Dues


Recently a coworker approached me with a question.  She was considering writing a book and since I basically announced to my whole company I had written a couple, she was seeking my advice in getting started.  Right away I informed her that although I had written a few books, none of them were published yet and I was still figuring that part out myself.  But this didn't deter her and she told me that she just wanted to pick my brain about what to expect, how to get started, landmines to avoid, you know...the whole nine yards.

What was funny, and not totally unexpected, was that I believe she expected my response to fit inside a 30 minute conversation, or even worse maybe she could download my entire 4+ years worth of experience from somewhere and go through it all when convenient.

Her questions made me realize something.  One of the driving forces behind my blog, behind most of our blogs, heck...behind the blogosphere in general, is so others can learn and benefit from our accrued knowledge.  Why should newbies have to make the same mistakes we did?  As Dianne Salerni recently pointed out, this isn't a competition and one of the awesome aspects of our community is the way we help and support one another.  If used properly, it can serve as a huge leg up into the industry.  But what people need to remember is this isn't The Matrix.  You can't just plug in a disc and suddenly know how to fly a helicopter.  Ask any pilot, they don't log hours and hours of flying time to learn what all the buttons and levers do.  They do it to become skilled at the techniques of flying.  The same is true for the craft of writing, and the pursuit of publication.

What I ended up telling my coworker was that I'd be happy to pass along everything I've absorbed during my journey, but she still needed to be prepared...to pay dues.

"You mean like to the Romance Writers of America?" she responded.  I laughed and answered by telling her that the dues I was talking about weren't monetary (at least not directly) and there is no list of benefits you should expect to receive by paying them.  Also, the amount paid would be determined solely by her, and NOT necessarily proportional to possible future success. 

When she started getting the look on her face as if I just told her the precious puppy she adopted was going to end up weighing 150 pounds and shed hair faster than an anemic buffalo, I knew I was finally getting through to her.  That's when I explained what dues were.  Continual writing, reading, writing, reading...endless amounts.  Blogging (a must in my opinion) and other forms of on-line social interaction.  Re-writes, revisions, edits, critiques, negative feedback, critiquing, synopsis, querying, crying on shoulders, lending a shoulder, and rejection, rejection, REJECTION.  And if she happened to be successful and land an agent/book deal, the due paying wouldn't stop there.  Deadlines, writer block, marketing, self-marketing, negative reviews, tongue-biting, dealing with disappointing sales, etc.  I told her there are thousands of blog posts about these topics and more out here, full of valuable information, and that she shouldn't just rely on what I say about any of it.

Above all else, I tried to get across to her the amount of work in front of her if she decided to pursue this book, and how much of it had very little to do with actual writing.  There were no short cuts.  But if she was willing to put forth the effort and ride the roller coaster, then the reward would be worth each and every payment.

What do you think, was I too hard on her?  I've paid my dues and continue paying them every day. What about you?

38 comments

  1. I think it was a kindness to present reality to her, with a healthy dose of compassion. The thing is, I think so much of the dues-paying is experiential and developmental. I think going through that--and making those mistakes--is necessary for learning and getting better. I wouldn't trade my rejections for anything, actually, because I learned from them, a bunch of stuff about writing AND myself that I would have missed had my first query on my first book been accepted right off the bat. Fantastic post!

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  2. Excellent post. If she really wants to do this it won't be a deterrent. Yea, it can be overwhelming but there are enough of us that are doing it to know it's not to much to ask if you're determined. She may be a little shell shocked though. :)

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  3. No, I don't think you were too hard on her. People amaze me all the time by asking that question and thinking you can tell them (in less than 30 min)the secret to publishing.

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  4. I agree with S.P. Bowers. If writing is what she really wants to do, she won't mind paying her dues, and it's better that she knows what she's getting into before diving in!

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  5. I totally agree. I don't think you were too hard on her. I wish someone gave me a dose of this when I started. I know now what to expect and I want to keep going. It's not easy. My husband asked me why I'm pushing myself, why do I keep reading and writing and doing everything I'm doing. I told him because I love it, and I don't want to stop, no matter how hard it gets. Great post! Dianne's post was great too!

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  6. No, you told her the truth! There aren't any shortcuts and she's better off knowing that up front.

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  7. Love this since every person who writes meets someone else that desires to do so. It's not an easy race to finish a piece of work and sometimes we need all the motivation we can get and give.

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  8. I wish paying dues was as easy as paying membership fees. If it were, I'd be more than covered. :D

    You weren't too hard on her. It's better she finds out the truth now, than to waste time on something that she doesn't want strong enough to survive this torture we put ourselves through.

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  9. Such a great post, DL!! There really are no short cuts to technique and experience. Writers write, even when no immediate rewards wait on the other side. Hope you had a great Dad's Day!!!!

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  10. Sounds like you were honest. You weren't telling her it couldn't be done, just that it's hard. If she wants it, she'll keep going. Just like the rest of us. ;)

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  11. Honesty is always best. If she's got the passion for writing, she won't get deterred.

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  12. I think yours was a great response. So many people jump into this thinking that it's just a hobby, not really work. It's rather annoying :)

    Also, I hear that agents get this question all the time, but it's more along the lines of "how do I get published?" I laugh just thinking about the naive people who don't know that there isn't an easy one sentence answer to this question.

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  13. NO. You were not too hard on her! You were being realistic. It's so funny because the same thing has been happening to me. I had a co-worker ask me to help her write a novel, because it was taking her too long and she needed ideas. My response: ?!?!?! People need to learn that writing takes DEDICATION above all. I can't count the number of times I've heard, "Oh, cool. I want to write a novel too." But do any of those people actually take the time to sit down and finish one? You did your colleague a favor by being realistic!

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  14. Part of me is glad that I didn't know I'd have to pay my dues in the beginning... I'm not sure I would have started! LOL! But loved the advice... it's SO true, DL. SO TRUE. :D

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  15. It's odd, but I just had a person from high school days (whom I hardly knew) contact me. He said he wanted to write a book and wanted to know if I could offer any suggestions on how to get started. I did pretty much what you did, plus I gave him links, made suggestions, etc. But I think a lot of people believe all they have to do is write something down and it will get published and they'll be making money and/or be famous.

    I don't think most people realize (for me in particular) that it's been a life-time in the making, that I've been writing, reading, revising, editing, learning the craft etc. for years and years and years. And I still feel ignorant.

    No you weren't hard on her, you were telling her the truth.

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  16. Thanks for the shout out, D.L.!

    I've had the same experience at work -- people coming up to me and asking for advice on "getting published." Some of them hadn't even written the book in question yet.

    I direct everyone to the blogosphere. I don't know how many of them take my advice. Not many I suspect. My 15 year old daughter has a manuscript and keeps telling me she's ready to "get an agent." (Wasn't she living in the house with me when I was querying??? Doesn't she have any idea????)

    I laid it on the line for her this weekend and told her that if she was really serious she needed to start reading blogs, learning from others, and -- yes -- she has to pay her dues.

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  17. I don't think you were hard on her at all, DL. Telling something the truth may be difficult to hear sometimes, but for me, it always beats the alternative.
    Karen

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  18. D-Bone, I'll agree with what everyone else has said -- you weren't too hard on her. You were caring, but truthful.

    Too many non-writers look at writing as some sort of get-rich-quick scheme or a path to fame, and if they just had the secret formula, they'd be guaranteed the enormous success of J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins.

    It don't work that way, and that's totally the wrong reason to write. You should write because you're called to it; because you love it; because you simply must -- regardless of rejection, or of the certainty many thankless hours spent writing and rewriting and rewriting thousands of words that NO-ONE will ever see.

    If in spite of that, someone still wants to write, then they're doing it for the right reasons, and the good news is that there IS a wonderful world of support out here from their fellow writers at every stage of development, thanks to fabulous bloggers like yourself, Don!

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  19. Ugh. You know? When you put it all out there like that of what we writer's go through? It's really depressing. Heh heh, kidding! Hee Hee.

    But I plan on copying, and memorizing what you told her because I get bothered when I hear friends say, "Oh I'll just write a book." as if it's nothing. It really is work, and it takes time.

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  20. I love it when people want you to tell them everything. You can guide them, but the only way they'll learn it all is by experiencing it.

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  21. DL, great job helping to give someone a leg up. Sometimes honesty is the best advice you can give.

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  22. If you give someone that advice, and they still want to write, then they are a writer! I think you did her a service in laying it out. If someone had done that for me when I started submitting seriously... well, I'd still have done it, no question :-)

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  23. Sounds like you gave some realistic advice - and I'm sure she was happy for it. Maybe after the shock wore off. There's so MUCH to learn. I've been online for a couple of years now and I know there's a ton I still need to learn!

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  24. I've been asked that question too, about how to get started. I have a variety of answers, but it all usually ends up in this type of info. Gotta be dedicated, pure and simple. And yes; pay your dues over and over until you wanna scream and stop.

    Hey, there are worse ways to spend my time :)

    ......dhole

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  25. lol.... way to take the glamour out of it, DL. lol

    But you are so right. It's a messy business in more ways than one.It all sounds so dreamy when you first start out, but the reality is enough to make you question it every step of the way and wonder if it's really worth it. I think she was lucky to have you give it to her straight.

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  26. The truth can be hard to hear, but I know for me, it helped me know what I really had to do if I wanted this writing dream to become reality. Some people just want the fun of writing a book as a hobby, but if she wants to be published, I think that's great advice so she starts in the right place!

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  27. Great post. Honesty is the best policy.

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  28. Although you don't want to crush her writing dreams, I don't think it would be a kindness to make writing seem easy. It's difficult work and constant learning and changing. I think you did right by her.

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  29. Ha! After that I just might quit!

    No, you weren't too hard on her just really really honest!

    We pay a heavy price, don't we?

    Heather

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  30. I think it's important to realize that there are very, very few Stephanie Meyers out there... most writers will face everything you mentioned above, and unless you truly love writing and it lives at the core of you, you're not going to stand much chance of pushing through all that resistance.

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  31. The truth is always good...though it'll probably take until she's actually in the middle of it all for your advice to fully sink in.

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  32. Ha,ha, ha, ha. Read, write, sleep, start over.

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  33. I think you were very gracious with your honesty. It's amazing how clueless non-writers are about the whole thing...but then, I guess that was me just a few short years ago and I know I would've appreciated a DL back then.

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  34. Not at all! That's the writing life if you choose to accept it. We're constantly working and learning and growing. And even once you DO have an agent and a book deal, you'll still deal with rejection, negative reviews, writes and rewrites. It never ends.

    I say forewarned is forearmed. But I do hope you let her know our secret weapon: each other! :o)

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  35. I don't think you were too hard on her. You were being honest and letting her know what to expect. Most of us have been at this for many, many years. And that's what she'll be looking at, too.
    I loved this post by the way. Shed hair faster than an anemic buffalo :-) LOL!

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  36. I always love when people want you to distill what's taken you years to learn into a quick instruction list for beginners. Oh wait - that's pretty much your average "how to" book, isn't it?

    Giving her a true picture of what she'd be getting into was being kind, not hard. Always better to have one's eyes open.

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  37. She probably had images of herself sitting in front of a laptop in a coffee shop somewhere, smiling as a waiter brings her a latte and some soft music plays in the background as she effortlessly writes the best novel ever.

    At least that's how every person I've ever spoken to about it assumes it works. She might as well know the truth going in.

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  38. Nope, this is the way it really is. She'll have to learn sometime. Better from you at the beginning, I'd say. :)

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