"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Monday, March 14, 2011

Published: To Be or Not To Be

Several years back I came up on a cross road in my life and to this day I can still remember what the cross road signs in my mind read.  One read, “Forget Your Dreams This Way” and the other read, “Follow Your Dreams This Way.”  Beyond both signs was pure and utter darkness into the unknown.  There were no promises or guarantees waiting for me in either direction, only faith and fate. 

What was my quest in choosing “Follow Your Dreams This Way?”  To one day write a book.  Notice I said, “one day write a book,” not “one day publish a book.”  So I set out to learn the craft of writing and sought the guidance of several well respected authors turned teachers and even a screenwriter turned bestselling author.  After having spent months which turned into years developing the skills I learned I not only have one finished manuscript, but three!

Now I have come up on a new cross road in my life and this time there is only one sign and it reads, “Published:  To be or not to be.”  Beyond it is pure and utter darkness into the unknown.  There are no promises or guarantees waiting for me, only faith and fate.

As in any well crafted adventure tale where the seeker of a quest sets out to find an experienced guide to lead them on their mission I too set out to find such a guide and once again sought the advice of well respected teachers turned writers even journalist turned authors/teachers for advice on becoming published.  Since then the internet has seem to become an unlimited vast sea of information on what it takes to get published and now with self-publishing a click away most beginning writers may think it easy to get published.
But is it really?

Through my studies and experience it is in my opinion there are two important attributes for any writer wishing to become published to have and they are faith and patience.  First, and foremost, you have to believe in yourself and what you write and secondly you must be patient as you seek your dream.

The best advice I ever received on getting published is to look at it as you would any other important job you apply for.  What does it take to land your dream job?  Usually a resume which shows you have years of experience in the field, perhaps it also shows you have had several positions which allowed you to gain the experience and in some cases education which helped you sharpen those skills.  Now apply these same principles to your “writer’s resume” and what do you find?  Is it blank or is it filled with experience?

Remember back when you were first either out of high school or college and every job you applied for was a rejection due to little or no experience?  How about your first application for a credit card?  Were you turned down because you had no credit?  What were the first words that popped into your mind?  If you’re like me the one way conversation went something like this, “How in the (beep) world am I ever going to get (beeping) experience/credit if no one will give it me?!”  So now here you are maybe a couple years later or perhaps too many years later to count finding yourself setting sail on that same ship you thought you disembarked a long time ago.

So think back, how did you gain the experience necessary to go after the job you wanted?  As for me, I took baby steps.  That’s right just as a snow flake turns into a snowball and a snowball turns into an avalanche I took the skills I had learned from school and got the job that allowed me to use them and then gain more and so on and so on till one day I had worked my way up the corporate ladder! Then my cross road came and here I am starting to set sail all over again!

Sure once in a while there comes along a success story which seems to be an overnight success but is it really? Usually what you don’t see is the baby steps most authors have taken to get where they are today.

What were my first baby steps?  Another great piece of advice I received in regards to getting published was to submit either a human interest story or an editorial to a newspaper.  If published, the single most important thing you can insist on (because it is highly unlikely you’ll be paid) is to demand a byline.  Guess what?  You now have being published to add to your “writer’s resume.”  There is also the magazine route or even short story competition avenues you can seek to help gain experience.  The more credibility you can add to your writer’s tool box only helps to strengthen your resume.

What about you, do you find yourself starting from scratch?  I would love to hear what kinds of things you have learned along the way to finding publication.

Next week I’ll be exploring self-publishing and whether it could be another skill to add to your writer’s resume? 

Until then, 

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author


  1. Even though I am self-publishing, I am taking the time to be sure that what I publish isn't garbage by having an editor edit my work, hiring a graphic designer to get a nice, professional looking cover, and proofreading like a madwoman to be sure there are no errors in the final product.

    No, it's not easy, but if I want to be published AND taken seriously, it's what I have to do.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Bessie, thank you for the nice comments. Your comments go hand and hand with my next weeks topic. I do believe self-publishing can be a tool to add to your writer's resume and I have been meeting many self-published authors which are paving the way for the rest of us to follow. I can't wait to read your book, Holly's Story, I know it will be excellent!

  3. I completely enjoyed this post. I too have dreams of becoming a writer. I have self-published a motivational novel, but I have always wanted to write fiction. But I am often plagued by low writing self-esteem, so I haven't even tried my hand at writing fiction in quite sometime.

    After reading this post...I think I'm ready now :-)

  4. Stacey, thank you so much for the comments and all I have to say to you is, "Go for it!" When you have time, check out some of my earlier post in 2010 about how I got started and some sites that helped me along in my journey. Good luck, and I can't wait to hear about your first fiction manuscript! :)

  5. Very good post. It's true when it comes to publishing--there are no guarantees. It's dark and a bit scary.

    I have an agent working with me, but today we received our 4th rejection from the publishing houses. So there you go. Still hanging in there, but odds are that my novel will not be picked up. But I keep my chin up.

    I look forward to your post on self-publishing because that just may be the route I have to take. The thought of starting all over again from scratch is weighing on me. I'm tired. Oh wait, I;m supposed to have my chin up :)

  6. Angela, first I want to say "Kudos!" to you for pursuing your dream. Secondly, you already show you have the attributes I spoke about, faith and patience, keep believing in your story and it will be told one day.
    I look forward to next week's post too and hope I can help shed some light on the self-publishing world for it is indeed becoming very exciting!
    Talk to you next week and keep that chin up! (I find chocolate helps!) :)

  7. Looking forward to the next post, then!

    Thank you for being so supportive and encouraging!

  8. Thank you Bessie, and thank you too for your encouragement. The writing world is a unique place to live; love it!

  9. Thanks for this post. It validates what I have been feeling. Like some of the other comments, I have self-published with the intent of building my resume. Plus I blog with a dual purpose of entertaining readers while proving my writing abilities. I noticed none of your street signs said "Easy Street". Maybe that's because it doesn't exist.

  10. Thank you for the comment Audry, isn't it nice to know where not out there in the writing world all alone!
    You're very astute in noticing none of my signs said, "Easy Street," because you are exactly right it does not exist! But how sweet the reward of blood, sweat and tears is. :)