Lists, lists, lists – we love lists! They simplify our lives. Lists give us a hierarchical structure to things and the best part about lists? You get to check them off! Who doesn’t love checking things off a list – from grocery lists to Christmas lists! In the spirit of listy goodness, I’ve compiled my own list that will help you know whether you have the chops to make it as a published author.
1)You know why you want to be published.
Do you know why you’re trying to get published? Have you put any serious thought into what a possible end game might be? For me, it has to do with the fact that I’ve been writing all my life and it seemed reasonable that I should see whether the stuff I was coming up with might possibly be something that others should care to read. That’s pretty much it. But the reasons why are important because I think those reasons have much to do with your capacity to grow as an author. If you want to be published so you can see your book on a shelf next to Stephen King, you’re doing this for the wrong reasons because chances are that you won’t be shelved next to him unless you’re a writing rock star.
2) You feel a burning need to share your stories.
Unlike a burning need to, say, share your latest artisan home brew with your best buds, there’s got to be a fire in your belly. It just has to be there and if it’s not – if you have mixed feelings about whether you’re good enough to find an agent and publisher, you very likely don’t have the chops. Don’t take it personally, okay? Listen, every author I know has a blast furnace of desire that fuels them to continue on this journey. They can visualize what their own personal definition of authorly success looks like. They can see a book as a bestseller one day – it probably isn’t even written yet. Hell, it probably hasn’t even been conceived yet for that matter. But you push yourself. You push and discipline and regulate your capacity to become a better writer. Very simply, your desire to succeed in this crazy business ins encoded on your DNA. If that exists, you have the chops. If it doesn’t, I don’t know if it’s possible to light that fire in your belly.
3) You can take criticism and you don’t whine about it.
Yeah – that’s what I’m talking about. Look, throwing yourself out to the universe in hopes of becoming published is a hell of a thing. Writing is a deeply personal act that you’ve invested days, weeks, months and years of your life as you strive toward your goal. You finish your third draft, you think it’s good enough to start querying and baby, let me tell you, if you have thin skin you are soooooo not going to make it in this biz. (Google “author meltdown”. Lots of stuff there that will make your eyes bleed.) It takes courage to present something that you’ve invested so much time into with the full knowledge that someone is going to critique the living @@#$ out of it. An agent might write back and say “not for me”. That’s a kind agent. Some agents will tell you precisely why your book sucks and have no compunction whatsoever against bursting your lovely visualization of success bubble. Someone on Goodreads might post an arseholish “Look how ironic I am – I’ve added animated gifs! Aren’t I clever!” review about your latest book (assuming you actually get published). You cannot take that stuff personally and many authors do. If you take it personally you might lash out publicly and your name will be added to the ranks of author meltdown incidents currently being collected by the Internets. You’ll be ripped to #$%% shreds on every blog that’s out there because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to watch a dog pile when someone commits self-inflicted public humiliation? Very simply, your book might suck. You might not even get published because your manuscript just doesn’t have what it takes. If you whine about this stuff, it means you’re unable to grasp the very subjective nature of the book biz.
4) You don’t take editorial advice personally during the editing process.
For crying out loud, be very particular about which sword you wish to fall on. There might be 100,000 words in your manuscript and each one is a sharp, shining steel cutlass for you to potentially throw yourself upon as you make your last stand for your story’s so-called integrity. Guess what? Your agent will tell you to change things. If he/she sells your book, your editor will too! And the thing is … they really @#$% like you, okay? They like your writing, they think you’re cool, they’ve got their integrity on the line too and for crying out loud, you gotta realize their on your flipping side!!! They want the book to succeed! They also have been doing this, you know, for years even! To pay their bills because they have mortgages and car payments and kid’s ballet lessons!! They have a financial interest in your success! So when they make a suggestion, it’s for a freaking reason!! They’re not attacking you or your manuscript – they’re trying to wring out every last drop of awesomeness that you might have missed because you’ve done umteen-thousand revisions on that story. But they’re a fresh set of eyes and you need that objectivity if you’re gonna make it. If you can’t handle this, you’re not cut out for this. End of story.