I never wanted to write the Great American Novel (whatever that is). I wrote my first novel to see if I had the discipline to do it, and discovered that I did. It was terrible, though, so much so that I do not count it as one of my works. Besides having broken all the rules of good writing, especially the one demanding that the writing be good, it had too much of me in it. The one positive thing about it is that I will never again make the amateurish mistake of writing a thinly disguised autobiography.
Although I have improved my writing with each succeeding book, I have not yet found a publisher. In publishing, as in life, a great deal of luck is involved, and I have never been lucky. But that does not keep me from acting as if I will get published.
Football coach Paul Bryant said, “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” Many writers have the will to get published, but they do not have the will to prepare for that eventuality. They hold onto their prose as if it were gold and not merely the coin that will get them where they want to be. They are profligate with adverbs and stingy with rewrites. They think readers are waiting breathlessly for their immortal prose.
I am not one of those writers, or at least I hope I’m not. I slash every excess word, I challenge every adverb, I write and I rewrite, I work on my query letter and synopsis. And I plan my publicity strategy for when my book is published. I am already getting known on the internet. (All right. So only two or three people know my name. It’s a start.) I blog. I’ve joined social networking sites. I have a website. I write articles. I think of ways to talk storeowners into letting me do a book signing, and I think of ways to make it a success. I plan speeches to give to local groups. I’m learning how to juggle several writing-related projects, such as editing, blogging, writing, rewriting, because once a writer is published, more is required than simply writing, and I want to be ready.
Hundreds of thousands of people write a novel every year, and few will find a publisher. If the will to prepare to win makes a difference, perhaps some year I will be one of the lucky ones even if I haven’t written the Great American Novel.