Tuesday, June 29, 2010

All Aboard!!!

THE PUBLICATION TRAIN
by Janet Dean

If you’re not published and want to be, climb aboard. But first, do you have your ticket? That ticket is desire. Wanting to be published badly enough that you’ll make changes in your life, in yourself.
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Before we take a look at the train, we need to look at the tracks. The path that’s in place for writers to reach the publisher—contests, submissions, and conferences. It's better not to try it another way.
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Engine—this is a steam engine, the “I think I can, I think I can” Little Toot variety. One that never gives up no matter how steep the hill, no matter how daunting the odds. Think of the engine’s wheels pumping, getting up steam. This engine doesn’t coast, doesn’t quit. This engine will get you to your destination. You’re the Engineer. No one can make you climb aboard but you. You may need to switch tracks (different genre perhaps), see places to slow down (make sure that manuscript is ready before submitting), and the places to go full speed ahead (if you never send it, you’ll never attain your goal.)
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Coal Car—this is what powers the engine. It’s a gritty place, not for the faint of heart. I love Anne Lamott’s bird by bird. In her book, she tells about her brother waiting until the night before a report on birds was due, totally overwhelmed by the task. Her father put an arm around his son’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Start with a paragraph, a sentence. In other words, be the fireman and shovel that coal. That means planting your butt in a chair. Set up a writing schedule, make a realistic daily goal and stick to it. Let nothing in your routine life stop you from writing. If you’re doing this, but aren’t getting closer, double your goals, think bigger, try something different with your writing. Finish the book. Enter the contest. Study the market, the craft. Submit and submit some more. Get on fire. It’s the only way to move that engine down the track.
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Dining Car—I’m not totally talking chocolate here, but it helps. Feed your soul with things that energize you. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. Feed your brain positive thoughts. Expect good things to happen. Find ways to make writing more fun. Perhaps write or edit in a café or outside on a pretty day.
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Passenger Car—we’re not on this train alone. No one understands a writer like another writer. Meet or keep in touch by e-mail. Establish relationships so on the dark days, someone will truly understand and care. If you don’t write well in a vacuum, find a critique partner or group. Be a mentor to someone with less experience. Agree to judge a contest. You’ll benefit from teaching and helping others along the way. Compete only with yourself. Comparing yourself to others is defeating and pointless. Remember we have God in our corner. Pray and trust that His timing is perfect.
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Freight Car—the place you stow the equipment for the journey to publication. Suggestions for what to take with you that will help you hone your craft: fiction—to read and study, How-To books/magazines/tapes, movies to watch. Don’t forget to pack pencils, pens, paper, computer, printer, AlphaSmart/Quick Pad, tape recorder—whatever keeps you writing. Keep paper/pens on the nightstand and in the car. Listen to tapes while you dress or drive. Edit hard copy while waiting for appointments. Be productive whenever you can. When you’re prepared, you’ll accomplish much.
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Baggage Car—not all the stuff you’re lugging around is good for you. Toss anything that’s dragging you down and refuse to put it on the train. Don’t listen to the negative voice in your head or coming out of others’ mouths. Kick time wasters out the door. Don’t let others sabotage your goal. We want to be there for those who need us, but we can’t let them gobble up our time.
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Caboose—I don’t know about you but I miss that red car at the end of the train. My train is steam powered so the caboose still exists and with good reason. Here’s where the men slept, ate, relaxed. The caboose represents the balance we need in our lives. Allot time in your twenty-four hour pie for taking care of your spiritual, emotional, and physical well being. Spend time with God. Take a walk. All work and no play lead to burnout.
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You’re the Engineer on this train. If you don’t give up, don’t shut down the train, then I believe you’ll get published. Now here’s the disclaimer: I took a train a few years back and learned that everyone on that train from the engineer on down to the lowest man is under the authority of the Conductor. You guessed it. The Conductor is none other than the editor. She makes the final decisions, which means you can’t control whether your manuscripts sell. But the journey itself is important—not just the destination. Enjoy it. Write because you love it and don’t let your quest suck the joy out of that.
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In bird by bird, Lamott says:
“I look into my students’ faces and they look solemnly back at me.
“So why does our writing matter again?” they asked.
Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”
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Hear the clack of the wheels over the tracks, the haunting sound of the whistle as the train passes through the countryside? Congratulations! You're on the train, moving toward your destination, doing the best that you can.

2 comments:

  1. You have given a lot of food for thought here. Thank you, Janet.

    ReplyDelete