Monday, January 18, 2010

Baby Steps

We tend to hear about the "big events" or achievements in the lives of others, but we often aren't privy to the multitude of baby steps taken along the way. Whether it be an Olympic athlete, a famous actor, writer, singer, etc., more coverage is devoted to their big event (winning an Oscar, Grammy, Gold Medal, NYT bestseller) than about the hours of practice, sweat, tears and unsatisfying day jobs it took to get there. As most of you reading this are writers, you know that writing involves lots and lots o' baby steps. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. When the media labels someone an overnight sensation, it often isn't really the case (unless you write about sparkly vampires and your name rhymes with Bethany Plier).

What are the big events in writing? You probably have your own list but my list of big writing events includes:
* finishing a novel (CHECK)
* revising said novel to perfection
* getting an agent
* agent selling novel to publisher
* finishing second novel and repeat the whole selling thing (bonus
for foreign/film rights)
* full-time career as writer.

I reached my first achievement of finishing a novel (YA), which was huge for me. I did it using baby steps -- I wrote 2,000 words/night. NOTE: There were plenty of nights when 2,000 words didn't feel like a baby step -- it felt colossal. However, eventually these baby steps added up to one whole novel which felt amazing!

I'm now revising my ms, a process involving thousands of tedious, torturous baby steps. The term baby steps is somewhat misleading as it makes it sound easy. I've learned that at times, baby steps = pain. As I'm nearing the finish line with this part, I'll move on to the whole agent thing. This step is the one that terrifies me -- however, even this is slightly less stressful when broken down into baby steps (e.g. perfect the query letter, write a great synopsis, research agents/read every blog known to man involving agents) I've been addressing those baby steps while simultaneously doing revisions.

Being the best writer you can be is ultimately how you will reach your writing goals. Having basic knowledge of the publishing world and rudimentary social networking skills is also crucial in today's world. These are my baby steps addressing these areas:
* join several writing organizations (SCBWI, PPW)
* join a critique group (or two)
* attend writing conferences
* follow agent/editor/author blogs for info on everything from
publishing to marketing
* build your own fabulous blog along w/ wonderful writer friends
* join Facebook, Jacketflap or other social media site. (Note: I'm
still resisting Twitter -- we'll see what happens with that)

Most non-writers out there don't realize the vast number of baby steps involved in getting a book out into the world. Honestly, they don't care. They just want to read a great book.

So remember this when you land on the bestseller list and are asked about becoming an overnight sensation -- the world will see the "big event" of a bestseller. Only you and your peeps will know all the baby steps you took to get there.

What baby steps on your list that aren't on mine? What "big events" have you already reached in your writing career?


  1. Look everybody, he's walking. Oh, no he's hit his head. Oh, he's okay, he's walking again.

  2. My list looks pretty much just like that >_<

  3. Darn - I was hoping there were some magical baby steps I missed that would make the process easier. :)

  4. I also spent some time figuring out my author brand and making sure all my outreach efforts showcased my brand. (Paranormally tinged insanity. As if you couldn't tell.) People automatically know they'll like my books if they like my blog/Tweets/et cetera.

    This makes me sound all intelligent, but really, I spent YEARS barging around hitting my head on things. Hard.

    Celebrate every baby step! It's further than most people get!

  5. Thanks Carrie - I love your insanity and it's good to hear that it takes others a long time as well. I definitely need to work on the author brand more.

  6. Hey, thanks for such a great blog! It's helping me with number one on my to-do list (which also looks a lot like yours!) I was wondering, though, where are some good places to put a blog to meet other writers? And how does one find a writing critique circle?

  7. Hi Amanda! Thanks for checking out our little blog :)

    You may find this post and its comments to be helpful

    The best place to put your blog, is everywhere you are. You can use networked blogs to auto update your posts to other networking sites such as facebook. If you've got a website, put your blog link up there somewhere. Tweet about it, use it as your signature in emails.

    And the place we all came together, was the SCBWI. I basically posted a personal on there and got Kristi and Valerie and it worked out perfectly. If you aren't ready to make the commitment to SCBWI, you can try On the right hand side of her website, you will see a link to the message boards--the blue boards. GREAT place to meet writers!

    Best of luck!

  8. Hi Amanda - what Lacey said. :) I'm in a second critique group and found that one through SCBWI also.

  9. Thank you for this great blog. Me thinks it's time to join a critique group. :)

  10. Thanks, Laura :) The Sisters make my writing world go round.


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