The Grand Conspiracy Against Publishing Your Book

Young woman peeking over open book.
Young woman peeking over open book.

Here's what I believed when I was trying to get my first publishing deal:

There is a cabal of writers and publishers purposefully keeping me out. Every successful writer is part of this cabal. They know who I am and they hate what I write because it is too good and they feel threatened by me and my work. I'm just too brilliant. Too edgy. Too innovative and new.

Of course, I never verbalized this or said it in my head in this specific way or perhaps I would've realized how ridiculous and narcissistic and petty it sounds. But there was always a feeling of something being incredibly unfair, and if I give words to that feeling, then that is the feeling and those are the words, however delusional they may sound now. I never realized, at the time, how much comfort there was inside that feeling because it absolved me completely of any and all responsibility for my success or failure.

What did it matter how well I wrote? How hard I tried? Why bother rewriting anything? Why look for the cracks in what I'd already done? There was a vast conspiracy against me and my book and so, nothing was my fault. I was already perfect.

It is so incredibly tempting to take the power out of your own hands and put it in someone else's. It's terrifying to accept that what you write and how good it is, is ultimately up to you, because then you have to accept that maybe your first novel (all 80 000 words of it) isn't good enough and maybe you have to start again from scratch. Maybe your writing hasn't found an audience yet because, maybe, that audience doesn't exist. Maybe the people who read it just don't like it.

All those maybes are hard, painful things just to consider, let alone act upon. But the best writers I know not only entertain those thoughts, they sigh, roll their eyes and start again. They wake up feeling completely and utterly despondent, and then they go to work. The worst, on the other hand, often aren't writers for long and if they are, they spend their time going to seminars and endlessly trawling through articles looking for tricks, for the right agent, publishing secrets and quick and easy tips -- something, anything that doesn't involve actually going back and doing the work -- and it is work. Ask not for motivation. Ask for discipline.

Here's the only real tip, trick or secret to writing:

You have to actually enjoy the act of writing, not the idea of being a writer, not the respect and awe you believe you'll command as a writer, not the romance of tapping away at a typewriter or signing someone's book -- you have to love the numbing, horrible, finicky hard work of sitting there with sentences and paragraphs and pages, working out how to make each and every word sing its own song. The act of writing anything, a novel or a poem, is only slightly more pleasurable than it is laborious, and if you are a writer, you chase that little bit. You slave on, chasing. But if you've got that, then everything else stops mattering as much because that little, tiny bit is there every single time you sit down in front of a keyboard or a notepad. And it's enough.

That's it. It's 2015. There are a million different ways to find your audience, if they exist. You just have to give them a good enough reason to, find you.

The plain and simple reality is it's hard to get someone to read a book, let alone buy one. The process of becoming a writer, as a profession, is hard work and takes a long time and luckily, none of that matters if you enjoy the act of what you're doing. And while sexism, racism and phobias of all kinds are real and terrible and should be revealed and stamped out wherever they're found, all the writers and publishers I've met, didn't have a single thing against me, or you.

And while that's scary, it's also really, really, really good news.

Good luck.