A question we have all asked ourselves at one time or another. Some may ask it still. I know I’ve asked it of myself more times than I can count. I have asked it in all parts of my life, but the biggest has always been… Am I good enough to be a writer?
It’s easy to say “yes I am”, but it’s harder to actually believe it. Like deep down believe it. In your gut believe it. That’s a whole lot harder to do, because saying it isn’t the same thing as believing it. Trust me, I know. You probably know it too.
But wait! It counts if someone else says it, right?
You are good enough!
You are great!
You are amazing!
You are rocking it, so keep on going!
Once upon a time, I lived for these type of statements from my friends or other people I knew. I needed to hear these things and hear them often to feel I was worth anything. Yes, I had some serious self-esteem issues. The worst of all was whether or not I was a decent writer. That particular idea plagued me in terrible ways not so long ago.
As a writer, being a creative person is a pretty big deal. We pride ourselves on how creative we are and yet there are times when we feel we just aren’t creative enough. It’s sort of a Ping-Pong match between the two. Some days it’s one, and a whole lot of other days, it’s the other. There have been quite a few times when I personally felt like I lost the game all together. Many times I found myself asking “Am I creative enough to be a writer?” or “What can I do to be more creative?”. In the end though, maybe it’s more of a question of how can we be the right amount of creative to accomplish our goals?
I want to tell you a story. Something that happened to me over the last few years that changed my life forever (causing me to abandon my blog for awhile too — sorry!) and made me see things in a little different light, especially concerning the way creativity works.
“But you also have choices. Yes — and choices are nothing less than the power of creation. Through them, you can create your own life, your own future, your own destiny… By your choices you might even create an entirely new world, one that will spring into being from the ruins of the old.” — T.A. Barron from The Mirror of Merlin
Is it luck? Is it perseverance? Is it some combination of the two? Or maybe its an age-old secret only handed down to a select few? Or maybe the answer lies somewhere else entirely? How do we truly become the person we always wanted to be?
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” — E.L. Doctorow
If someone told me as I first started writing about nine years ago that my writing would be a never ending journey, I’m not sure I would have set out on that particular path. Granted, most people start writing for a reason, which usually includes the buzzing of character voices and ideas that won’t shut up. That was my case, and even with that warning I probably wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. I find writing to be the only way to get the voices to shut the hell up (yeah, that makes me sound pretty certifiable huh?). But it’s the idea of the never ending that might make most people bulk, though I have learned since then that never ending can be a good thing.
When I started writing, I didn’t even know how to put a decent sentence together. Of course back then, I thought I could do at least that much, but I was young, delusional, and a little stupid. I don’t even dare look back at my writing from the very beginning because I’d cringe way too much. It was embarrassing. Really it was.
We’ve already talked about the query package and writing an effective cover letter, let’s get to the really hard part… the synopsis. First I want to say that I’ve found it’s impossible to write just one synopsis. To get a great synopsis, it’s better to do a few, because let’s face it your publisher is going to want more than the one to three page synopsis you submitted if they do accept your novel. They’ll most likely want a shorter blurb for the back cover. Also some publishers want more than a one to page synopsis when submitting to them, so why not just get them all done at once and be done with it.
For me it was easier to do the really long synopsis first. The chapter by chapter sum up of the entire novel, which reached a huge twenty pages. I doubt any publisher will want all of that, but it was good for me because I did not previously have what others might call an outline. Many of you may already have this chapter by chapter summary or outline completed. But I don’t do written outlines as I’m writing because I’m a pantser. I feel outlines distract from letting the story flow where it needs to go. So if you like to be organized and have a nice neat outline down before you even write the first word of your novel, then you can totally skip this step.
We talked about Novel Submission: The Query Package, but now let’s get more specific and discuss how to actually write a cover letter (and FYI, writing a novel cover letter is different than a short story cover letter, in fact there are some publications that don’t even require a cover letter for short story submissions).
The following post is an accumulation of what I learned from Gary A Braunbeck’s worksop on cover letters and synopses, research I’ve done, and my own observations as I wrote the cover letter for my novel.
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you begin to write the cover letter (or what some call a query letter)…
After many years, my novel is finally done, now comes the hardest part yet… it’s time to submit it. I have to admit, I’d rather write another entire novel from scratch then do what comes next, but paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, “anything worthwhile never comes easy.”
This summer I’ve been taking the first steps in getting my novel ready for submission by writing a kicks cover letter (or sometimes called a query letter) and a handful of synopses (because it’s not good enough to have just one synopsis, but that’s another post!).
The first step I took in writing the cover letter and synopsis was to do research and see how the professionals were doing it. And I was also lucky enough to take a workshop about cover letters and synopses from science fiction author Gray A. Braunbeck last September. After a frustrating search, I finally managed to find my notes from his workshop. Yay!