Lately, I've been perusing writing related forums and reading advice given by other writers. Their ideas certainly have value, but often I want to say, "None of that matters if an aspiring writer isn't able to listen to her own internal voice. None of it matters if she doesn't know how to write her own story with her own characters with her own plot that comes simply and completely from her own head."
If you noticed a theme, then I've done my job of over stressing the words her own.
Writing forums are great. Critique groups are wonderful. Conferences are fun. But none of those things matter if a writer isn't able to sit down by herself and craft a story.
I wrote three books completely on my own before I got published. I put words to paper, character to story, plot to page without anyone offering me advice on how to do it. My sisters (who are phenomenally creative and who are extremely talented in their own right), read the manuscripts after they were complete and offered me advice on everything from grammar to plot, but neither of them were published and neither knew squat about writing a book. I can remember the three of us laughing at my rookie mistakes though we had no idea there were names for them.
Pacing? What was that?
Point of view? Did it matter?
Goals, motivation, character arcs? Did anyone really care?
So, book one and two stunk and were shoved away. Book three was slightly better, and, after putting it aside for a few months, I pulled it out (while on bedrest and pregnant with my oldest daughter) and began reading as if the work were not mine, as if the story were a book I'd picked up off a shelf. A light bulb went off, and I recognized all those things I still didn't have words for. Pacing, point of view, character arcs and motivation. I rewrote the entire book in a few weeks, and sent a query off to Melissa Endlich. The rest, as they say, is history.
The point of this post is not to discuss my road to publication, though. The point is to make it clear that it is possible to get published without:
Knowing someone in the writing industry.
Going to conferences.
Being in a critique group.
Following all the rules in every book ever written about writing a novel.
Paying someone to critique your work.
Though there is nothing wrong with the things I've listed, they can often dilute a writer's voice, stilt her creativity and sap some of the passion that must be part of the crafting of any novel. There is only one thing that matters when you're pursuing publication, and that is your ability to sit and write. It is your story, your voice and the unique soul you bring to your writing that will lead the way to success. Sometimes we need solitude to hear our own thoughts most clearly. Sometimes we need to be alone to truly listen to the heartbeat of our story.
Don't be afraid to be a maverick when it comes to writing. Pursue your craft with passion, with an honest eye for flow and detail and with the knowledge that you must be your own worst critic.
Friends and family may want this for you. Critique groups may be determined to help. In the end, though, you are the one who must make it happen. Write. Rewrite. Write again. Remember when things get tough and the ideas refuse to flow that each word is a paving stone on the path to publication. You and you alone are responsible for laying them down one by one, thought by thought until you finally reach your destination.