Sunday, February 20, 2011

Piss or Get Off The Pot--Seriously

I'll be gentle for those readers just joining this blog...

If you wish you were a dancer, do you tell people you're a dancer, hoping that someday you can prove you weren't lying?

If you wish you could be a rock star, do you tell people you are a rock star and hope, by some flick of a wand, you will suddenly become one?

Then why would you tell anyone you are a writer if you do not write? Writing is the key. Actually hitting those keys on a regular (or regularly sporadic) basis will do.

Let me give an example.

I was enrolled in a screenwriting class a few years ago. We all decided we would write screenplays and enter them into a major contest. We all cranked out what we thought was a brilliant attempt, which was probably complete dark sticky piles of ****. We entered and got lovely loser letters with a raised little Oscar on the stationery. It was very exciting.

Some of us were all hanging out in an office during a Sundance Event being held downstairs, in the art gallery, when our professer walked in. A very popular movie producer walked in behind him, and everyone scrambled to get out of their way. I didn't recognize the guy, so I stayed where I was. Then a great thing happened that I will always remember.

The professer introduced me. "Lesli, this is So and So. So and So, this is Lesli Lytle, a writer."

It wasn't that I got to shake the guy's hand and he treated me well. It wasn't that we made small talk about Robert Redford. The thrilling part was being called a writer.

After Mr. Big left, I thanked the professer for calling me a writer and said he'd really given me a thrill. He frowned and said, "I wasn't pretending you were a writer; you are a writer. You don't have to have a Guild card to be a writer. You have to write."

I've introduced myself as a writer ever since.

Are you a rock star?
Are you a writer?

So, if you are a writer, are you selling your material yourself? How's that going for you?
What about an agent? If you're not trying to sell yourself to magazines or publishing houses, you must be trying to find an agent to do it for you.

You don't think your product is ready? When will it be? You don't know? Then you'd better be finding out. Find someone to read your baby. More importantly, when you find someone willing to take the time to read a chapter or two, ACTUALLY HOLD OUT YOUR BABY AND LET SOMEONE TAKE IT.

It's not going to be your only baby, surely. And if it stinks, you don't have to spend the rest of your life feeding it and trying to make it a pretty baby. You get to start over.

Here's some great motivation for you to aggressively seek an agent:

Pretend I can tell the future. For you. Just for you.
What if I tell you that you will find an agent only after you have received 30 rejection letters/emails?

What if I tell you that you will be published only after you have written four complete novels?

Here's the promise:
After you have queried 30 agents, and after you have completed 4 novels, you will have a really good grasp on what you need to improve in order to land an agent. Finding a publisher is the agent's business.

And when I say four novels, I don't mean absolutely pristine, polished-like-a-brass-doorknob finished. I mean finished. It doesn't have to be the Holy Bible, or Lord of the Rings, or Pride and Prejudice. It has to be you.

Four books and 30 emails. The only way to fail is to give up--and you know it. That's why you say you are a writer, to deny that you have given up. If indeed you have given up, I say, piss or get off the pot. Admit it and make your life easier.

If you haven't given up, then you'd better get your query letter ready and a list of agents. Make sure your first three chapters are as good as you can get them, and give yourself a time limit to get that done. (As in a number of days, not weeks.) When time is up, you have to stop and say "good enough".

I want to hear about it.

(By the way, I got my agent with my second book, but by the time I signed, I had four books finished and thirty rejections in the can.)


WriteOnARiver or said...

Some can do, some keep trying. I have 6 completed manuscripts (polished, I wish) and 46 :-( rejections. six requests for full, and eight requests for partials. Yeah it's a heartache but it is not a heartbreak. I will keep writing and submitting because I love it. But, I also know that I have to keep learning about my craft and improving. I thank you for your predictions and I smile. I'll get there though because I, like you will keep my butt on the pot! I'm pissing and I know I'm getting closer to a contract because of it.
Thanks for your words, Lesli.

Mary Martinez said...

Doree, Doree, Doree, you only have 46 rejections? I've so lost track of how many rejections I have.

Lesli, I hope that makes me a writer. I sent off a full manuscript to two different editors Friday night. I have another manuscript that has 3 full's out 2 different editors and one agent now I'm waiting to hear. Does that make me a writer?

Am I writing every day? I wish. I am still having trouble figuring out this new work/writing schedule.

So let me know if you ever write a great inspirational blog about a trick of what I need to do to GET OFF THE POT about that.

Thanks, great post! Needed to hear it!

J. Coleman said...

Piss or get off the pot? Reasons why I love you, Lesli! Great title. I've set a goal of 5 queries out the first of each month, and one for every rejection I get from that. Finishing book 3 this weekend and entering the Great Beginnings contest. Do those rejections count? "Write on!"

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

If you're querying, you're in the game. If you're creating more product to sell, you're in the game.

Remember the pie thing! Make lots of pies, so when they don't like one and say "what else you got?" you'll have more pies to offer.

Yes. Write on! And on...and on...

Clancy said...

Love the Lesli!!!
We ARE writers dammit and proud to be. I just received my rejection letter from Steven Axelrod and was thrilled. Why? 1) Because I knew he would and was prepared but sent it anyway. 2) Because it was personalized and he said he thought my writing was good, he just wasn't excited about the story (made me feel good). 3) Because it is one more NO towards a YES.
Great post, my writing goddess...

Kerrigan Byrne said...

Indeed! This was fantastic. A great motivator to start my day with.

Sandy said...

You hit it right on. You can't be a writer unless you claim it. Part of that is owning it full force. Admit it, don't hide from it, don't apologize for rejections or you're pre-published status.

Writing is a creative endeavor. All of this work is your masters degree in creativity. I think I'm close to gaining my PHD.
Thanks Lesli

Kaylie said...

Great reality check. Maybe those people who keep asking me when my book is getting published should read your blog.

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

Wouldn't that be nice, Kaylie?

I started telling people that it takes 8 years. That has shut some of them up.

And I probably should have added, on the post, that if you have told anyone lately that you're a writer, then you'd better get in the chair so you're not a liar.

And whatever your personal number of rejections before publishing, that number won't change. You still have to get to it.


Lynn(e) said...

this was an awesome post. the other day, i was talking about trying to land an agent, and my novel with a woman (at a bar), and she left. behind me, someone said "so what's your novel about?" and i turned and asked, "is that directed at me?" and the gentleman said "do you see any other authors here?"

it hadn't dawned on me--authors write novels.

(i still don't consider myself an author, i'm not published yet...but it was AWESOME to hear)