Focus on the story, not getting published

If you’re a young writer and you’re not reading Steven Pressfield‘s blog, particular on Wednesdays for his regular “Writing Wednesdays” segment, you’re doing your art a great disservice. He’s got plenty for we who are trying to improve our writing each week and it’s worth your time.

A couple weeks ago, Steven wrote a post entitled “The Crazier the Better” about a friend named Paul’s concern his writing was going to such dark places and he was so into it that the darkness was perpetuating itself and as a result, no publisher would ever want the book. Steven’s advice is to pursue the harder ideas, that is, the ideas that excite us and even if they seem crazy will likely make the most compelling stories. I couldn’t agree more and urge you to read more of Steven’s reaction to Paul’s (self-imposed) dilemma.

I’d add one other thought on why Paul should continue this writing he’s so caught up in, whether it’s dark or not. As Steven puts it, “He’s worried that the book will come out so evil, no one will want to touch it.” My advice: time spent writing should be spent on the story, not worrying about hypothetical publishing deals. It’s great to dream about publication and beyond – I certainly do it from time to time – and yet if I’m worrying about publication as I write the story then I’m not focusing on the right thing(s). This is, I think, especially true when writing a novel. If one is trying to finish a novel (sometimes the hardest thing for many a young writer to do – finish a novel), get those 300 pages printed or 50,000 words typed up or “The End” down on paper and then worry about whether some publishing house will buy it.

If it’s good, someone will buy it. No matter how “dark” it is.

What thoughts do you have? Leave them here and/or at Steven’s blog post.

-nm

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4 thoughts on “Focus on the story, not getting published

  1. Oh, and in response to the question: How “dark” the novel is may not be an issue, but the publisher’s (or in my case, the would-be agent’s) desire to take a novel with a problematic setting, theme, or “feel” may be enough to never allow that story to see light beyond the desk lamp. They are taking no chances. I’m not saying don’t write it. God, no. He has to write it. But he should be prepared after the writing, rewriting, editing and polishing are done, that it may be a drawer novel.

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    • I think your point is well-taken, Victoria. That said, I really am at a lost as to what the writer could be creating that is so “dark” that it wouldn’t get published (if it was a good enough story with enough craft behind it to make it engaging, obviously). I wonder if his real issue is whether he feels comfortable being associated with it. For that reason, it may end up being a drawer novel and I, too, think he should still write it.

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