mean I don’t have time to write a real post, but don’t leave in despair yet.
I was reading Janet Reid’s blog recently, and I came across this delightful post in which a writer freaks out about sharing her name with a writer with a strong web presence who pens lousy poetry and is vocal online about her political views.
(If you’re worried, read the post. Agents know this happens and are prepared to put in the small amount of work required to discover that you are a different person to writer crazy-pants.)
I imagine such situations are common.
Years ago, it came to my attention that my legal name was also the name of a German porn star. Putting my name into a Google images search was quite an education.
On the positive side, the other me was incredibly hot, which was obvious beause she never felt the urge to hide behind many clothes.
This was a minorly embarrassing situation. It was more embarrassing because I had recently started working, and the person who made the discovery was my boss.
Who else do you come up with when you Google your name? The people need to know!
Strategies to avoid looking like a gherkin when good things happen to other people (particularly your writer friends)
Recently a very good writing friend had some terrific news on her journey towards publication.
She is a wonderful person and very talented, and I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED for her. Like, jumping up and down squeeing and typing horrendously excited.
But there was a moment when I paused and wondered, “Why her? Why not me?”
In my case, there’s a simple answer: because I’m not querying yet.
Sure, I might query for a long time without getting any positive signals, but I’m certainly not going to get any while I’m not querying. So what I need to do now is get my butt in my chair and finish my revision. (I’m working on it, honest.) Then re-polish to a mirror-like shine. Then engage beta readers…
But what if I were querying and a friend got this good news? What if I’d been querying longer than her?
Would I be envious?
I’d still be thrilled for her, but I imagine I’d have a hard time not turning a little gherkin-like in the colour department.
Since I don’t want to wander around looking like a gherkin, now seems like a good time to come up with a strategy for when good things happen to writers who deserve it less than me are not me.
I’ve narrowed it down to three possible options.
Strategy 1: Take it as encouragment
Writers exist who believe the only way to score a trade publishing contract is to be drinking buddies with the right people and the rest of us are screwed.
I’m not denying having the right drinking buddies might help you get published–I’m not that naïve–but every day people with no contacts in publishing get contracts through the brilliance (and marketability) of their books.
When a friend gets one step closer to being published, this shows it’s not only “other people” who get trade published.
Yesterday your friend hadn’t taken that step; today she has. Today you haven’t, but maybe tomorrow you will.
Don’t quit. She’s proof good things happen to people like you.
Strategy 2: Use it as motivation
Perhaps it was mere luck that your friend took a step towards publishing that you haven’t yet taken.
But maybe she’s doing something that you’re not.
You don’t need to compare, but why not use her success as a reason to examine the way you approach your own writing?
Do you carve out time to write even when it would be easier to blob and watch The West Wing?
Did you revise your book as well as you could before sending it into the world?
Did you get beta feedback, take it seriously, and use it to improve your novel even more?
Do you study writing craft through reading writing craft books and blogs, or analysing successful books that you read? Do you apply what you learn?
Do you study human behaviour, people’s motivations, reactions, and interactions, and use what you learn to make your characters come alive?
You do all that? You’re a legend. Keep doing it.
Strategy 3: Get drunk, moan to the cat about how unfair life is, celebrate with your friend, then get back to your writing
But sometimes you’re doing everything right, you’ve been querying since before your friend started writing, and your novel is so fantabulous it would make demons sing.
Life isn’t fair and publishing is random.
Recovery in this case requires four steps.
Step 1: Have a glass of wine.
Step 2: Rant to whoever in real life will listen. This will probably be your cat. She will respond ,”tuna?” or “sleeping”, depending on whether you woke her up to share your news.
Step 3: Cheer on your friend and help her celebrate her success. It might not be your success, but you can still get caught up in the excitement.
Step 4: Get back to writing. Your current book might be too brilliant to be appreciated by the world until after you die. Finish the next one, because celebrating is a lot harder when you’re dead, and your options for spending an enormous advance are much diminished.
(It should be noted that in preparation for this stage, I have tried to stock up on wine. Success has been limited–but I’ve got to drink a lot of wine.)
I’m still mulling it over, but at the moment I favour strategy 3.
How do you deal with envy when good things happen to people who deserve them less than you friends?
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I’ve decided to pursue trade (traditional) publication. Here I try to explain the madness that led to this decision.
If you know me, you’ll know you I’m a firm supporter of all writers, whether they write for themselves or an audience, whether they’re self-published or big five-published (except for total jerks–I’m slightly less supportive of them).
I started researching how to publish in 2006 when self-publishing was still very much fringe. (Not by coincidence, this was the year I first completed a first draft. It was 200k words long.)
At the time I was a long way from being ready to publish and I knew it, but I always intended to pursue trade publication.
When I came back to writing seriously a few years ago, the publishing landscape was unrecognisable. I redid my research, and concluded that self-publishing was now a real option, but I still wasn’t sure if it was the right option for me.