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Jeaniene Frost | For love or money?

December 31, 2008

Jeaniene FrostWhen I was twelve, I was bitten by the reading bug. It wasn’t long after that when I decided to write my own book. I’d already written lots of poetry and short stories, so the idea of making the leap from those to writing and selling a novel seemed easy.

Yes, I had a lot to learn.

Fast forward around fifteen years to the day I told myself, "quit procrastinating and do it already." And so I finally did take one of the many ideas churning around in my head and wrote a novel from it. What I found out after I’d typed The End was twofold: one, I’d accomplished something I’d dreamed about by finishing that novel. Two – and equally important, in my opinion – was that I loved writing.

That doesn’t mean pursuing a career as an author was as easy as finally writing that first novel. In fact, if I could rewind the clock and talk to former self on the day I’d finished my first book, I’d say, "Great! Now comes the hard part."

Huh? you might think. Isn’t writing a book the hardest part of pursuing a career as an author? Well, for me, it was the easiest and the most fun part, actually. In fact, I’ve heard several authors say (and I’ve been guilty of this myself at times) that if they didn’t love writing so much, they’d pick another career. There’s a lot more to writing than finishing a book. That’s where it starts, of course, and if you don’t have a completed manuscript, you’re reducing your odds of publication to about zero. Yet there are some people aiming for a writing career who say they don’t love writing. To me, that’s like saying you want to be an artist, but you don’t like to paint. Or you want to be a pilot- except you hate to fly.

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Writing is fun for me. I get lost in the worlds I create, and I am happy when my fingers are busy on the keyboard. Without that, the challenges of breaking into publishing would have been too much for me. For starters, most aspiring (fiction) authors have to get a literary agent before they can shop their novel. The reason is that many of the large publishing houses don’t accept unagented manuscripts. Rejection is a common part of the agent querying process and yes, it can hurt. Expect rewrites, too, or writing a new book and trying to break in with that if the first one doesn’t make it. It’s not uncommon for a writer to finally get published on their third, fourth, or fifth book, instead of their first one. Once an agent is secured, you go through the submission process with editors. If you achieve the Nirvana of a publishing contract, then you bite your nails and wait to see if your book is a success or a failure – all while not making very much money to start out.

*grin* Sound dismal? Don’t despair, if you love to write, the joys outweigh the challenges.

I know writers who’ve been trying to get published for well over a decade, yet it hasn’t happened. Have they quit writing? No, because it’s what they love, so their happiness isn’t predicated by a contract.Are there quality writers who may never get published? The harsh answer is yes. I don’t believe that compared to every book rejected in publishing in 2006 when my novel was sold, mine was better than all those rejected. Instead, I think mine was put in front of the right editor at the right time.And even though I’ve been lucky enough to have success with my series, I don’t think everything from now on will be champagne and roses. But whatever may happen, I’m investing my time and effort into something that makes me happy, which, when the rough patches hit, makes the whole process worthwhile.

So there’s a lot of work involved in a writing career that goes well beyond writing that first book. Without the magic of loving what you do, it’s just a job, and one that may or may not ever pay you back the time you put into it. But if you love writing, the good news is that you’ll be happy no matter how things turn out, and that, to me, is something worth investing in.

Jeaniene Frost

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