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A Writing Misconception
Written by
Chelsea Greer
September 2017
Written by
Chelsea Greer
September 2017

It's funny how certain happenings can change the direction of your life. When I was fifteen, a boy broke my heart. Yes, I do know that's common for girls of that age. However, for me, it wasn't just dark rooms and songs where I identified with every word--although I did that, too. I began to write the words I was feeling and, before I knew it, poetry became my main form of expression.

Words began to flow like water--granted, not always good ones--and after a while, my inspiration became more for stories than for poems. Ideas would hit me and swim around in my brain, building upon one another until I got them out on paper. And so began the beginnings of my dream to become a published author.

It hasn't been easy. At all. And I'm not there yet. But by all accounts in this industry, it's not supposed to be. See, most people think writing a book is easy. You get an idea, you write it down, you check for spelling errors and send it off. Voila! Instant publishing deal.

Please excuse me while I try to quit laughing.

Writing a book is HARD. You have an idea. Great! now what are you going to do with it? Believe me, books don't just write themselves. You need characters, plot, obstacles, humor. Then you have to give those characters back stories and developmental arcs, introduce conflict and then make sure your characters are believable. Then there is the story itself. Does it even make sense? Is it boring? Does it flow nicely? Will anyone even want to read it?

And all of this before you even finish the first draft--which is actually one of the hardest parts and one of the destinations most stories never see.

Okay, so now you've finished the first draft. You're so excited! Your masterpiece is finished and when you read the words you have so painstakingly typed into being, you take a deep breath, hold it in anticipation and realize...that it's crap.

That's right, I said it. The book you worked so hard on, nearly drove yourself crazy trying to finish is absolute rubbish. But that's okay! They call them rough for a reason.

This is the point where the general masses think you're finished and you can now magically send it off to a major publishing house and they'll be thrilled to publish it for you.

Ha. Yeah, right.

No, now it's time for revision. Lots and lots of revision. You have an entire book to rewrite, you know. You're now tightening plot, deleting scenes, adding more, changing up characters. And all of this is BEFORE you get down to the nitty gritty of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Still sound easy? Wait. There's more.

All edited? Perfect. Now you need to find an editor. No, not one at a publishing house. You need to HIRE an editor. All the critiques by friends and family are great, but you need someone who actually knows what they're doing to help you out now. And this costs money--which can be another problem. But this is your DREAM, your future, and the money it takes isn't just an investment in that dream. It's an investment in you.

Now comes the feedback. And no matter what, not all of it is great. Chin up. They call it constructive criticism for a reason. Use it. Because now it's time for rewrites. And more edits. And more rewrites. And then, FINALLY, it's ready to be sent off.

You only need a query letter.

What, exactly, is a query letter, you may ask? Torture. Absolute torture. It is a one page document where you not only have to condense and sell your manuscript to a stranger among hundreds of other hopefuls per day, but you have to condense and sell yourself.

It. Is. Excruciating.

However, without one, the publishing world will have no idea that you exist--which can prove problematic if you want to be published.

Okay, so after a few hundred rejections (and a couple dozen bottles of wine and a vat of ice cream to drown your sorrows) you hook an agent. Hooray! You're done now, right? Ha. Nope. Not even close. Yes, it is now your agent's job to pitch you to editors, but your part is no where near over. You still have to sell yourself to the public (as you've hopefully been doing all along). Even if you snag a deal, you have to ruthlessly market your own work. Just because your book is on the shelves doesn't mean anybody will know who you are and buy it. In this industry, you MUST be your own advocate.

So now you have an agent and she manages to interest an editor in your manuscript. If that editor likes you, that is a HUGE step forward. But don't get too excited yet. You still have another few rounds of revisions to go, and that's BEFORE a publisher says yes.

There's likely to be dozens of rejections at each step of this process, but if you have the talent, determination and the perseverance to keep going even when it feels like it's NEVER going to happen, you may just make it.

Right now, I have finished two novels, one of which has undergone numerous revisions and rewrites. I have dozens of ideas, hundreds of poems (not all of them good) and one of my novels has been sent off to my developmental editor. (Check out Stacy Jerger, Apoidea Editorial. She's awesome.) Before the second half of my rewrites, I queried a couple dozen agents and got turned down a couple dozen times.

I'm still here.

With all the different avenues for publishing these days, society is under the impression that anyone can write and that getting your work out there is easy. Those people are wrong. It's not just the literary community who is going to turn you down. Your friends and family are going to write it off as your "hobby" and wonder when you're ever going to finish--IF you're going to finish--without having any idea what it actually takes to make it. Being an author--a quality author--is not for the faint of heart. But I know that if I want it enough, nothing can stop me.

Everybody has a story to tell. Every writer has a journey. This is mine. Stay tuned and see how it goes.

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  • Chelsea, I smiled and laughed at times as I read your post....for I have been in EVERY step you have been...and way beyond. I am what I call an old-timer. I started writing in 1971, first published in 1984 (now I have 27 novels and 12 short stories out in eBooks, paperbacks and audio books) and went through all the steps, agents, editors, publishers and now after 33 years with legacy publishers, starting in 2012, I self-publish. I am at the near end of the life long journey you have just begun. And it's been a marvelous, amazing, at times frustrating and heart-breaking, but fulfilling journey. The journey of a storyteller. Stay true on the path and someday you will be here at the near end....look back and be proud you never gave up and the books on your bookcase with your name on the covers will live forever. Good luck!