Focus on the Writing or A Letter to myself in 2010

It’s 2010 and I’m at a writing conference for school.

I’d stayed with a classmate from my writing class and we’re both really excited to be at a Real Writing conference with Real Writers instead of just in a class full of Wannabe Writers. I spent probably 300-400 dollars on the hotel, food, getting there and my admission. I’m around tons of other local writers in Alabama and so stoked.

Except all the information that the conference is giving me? It’s all stuff I just spent 5 months learning in class. It’s all about things that I already…well, have been taught. We don’t do any major work shopping on any of my in progress stuff…or anyone else’s stuff. Well, I figure, I’ll just find out more about the publishing industry in this set of forums and figure out what to do with all these short stories I finished in class.

Except.

We didn’t really talk about publishing at all.

Everyone talks about how you don’t make much writing and how legitimacy is from big publishers but there is this shared grimace when the words ‘Querying’ and ‘Synopsis’ come up. I finally asked a question to one of the presenters about how to go about trying to submit something for publication. Tips, tricks, advice, ect.

He asks me, “Well first of all, do you have a finished Manuscript?”

I said “Not yet, but I’m close to done.”

And he waved his hand and said, “Well, for now, focus on the writing and don’t worry about the publishing.”

I felt so irritated at that. Because he just moved on to the next question without any explanation of WHY.

Sometimes good advice can be given in a shitty way. Which makes it bad advice.

I have since done tons of research on publishing. I’ve been reading blogs and publication guides for years on the process, on what I want to do with my own work, and then taking a good look at my own process. Here is what I’ve determined five years after this brush off.

Dear April from 2010,

Right now you are currently two years away from graduating college. You have finished a handful of short stories but your novel is languishing away because your school papers require more work and are currently more important than the novel-in-progress. Don’t worry about publishing because it will always be there. Don’t lose one bit of focus from your current goal of finishing. Don’t spare one moment of thought on things that will change as soon as you start them. If you want to know you’re next step, this is it: finish the manuscript. Then you keep writing. Because publishing is not the same as creating. Publishing is selling a finished product and without that lovely story all tight and shiny, you ain’t got nothing to sell suga.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into publishing. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t skim through agents and the prices of self-publishing. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at tax-rates for a self published author or try and decide if you’d rather have the weight of a traditional publishing house behind your baby. It just means that you do those things after you’ve gotten your writing done for the day. You do those things while your brain is recharging from the long marathon of plotting you just did. You do all those things secondary to your drafting and crafting. Focus on the writing because if you don’t have the best novel you can make, it doesn’t matter if you know exactly who to send your baby to, the baby will be plain and boring and they won’t want it.

Sincerely, 2016 April.

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