Ah, the unpublished. Or, as many declare: the pre-published.
Let’s be honest: it’s difficult sometimes being a writer who is unpublished. You’re slaving away for hours on end on a manuscript or manuscripts that may be the next great sensation or may only be read by a few people. It could be huge, it could be small. It’s an uncertain time, rife with doubts and a need for some validation (anything, please) to quell the “Am I crazies.”
And that’s even before you get to the agent chase, the queries that seem to disappear into the ether or only score a form letter in return. With your name misspelled.
It’s not an easy path. But the most important thing to remember about the unpublished: everyone started there.
Every writer we love started out not knowing whether they had a shot or whether their work would be appreciated. Lots of beloved authors had to write a few manuscripts to get it right, tasted lots of rejection along the way, and made everyone look like idiots when they finally made it. Everyone had to take the same leap of faith to start writing without knowing where it would lead.
So. How can you help the unpublished among us, even if you yourself are unpublished?
Read their work. Give them feedback. Help them get better. If you’ve been around the block a bit, help the lesser experienced learn the “rules” first-timers might not know about, like going easy on non-said dialogue tags and adverbs. They should know them before they break them. Honest, polite, constructive feedback.
But most importantly: give them encouragement. As I said on Monday, everyone thinks they can write a book. The only people who really know how hard it is are the ones who have tried.
I've always thought of pre-published as in you had a book contract but the book isn't on the shelves yet – like if your book is due in stores in 2010, then you aren't actually published yet but are pre-published. Is that wrong – can you say you're published if the book isn't released?
I think of Unpublished as the evil vortex of darkness from which I am trying to emerge.
Oh, and as for the appreciation part, I think that's why critique groups are so wonderful. It's the right mix of encouragement and tough love that helps you attain that next level.
I just took a break from editing my ms and stumbled upon this blog. Wow! Some appreciation, that's great. Yes, writing is a daunting task, to say the least. It's nice to read an agent's blog who acknowledges us "little" guys. Thanks, Nathan!
Thanks for the shout out Nathan.
This is absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever tried to accomplish in my life.
Everyday I am inspired, and everyday I quit. It is a roller coaster of frustration and accomplishment.
What's the story in the agent ranks? Are many agents trying to get their own books published and if so does being an agent afford you any preferential treatment?
Amanda J. says
A great post as always! Thanks!
B.J. Anderson says
Awe, Mr. Bransford. That was so inspiring! Thanks for making my day!
Novice Writer Anonymous says
Awww…this is why I entered the blogosphere! It's exactly this sort of encouragement that one can get here as an unpublished author that keeps me going.
Thanks, Nathan for a great post!
Encouragement is the best medication for the "Am I Crazies?" in my opinion.
We write because we don't have a choice. I kind of dig it here, in unpublished land. Cranking out novels and letting everyone in on my crazy plot lines and frustrating characters.
I don't know if being published might ruin some of the fun. Make the dream real. Turn it into a mechanism instead of an urge.
I was lucky, I queried and now have some nice people like you reading full's of my work. But I almost wish I'd taken more time to relish the "crazy" part before I considered the Business end. (Which is, in itself, making me giggle.)
It's all good.
Anita Saxena says
This made me happy
On my birthday I write a list of things to achieve. Some,like meeting up with old friends or try something new, are easy to tick off. Others (learn to swim and finish the novel) kept turning up year after year. Today, I'm 1/3 through my third novel and eating chocolate pistachios.
I love, love, love the positivity on this blog. I hereby declare this the most positive place on the Internet.
Ooooh . . . pre-published authors. I like that.
M. K. Clarke says
Thanks, Nathan! Props for the yet-to-be-published among us not even AGENTED, yet! 🙂
Nathan, you rock!
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
— Albert Schweitzer
Nathan, can we just call you 'Sparky'?
A great post with a wonderful sentiment, very much appreciated. I have just had a short story accepted by a national (Irish) newspaper. It also means I am shortlisted for The Hennessy Literary Awards for New Irish Writing. This acceptance, and the feedback I received has helped me turn a corner into hope that I can become a published novelist. So fellow hopefuls, keep going, your moment is out there if you keep trying.
Marsha Sigman says
I am pre-published, agent challenged, and critique partner deficient.
That sounds wayyy more depressing than it actually feels.
Nice post, Nathan.
It wouldn't be so bad for me if I wasn't also a wannabe musician, TV producer, filmmaker, screenwriter and artist. Add to that the everyday, practical frustrations with trying to get ahead and some days you just go mad in the gate.
A close friend repeatedly tells me he's "worried about me". Must be something in my eyes. Bah, what's he know? As Bukowski said, "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead".
*returns to editing*
ryan field says
There are many excellent unpublished, pre-published writers out there that deserve praise and appreciation. And most of them probably don't even know it, so this was a great post.
Anon 10:17, they sound like a great family. You're lucky! 🙂
Christine, thanks right back. 🙂
Anon 11:18: "…and nobody THERE is going to think you're extraordinary for simply having made it that far."
Whether people think it's extraordinary or not isn't the point. People don't always see things clearly. They get muddled.
Pursuing your dream is an act of courage. It is a huge risk, and leap of faith. It is extraordinary.
Matilda McCloud says
Thanks to all the Encouragers out there (that's what Ralph Keyes calls them in THE WRITER'S BOOK OF HOPE–as opposed to the Discouragers…). We sure need 'em!
Emily White says
Thanks, Nathan! It's nice to know that we unpublished folk are truly appreciated! Though I do hope I don't stay in this category for long, I'll always do my part to encourage and improve the skills of my fellow dreamers.
Laura Martone says
But, Rick, I don't like caviar.
Marilyn Peake says
Your blog today brings up some really great points, Nathan! I toiled away writing my first four or five novels without benefit of the Internet, and it was a very lonely experience. I’m not sure I could have gone on to write another novel without publication or communication with other writers. With the Internet, there are a nearly infinite number of ways to get feedback about your manuscript, to get published, and to interact with other writers at all levels of their writing careers. My advice to brand new writers: Stay away from negative, nasty groups. There are so many really positive, helpful writers’ groups out there, it’s never worth losing time with groups that drain your energy and push you more toward giving up your dream rather than fulfilling it. Here’s to positivity, to Writer Appreciation Week on Nathan’s blog, and to constructive, supportive writers’ communities like the one here on this blog!
A really great movie to find out how hard it’s always been to get published is JULIE AND JULIA, in theaters right now. Julia Child struggled for years to get her cookbook published. The modern woman, Julie Powell, actually got published much more quickly as a result of having her blog discovered, but she experienced tremendous angst and a very difficult struggle along the way.
Sandy Ladignon says
I've read your last several tribute posts, and I was bummed out. There was this tiny pathetic voice inside me that was asking, "That's great, but what about me?"
To the pre-published (love that word) writers like me: Keep on writing!
Laura Martone says
As with almost every other commenter here, I appreciate what you do for us, Nathan, week after week – simultaneously preparing us for the big, bad publishing industry and encouraging us to keep on trying. Thank you for that!
In this sense, you remind me of one of my literary/cinematic heroes, one Professor Grady Tripp, who said, "Nobody teaches a writer anything. You tell 'em what you know. You tell 'em to find their voice and stay with it. You tell the ones that have it to keep at it. You tell the ones that don't
have it to keep at it too… because that's the only way they're
gonna get to where they're going. Of course, it does help
if you know where you wanna go."
Linda Godfrey says
I'm not sure everyone starts out as an unpublished; I have it on good authority that Michael Chabon was born with 14 short stories accepted by various journals and a novella in development. The phone rang in his delivery room and it was his agent.
Everyone else, though, deserves kindness and encouragement all along the way. My advice to anyone who asks me is to follow this blog and other agent and editor blogs — the advice is literally priceless.
Laura Martone says
Oops, sorry about the spacing with the WONDER BOYS quote… that was not intentional, and I almost deleted the comment and started over… but I'm trying hard to get over the obsessive-compulsive part of my persona.
Yeah for baby steps!
In the spirit of prepublished author week, please visit my blog (we all have to have one, right?)http:/kaykaybe.blogspot.com. about how I've fit writing into my life as a mom of four. (No posts on potty training…well, just one, but it's really old.)
Thanks for the support, Nathan! It is a rather awkward position to be devoting so many hours to writing something that may or may not make it.
Alicia A says
Thanks Nathan, your blog has been the most helpful forum in my quest to become a good writer. Getting published seemed unattainable when I discovered my passion for writing but now, not so much.
Thank you for the appreciation *bows modestly*. I feel better now.
Here's to all prepublished writers: a big hooray and keep at it!
A supportive family also deserves appreciation, and those unpublished writers who persist in the absence of family support are the truly courageous ones. These include the young writers whose parents or partners ask when they're going to get a "real job" (or move up in the real job when they're devoting nights and weekends to the novel rather than to the job). And the parents whose spouses give them ultimatums and whose teenage kids regard them with contempt (which teenage kids often do anyway, but it's most hurtful when lack of writing success becomes the issue).
Thanks Nathan, much love for the appreciation for us unpublished crazies.
I agree with the idea for Literary Agents appreciation week. I'm constantly blown away by the efforts you guys go to help us crazies. It nice knowing there's someone on our side.
Bane of Anubis says
Anon 11:18, we may not be special, but as long as we feel special, that's all that matters… well, that, and good health.
Bane of Anubis says
Rick, I'll take the yacht, you can have the caviar and champagne 😉
I echo everyone who commented ahead of me: Thanks Nathan! Be my agent! Oh, I know I have to finish my book and edit and revise and query, but when I'm ready, please say yes!
J.J. Bennett says
Bane my love,
We all are special. Some just ride the short bus… more often than not. We all have our moments. Special… I'm positive each one has something of offer. Whether it's writing?…That might be the case or not. Without the trying we'll never know.
Jen C says
Okay, after all the back pats and encouragement, as an agented writer who has been paid for writing I have to say find your balance between believing in yourself and thinking you're going to be sipping champagne on a yacht with your agent.
It doesn't happen. And the majority of writers cannot afford to quit their day job until after at least five books published (and some, not even then).
It does happen. Not to many people, but it does happen. What's the problem with dreaming big? Why dream of having a bit part in a movie when you could dream of being an Academy Award winning actor? Why dream of putting together a couple of science experiments when you could dream of being a Nobel Prize winning scientist?
I say, dream big. And, when you think you're dreaming big, dream even bigger.
Laurie Boris says
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I do like "pre-published." If only there were a kinder word than "rejection." Perhaps "thanks-but-no-thanks."
Sara J. Henry says
Anyone can write a book – and many of them do.
It's relatively few who can write good books.
Other Lisa says
I can only add my hearty "amen" here and my vow to play it forward – I've been helped by published writers, and I hope I'm in the position to do the same for others some day. And in the meantime, mentoring, encouragement, constructive critique – I will do my best! And I'll remember what Mira said – my next book is unpublished too.
Jemi Fraser says
I've been climbing the "I wanna be published!" ladder for about a year now. There is so much to learn on top of writing the book! Your blog should be a pre-requisite for all authors who hope to one day send out queries. Thank you!!!
Prue Batten says
Yep, read our works!
I am POD published in the UK, but then apparently that's 'not really' published and yet the book has achieved a modest fan-base. A top agent recently read my work and then proceded to emasculate me for the road that I had taken out of my own country and into the UK. She read my work and at best speed-read. At worst skipped whole chapters. Her annotations showed glaring errors in her knowledge of the story, her ideas removed emotion and detail AND she returned the ms to the wrong address and with my name misspelled, requesting I re-write fully to her brief and then she would re-read. Her comment was that 'fairytale has no place in contemporary fantasy'.
So Nathan, this week, 'hug a writer' is fortuitous, read a writer even more so. You restore my faith in the nature of the agent. Thank you.
Nett Robbens says
I was feeling antsy and couldn't focus on the next chapter of my manuscript. Once again, Nathan you're right on target. Thanks for knowing what we "almost-there” writers need to hear.
Bane of Anubis says
JJ… RE: The Short Bus — LMAO … we've definitely all been on it at one time or another.
Jen, dream big, work hard, play harder 🙂
Thanks for those kind words, Nathan. I particularly liked this quote:
"Everyone had to take the same leap of faith to start writing without knowing where it would lead."
And it's a big leap and who knows where it will lead.
I think most writers want to connect with people but don't think we fit in well.
Tracy Hahn-Burkett says
There is one other category of people who really know how hard it is to write a book: the people who live with those who try!
Mr. Bransford, I'm sure it has been said many times by many more important people, but you are so lovely.
(I don't mean your hair. That's good too, but I don't mean that.)
I've read your whole blog and I don't think you ever even have any unlovely moments.
I'll say it again — you are a class act. I don't know if you represent what I write but if you did, you would be the first name on my list of dream agents.
I liked your link to the on tags–I think there's a happy medium, imho.
Moreso, I liked that you used a quote from Top Gun. 😉