Imagine two cities at opposite ends of the continent.
One is called “Amateurville.” Of course, it’s a shantytown. The artistic equivalent to the Tando slums of Manila or the Favelas of Brazil. It’s filled with the unwashed, unpublished masses. They toil away at their day jobs and then write in dark corners once free. They dream of finding an agent, seeing their manuscript become a book on the shelves to be read by people other than family and close friends.
The other city is “Pro City.” It is a gleaming metroplis filled with lush gardens, elaborate fountains, and stately castles. Within each, a single writer resides, plugging away at a typewriter, composing the Next Great American Novel. Publishers circle far overhead in the sky, like vultures, waiting to snatch the manuscript and carry it to the eager public in exchange for bags of money. A tiny portion of the proifts will make their way back to the writer–just enough to cover the mortgage on that castle.
I’ve been writing fiction seriously for abour four years now. In that time, I’ve written three complete manuscripts (one of which I’ve all but rewritten) and probably a dozen short stories. It is only recently that I’ve sold my first short story, and even that was to a small, local press.
So where do I live: Amateurville or Pro City?
I’ve more just crossed the city limits of Amateurville. Pro City is still a long, long ways off. It’s somehwere over the horizon, and I’m unsure of the way.
And I don’t think I’m alone. Many of us on this journey want to know exactly how to get there. We read blogs, go to conferences, follow agents or writers on Twitter, hoping to decipher the secret turns and roads and tunnels. Maybe if I write this many words per day. Wake up at this time. Create the perfect online platform.
Alas, the way is long and shifting, I think. It never seems the same for anyone. And I’m realizing that the more I worry about the way or the destination itself, the less likely I am to get there.
I need to stop worrying about my “manuscripts” or my “novels” and just keep telling stories.