Guest Post: Natalie Johanson ("Keep Going")





             I love to write. I jokingly say writing keeps me sane. I have so many stories, people, places, things swirling around in my head I need to get out and on paper. I love building the worlds I imagine or the people I create. Each person is a little part of me, or at least, who I wish I could be. That doesn’t always mean I can write, or that what I’m writing is any good. Sometimes I want to write; I have the drive to put something on paper and craft a masterful story but I can’t think of anything to say. I sit there and stare at the forsaken cursor, blinking at me like it’s judging me for my inability to type.

                Sometimes I’m writing something and I look at it thinking I’m a genius. I’ll re-read it days later and laughing at my hilarious dialogue. “I’m good!” And I pat myself on my back. Then I remember the piles - well, metaphorical piles since everything is electronic now - of rejection letters. And I’ll look at what I’m writing and think: “Is it really that good? Or am I that delusional? What’s wrong? What am I doing wrong?”

                Writing is hard. Having the thick skin to keep submitting your writing is even harder. You work so hard to get the stories from your head down onto the paper. You cry and bleed (those paper cuts are brutal), you drink way too much caffeine, and you pour your heart into your masterpiece. You send it off to the editor, which can be even more terrifying, waiting for the harsh mark of the red pen. You look at all the red marks and try not to take it personally. All the changes are needed. But all you see are the editor is telling you what you wrote before wasn’t good enough.

                Yes, I know that’s not what they mean. But it’s hard not to feel like that for a minute. I mean…this is personal to me. I wrote this! This is my baby! I made this! I’ve created and nurtured this thing. Be nice to it. But you get past that. You gather your wounded pride back together and polish up your writing … you send your precious baby off again. And you’re met with rejection after rejection.

                It’s really hard to find the courage to keep writing after that. The definition of crazy is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, after all. Even now, years later, and my precious baby is in the hands of a publisher, I still feel like that sometimes. I was rejected for years. Over and over and over. I lost count of how many email responses of “not right for us but the market is subjective” I received. Or, “It doesn’t fit our catalogue right now but the market is subjective." Or the worse one yet, “I wasn’t intrigued enough to want to request more”. Ouch, man! That’s what every writer wants to hear. “Your writing bored me.” *Insert image of me clutching my chest*. Want me to twist that knife a little for you?

                So, how do you keep going? How does anyone?

                The market is huge. There are so many readers out there and every day someone new is picking up a book. There are millions of publishers. So, you keep tweaking that query letter. Keep changing up your pitch. The best thing I learned was to have someone read your work and describe your own book back to you. Sometimes they pick up on things you never noticed.

                I used to pitch and describe my book as a fantasy adventure about a girl fighting to save her kingdom. Then my friend read my manuscript and I asked her to describe it to me. She told me my book was a coming of age story about a girl trying to find acceptance for herself and realize who she really is. I stared at her with an open mouth because yes, my book was that. I just hadn’t seen it. So, don’t let yourself fall into a stagnant pit and keep changing, altering, searching for that hook that works.

                And send it to everyone you can think of. Prepare yourself for a lot of noes. Don’t let that get under your skin. Rejection is going to hurt, but remember, you'll never get anywhere if you don't keep going.

    Remind yourself why you write. I write so I can stay sane. So I can have book with my name on it sitting on my shelf. I want to be able to point at it and say, "I made dis." I write so I can build the worlds that have been in my head since I was 10.

                Sometimes writing is terrible. Then other times, it’s all I can think to do with myself.


Find Natalie:
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