Sunday, October 26, 2008

Research Traps

I have spent, over the last several weeks, an impressive amount of time cruising through websites for writers, workshops, agents, writers' groups, advice on writing, advice on writers' groups, advice on selling/marketing/querying, etc. Lately I've been drawn to sites of workshops that promise (but don't guarantee) amazing results and boast New York Times bestseller previous-attendees, which of course automatically makes me think that all I'd need to do is throw down $300-$4,000 and I'd be set. My novel(s) would launch into the world on glittery wings and whisper into readers' ears everywhere sweet nothings that would make them all run to their nearest Borders/Barnes and Noble/Costco and buy a copy of my book for everyone in their family.

Those glittery-winged thoughts have been the bright spot in what have otherwise been darker and darker broodings brought about by all this research. It seems that steeping myself in researching how to sell a book has unfortunately had a few negative side effects, mainly an overwhelming exposure to the doom-sayers of the writing world (and there are many and they seem to breed within the virtual world like sponges on the writing society, happily sucking the life from hopeful new writers, and tragically, these sponges are usually wannabe or published writers themselves!). These are the sites/articles/blogs dedicated to reminding everyone how difficult/odious/masochistic writing and selling a novel is, and how slim the odds of being successful are. Often this insidious message is sickeningly couched in the guise of help.

The general circling of my thoughts reflect the infection of this bleak outlook, and I've noticed a change from being focused on writing the best book I can to a focus on:

  1. Fear. Fear that if I don't attend (fill in the blank) workshop or read a book/article about (fill in the blank), my book will not sell. Why would any agent want to look at a story that hasn't been workshoped by so-and-so and hasn't met the requirements of so-and-so's article?
  2. That writing is somehow difficult. It's not. Really. It takes time. It takes perseverance, and that's the difficult part. The writing is the fun part. The writing is what makes me smile (and what keeps me awake at night when I don't want to turn my imagination off just yet and figuratively close the book and turn off the light). Characters are a joy to meet and to learn about. Plots are fun to create. The imagination is a delightful place to explore.
  3. Evolved Procrastination. There's always some hesitancy in sharing one's writing with others. I've yet to meet an author/writer that doesn't agree with this. There's some point when you have to accept that the book you think is perfect and adorable and highly entertaining (or else why would you be bothering to write that story) is ready to be handed over to people who are going to hunt for its imperfections. It takes courage. It takes a thick skin. It definitely helps to develop the ability to see that critiques are about the novel and not you and to be able to know what's a good critique and what's not. There's a lot of emotional baggage that can accrue before you let go of a book, and there are, therefore, a lot of reasons an author can think up to not release their work quite yet. I can feel that procrastination inching up behind this research. It's chipping away at my natural confidence and filling in the cracks with doubts and questions and giving me excuses to postpone. Indefinitely.
My solution: forge ahead. The right opportunities will come to me as I need them. For now, clearly, I need to focus on my writing and on selling my book.

Is this egotistical or naive? Only time will tell.

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