Last week Mandy approached me about doing a set of posts together. I’ve kept in touch with Mandy over the last couple years—wow, has it been years?—and I’ve been so fortunate to count her as one of my wonderful writing friends. Something we’ve continue to marvel at is how different our writing roads have been. I’ve always admired her patience and diligence in nurturing her craft. But if Mandy’s approach resembles that of a careful gardener, mine’s been more akin to that of a bulldozer. (Mandy more politely referred to me as a person who “jumpstarted a writing career,” but yanno…tomato, tomahto.) So when she pitched the idea of comparing the pros and cons of each of our “methods,” I loved the idea…even if it required a *bit* more introspection than I was prepared for. Below, I share my experience as
I’m not sure when I chose to start a writing “career” exactly. Instead, it’s been more a series of asking myself, “Oh, I wonder if I can do that?” I remember talking to a friend on the phone in college about things we hoped to accomplish. She wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I had always loved books and wanted to try my hand at writing a novel one day. (Original for a college student, yes?) So I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and completed 50,000 words in 30 days. After that, I was hooked. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the publishing industry. And that only sparked more questions: could I write another book? Could I get a short story published? Could I publish an article? Could I get an agent? So it was never a conscious decision to start a writing career. All I ever wanted was to see if I could make it to that next step.
In all of that, I don’t think I ever considered waiting longer before plunging into the world of publishing! I know that’s crazy because there are like a zillion pieces of advice out there warning wannabe authors to be patient and to hone craft and to write half a billion words before even thinking about getting published. (Confession time: In my head this advice always sounded something like: blah, blah, blah, blah-blah-blah, blah) Because for me the excitement of the publishing industry was too much to pass up. It was the instant gratification, the gamble of getting to submit that kept me writing in the first place back then.
In retrospect, I have a lot more reverence for those tidbits of advice. While I got through several steps in the publishing game very quickly, that didn’t come without some heartbreak later in the process. But the biggest issue was that I didn’t ever get to determine if I loved the craft for the craft’s sake.
See, when I started out, I was so into achieving. I wanted validation and affirmation that I was “good enough.” For me, that was wrapped up in getting an agent. But, last year, I had a major slowdown. Once I had agent for awhile and was working through revisions and all the things that come with writing more than one year, I realized that I had never stopped to think about whether or not I liked writing enough to be doing all this. I loved the idea of getting published. I loved the book community and the industry, but writing? Well, I’d never thought about that.
Thanks so much, Chan! Can't wait to have you back next Wednesday to sum up the topic with why your experience worked. As for me, I'll be on Chan's blog tomorrow, when I talk about how my non-career started. And next Thursday, I'll be back on Chan's blog discussing why my process worked for me.
Chandler Craig is 25 and writes young adult fiction and graphic novels for teens. She also ghostwrites a pretty cool series for tweens that you can check out in your local bookstore or Scholastic book fairs if you can figure out her series pen name. In the fall of ’08, she started law school at the University of Texas in Austin. Prior to that, she graduated early from the University of Pennsylvania, so that she could take time off to try writing full-time. She is agented by Dan Lazar of Writer's House. To learn more, check out her blog.