Becoming Visible as a Novelist

When I look at my publishing options, I can’t tell if I’m looking at an endless sea or a narrowing stream.  Before the publishing industry started to shift, I might have had a chance at a mid-list position in a publishing house schedule.  Now I am in-between Amazon self-publishing and the increasingly more competitive “old way.”  In that traditional way, I may never get published.  That won’t stop me from writing.  Or from self-publishing.  But it does change the picture I have of my writing career.  

When I started writing, I hoped that after I learned how to complete a novel, I would write a few practice books, and I would hone my craft.  Then I would have a reasonable chance of getting published. I wanted to believe that to publish was my reward.  That my writing, after all that studying and conferences and NaNoWriMo’s, etc., should result in getting published from a house in New York.  I knew it wasn’t easy, but I also hoped that it would be, for me.

Writing a novel is such unheralded lengthy work.  You can write for years and not be taken seriously because the work is invisible to the public.  My work is invisible to most of my family and friends.  I’ve done the practice novels and am working on a new one.  I want to share my new novel.  But now I don’t know where my new one will end up.

In the current times and economy, I am facing a writing future that is uncertain.  It is one that doesn’t come with the pretty bound book as the reward.  A twelve-city book tour?  Maybe not.  An adoring audience and fan letters?  Might take a while.  Instead I see a future where I must make my own validation, and make my own home for my work.     I have devised a 5-point plan to keep and generate positive feedback and support, while working on my invisible novel.

The electrifying 5-point plan!

1. Blog. Publish a blog about writing that showcases my work.  Check!

2. Blog some more. Publish a non-fiction blog, that eventually leads to a non-fiction book. Non-fiction is still easier to get published than fiction.  And there is no bigger validation than publishing a book.  Unless it is to win awards for said book.

3. Publish an article, essay, short fiction, basically anything in national or local market.  Enter all writers contests.  Win them:)

4. Write poetry.  Make my own beautiful chapbooks.  Embrace the small book while writing the big book.  Writer Waverly Fitzgerald publishes astonishingly beautiful memory books every year.  As an aside, poets don’t expect to achieve national recognition.  Poets don’t expect there will be movies developed from their works.  (Yet, I still hope for a career like Nick Hornby’s or Sherman Alexie’s)

5.  Twitter, and follow other writers tweets and blogs.  

The 5-point plan comes with a few rules.  Any project outside of the “novel,” must be something that feels easy and takes a small chunk out of my writing time. It cannot be another big project. It can be a two-day out of a month thing like I do with our blog, or a fifteen-minute-a-day thing. It cannot be other work related to writing.  I like the idea of volunteering for different writing organizations, hosting salons, working at bookstores,   but those things aren’t writing.  Final rule: it has to be fun.

Once my novel is hatched, I also wanted to think about how I would feel about those different kinds of publishing.   I decided to imagine the future.  To see into the future, the “far” future mind you, I will now pretend to hear the thoughts of my great grandchildren…

“Grandma Janis was a writer.  She was published by a small press back when they had those and came out with 10 books.”

“Grandma Janis was a writer.  She was published by a publishing house, back when they had those. She wrote 10 books.”

“My Grandma was a writer.  She was published by Amazon back before it ran our government and wrote 10 books.”

“What are books?”  (No, just kidding!)

Seen from the future perspective, they all seem to carry the same weight.  Books published.  Published books to prove that I am a writer.  Since I don’t have that proof now, and may never get Simon and Schuster, Norton or St. Martin’s Press on board, I’m activating the 5-point plan to make a little validation for myself.

– Janis



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About writeinseattle

Two Seattle writers examining the writer's life.
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