When planning our next steps: consider successes or failures?

29fll.jpg.w300h206I started off today in a quandary about the next step in my writing and publishing journey. If I continue to throw myself into making a go of indie publishing, then I need to come out with another book soon. I have another book, Jordan’s Shadow, almost ready.  Jordan’s Shadow is a creepy YA gothic suspense novel. (If you want to read the beginning of it, see the form over on the right side of the page.) The manuscript is in the hands of Beta readers and hopefully the changes I’ll need to make based on their reading won’t take long.

But…around the end of 2013, I submitted a proposal for Jordan’s Shadow to a small press that I thought would be the perfect fit for it. They liked the proposal and requested the full manuscript—a great sign. I sent them the full manuscript on January 2 and was warned that it could take them one to two years to make a decision. One to two years!

I had also sent a query letter to another small press about Jordan’s Shadow. Now, a query is the very first step in the publishing process—just a letter asking for permission to submit a proposal—and then you hope after that they will request the full manuscript. It took this press five months to respond to my query. It was a very nice response, expressing interest and asking for a proposal. But five months to respond to a letter! Based on that, I would assume it will take them eight or nine months to respond to a proposal. And if they ask for the manuscript? Good grief, probably another year or two.

Actually, none of this surprises me, since I’ve spent several decades playing this game. I thought I’d given it up. Still, it’s awfully hard to just say no to a traditional publisher that’s considering your work. I’ve been out there on my own for a few months now—footing the bill all by myself, marketing all by myself. The idea of having someone else take some of that burden off my shoulders is absolutely delicious.

As I’ve been racking my brain about which direction to go from here with my writing—throw myself completely into indie publishing and get to work on Jordan’s Shadow, or sit back and wait once again on my personal Holy Grail, the traditional publishing contract—I ended up reading two different articles in which writers talk about success and failure.

Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

One is a post by Dan Balow on The Steve Laube Agency’s blog. The other was assigned reading as part of a Mythgard class I’m taking on the Harry Potter series.—J.K. Rowling’s commencement address at Harvard University a few years ago.

Balow maintained that your successes will ultimately determine your writing path, not the plans you make for yourself. Rowling seemed to be saying the opposite—that your failures can be the most important, and ultimately most beneficial, parts of your life.

I honestly think, though, that both authors are getting at the same thing. Rowling said, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.” (Writing novels, fortunately for us!) Failure, she said, was important because it was a “stripping away of the inessential.” She was no longer wasting time on what didn’t matter, because she had failed at those things and had to leave them behind, anyway.

Balow says, “your future is determined more by your successes than by your plans…Across all of the arts, there are actors, authors, singers, comedians, painters and composers who at one point early in their lives had dreams that were much wider or at least different than what they are currently experiencing, but their success in a certain arena has determined their future.”

In agonizing over the next step in my writing career, I asked my online marketing group for advice. One of them told me to ask myself what I really want from my writing—which is funny, because when I spoke to a creative writing class recently, I told them the same thing. I still think it’s good advice. However, as Balow says, we need to “avoid over-thinking and over-planning. Especially for Christian authors, there is the underlying power of God who often makes no logical sense to us as to what He is doing, at least until we can see what His purpose really is.”

I can worry over a decision until my head aches—which it currently is—but ultimately, God will determine the outcome anyway.

And that’s really a good thing, isn’t it?

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