Thursday, October 10, 2013

There Are No Shortcuts

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

In preparation for the second Ellie Sweet book, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is now available for just 99-cents for Kindle users! Book two, The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, will be available for purchase November 1st.

Yesterday I talked about the emotional journey of a writer, and I shared this nifty graph that charts a writer's momentum and feelings as it coincides with the passing of time:



(Quick thank you to Dan Deeble of Heartland Community Church who did a similar graph in a sermon in the context of a beautiful spiritual fight, and who graciously let me adapt it for writing.)

The emotional stages all look very nice and orderly when you view them like this. But they're really not. In particular, that last leg of the journey - from check out to vision achieved - tends to look more like this for me:



I'll learn positive news, hear encouraging wordss from an editor...only to be rejected and find myself being booted back down to the check out stage. I'll pull myself together, receive a nice note from a reader who enjoyed one of my books, I'll start to feel hopeful again...and then I'll slip back down when I get stuck in the manuscript I'm working on.

This is why on Monday when I listed five things I would tell my unpublished self, I included, "Stop measuring your self worth by your writing." Because you can easily go crazy when you're yo-yoing between check out and vision achieved. Even though having my kids has meant waaaay less writing time than I once had, I'm so grateful for how they remind me that my life is more than writing, because that's something I can forget.

Here's the real kicker about this journey. No one likes it, not when they're going through it. We'd rather go straight from vision cast to vision achieved, right? Who would really want to go through the pain of critiques and rejection?

But there are no shortcuts available when you're chasing this dream. I know because I've looked for them.



This is one reason why I'm wary about new writers who are looking at self-publishing, because I've seen it used as a short cut. And if back when I was a teen it was as cheap and easy to self-publish as it is now, I cringe to think about what I would've done. (Please understand that I don't think all writers who go the indie route are using it as a shortcut, because I don't. I'm just saying I have seen it used that way.)

The best stories don't have short cuts in them, right? In the stories you write, you send your main characters through all sorts of horrible situations. You kill people they love, take away what they want most, and you knock them down just when they think they've figured out how to win

Well, you're living your own story right now. Don't you want it to be a good one? It's hard to live a good story if you're wasting time looking for shortcuts rather than digging in and doing the hard work. As my friend Rachelle Rea is fond of quoting, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." (Helen Keller)

I know a lot of what I've talked about in this series feels scary. But I was once a teenage writer who knew no one in the publishing industry and who knew nothing about getting published. What I knew was this: I had stories in my heart that I wanted to turn into books. I walked a long, tiring road to get where I am. If I can do it, I know you can too.

Posts in this series:
Why Writing a Book Is Like Hiking a Canyon
Hiking the Canyon: The First Slip
How to Push Through When You Want to Give Up
Six Reasons to Take Six Weeks Off From Your First Draft
How to Edit Your Novel
How to Receive a Tough Critique
Should I try to get my book published?
Why is it so hard to find an agent?
Finding the Right Literary Agent for You
Five Things I Would Say to My Unpublished Self
The Emotional Journey of a Writer



22 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Thank you for all these posts! They have been very helpful.
    Yes, that check out phase can be hard to get through.
    I think Daniel Schwabauer said that whenever to get to a point like that, just drop a body from a ceiling or do something terrible to the main character.

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    1. It's funny how piling troubles on our characters can make our lives so much easier, huh?

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  3. Thank you so much for this post and the one yesterday! I'm kind of at a pretty hard stage right now. I'm grinding away at my first draft- the first story I've really committed to- and I keep swinging between moments of "Yes! I'm really doing it and it's great!" and moments of "This is awful, it's cliche, and no one will ever like it." It's not the best, but thanks for inspiring me to get through it!

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    1. I'm so glad it helped! Congratulations on committing to your first draft. That may not feel like a big step, but it really is!

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  4. Thanks for the wonderful post, as usual, Stephanie!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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  5. "There are no shortcuts." Can I just say I really needed that this morning? Not just for my writing life, but my life in general. It's so true. Shortcuts don't do us any good. It's pushing through the hard stuff, rather than avoiding it, that grows us as writers and people. Thank you so much for this today. :)

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    1. Oh, and the scribble made me laugh. It's so true.

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    2. Isn't it? Glad it's not just me who feels that way!

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    3. From Amo Libros:
      Ooh, I like that, Amanda: "Shortcuts don't do us any good. It's pushing through the hard stuff, rather than avoiding it, that grows us as writers and people". I'm going to have to write that down...

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  6. Love your blog! You've given me insight that will help with encouraging a friend who is an aspiring writer. Thanks!

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  7. I'm having difficulty trying to figure out if I have too much dialogue in my story and if I have parts that aren't really necessary. How do you know if you have too much dialogue?

    HP

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    1. Here, HP: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2012/03/fear-of-too-much-dialogue.html

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    2. Thanks Stephanie! This really helped.

      HP

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  8. From Amo Libros:
    THANK YOU!!!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! You have no idea how much I needed that - especially that bit about measuring one's self-worth by one's writing: I tend to do that a lot.
    Thank you so much for all you do on this blog, and reminding us that while the journey is hard, we're not alone - and there are others who have gone before. Thank you!

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  9. I was already a bobblehead nodding at this post and then you mentioned me!! I almost had a heart attack. :)

    Love it, Stephanie!

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    1. It's impossible for me to think of that quote and not think of you!

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  10. lovelovelovelove this post!!!!!! :) totally awesome! {I loved the scribble!} I also see that some people use the self-publishing business as a short cut. :( But, one of my friend's sister used the self publish business--but I didn't even think it could have been a short cut, it was so great! She was ready, and that's what counts. :)

    thankyouthankyouthankyou for this post, Stephanie!!!

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  11. Thank you, Stephanie! I've been feeling some of the check out lately. :P But this is encouraging. :)

    Stori Tori's Blog

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