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?