02 December 2008

Sports & Entertainment: Dare to Dream

Bonnie VanakBy Bonnie Vanak

As I sat down to write this blog last night, I wanted to write about ancient Egyptians and board games. But my mind kept zipping up and down like a game of chutes and ladders...

...the chutes and ladders that have to do with the dream of publishing your book.

So to keep on topic, I'll say this about entertainment. Ancient Egyptians loved playing games. One favorite was Senet, a board game in which you tried to reach the kingdom of Osiris. The bad guys tried to stop you. They kept detouring the goal of reaching a happily ever after.

In publishing these days, reaching that happily ever after seems harder than before. The economy, well, let's face it. We didn't need a panel of economic experts to tell us yesterday what most of us already knew. The U.S. is in a recession. Duh! I won't dwell on the bad news. We're all pretty much aware of the realities.

If the ancient Egyptians were to create a board game of publishing, there would be evil forces trying to prohibit you from reaching the Kingdom of Contract. Such evil forces might range from rejection, to a tight market, to publishers fearing to take chances on books that are different.

But in your favor is a powerful weapon called The Dream.

The Dream fuels your writing. It's the dream of finishing your book, hearing those lovely words that you made a sale, seeing your book published. It's the dream of telling a story that's spun around in your imagination, and bringing it to life to share with the world.

Some writers start out writing because they see it as a business and a job. Oh, it is a business, and it's a job where you'll work harder than you've ever worked before. But it's a funky, precarious business like most of the arts. There are no guarantees.

The only guarantee you have is you, the work you put into your novel, and your perseverance. And The Dream.

If you're published and it's been a long time between contracts, don't let go of The Dream. Keep writing. The market shifts, it always does. The economy will rebound. It's not over. I've known authors who were dropped by their publishers. They kept at it and remade their careers and sold again. They persisted, persevered and published.

If you're too discouraged to write to get another contract, write for the sake of writing. Write for the reasons listed in this post by author Toni McGee Causey.

Write a story you were dying to tell, but dismissed because it was too different, too tough of a sale, too impractical. Go for it. Bend the rules, let your imagination soar. Before I got published, I tried to write to fit the market. I wanted to get published in category romance because I heard that was the right pathway.

Note: There is no pathway to publishing that is right for everyone!

I wrote category romances and got rejected. Finally I sat down to write a book I wanted to read. I had a dream of writing a book set in Victorian Egypt, about an independent woman wanting to be an archaeologist and the handsome, dangerous sheikh who guards the treasure she seeks to find. I thought I'd have a better chance at winning the lottery than getting it published, but I wanted to write it. I could not let it go. I wrote for the sheer pleasure of telling the story.

That book became The Falcon and the Dove, my first published single title historical. Years later, I finally got published in category romance with my paranormal books.

I did it backwards.

If you're an aspiring writer with a plethora of rejections, don't let go of The Dream. You might not sell the first book you write. Or the second. Or even the third. But if you keep at it, polish and hone your craft, and learn all you can, the odds are in your favor that you will accomplish your goal.

No matter what your status as a writer, when you sit down to write the book, remember The Dream. Write the book because you must tell a story. Write it for that part of you that dares to dream, the person who will not let the dream die.

Be aware of what is selling in publishing, but remember publishing is like a soccer game. Schedules are set far in advance and by the time everyone ends up running after the ball, the ball is going in another direction. Be savvy about the market, but don't let the market bind your creativity in a straitjacket.

If you keep trying, and nothing is working, consider adjusting your goals. If your immediate goal is to earn millions, live in an oceanfront mansion and write your books on a little pink laptop while sipping pina coladas served by a cabana boy with a great six-pack, well, maybe you should rethink why you're writing. Publishing is precarious at best. Yes, there are those who come scampering out of the gate with a six-figure contract, a blizzard of good publicity and hit the NY Times best-seller list in the single digits. But most authors don't. Fact of the business.

Speaking of dreams, look at Stephanie Meyer. She started writing Twilight after having a dream about a vampire and a human girl. She had The Dream, not of getting published, but of telling a story. This is the very heart of The Dream, when the idea seizes you by the throat, shakes you up, will not let go. The images are seared into your mind. You can't NOT write. The words are spinning around in your head and you can't type fast enough. You want to be hooked up to some telepathy typewriter like the author in Stephen King's The Tommyknockers.

Seize the moment, be grateful for friends, family and any support you have while playing the board game of Contract. If you have a good editor and good agent, count your blessings and learn from them. If they want revisions, consider what they're asking. They're looking at your book with different eyes, and can turn a good book into a great book. Remember, it's a subjective business. One editor or agent may pass on your story for a variety of reasons. Another might fall in love with it and push with all her/his might to get it to contract.

Learn from experienced, successful authors willing to share their wisdom. Let them inspire you. Some of my mentors are Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. If you ever have the opportunity to hear these authors speak in person, do it. Just hearing Sherrilyn's story about how she had no money, and took her very last postage stamp to mail out a manuscript, the one that landed her a contract, is fuel for The Dream.

Lastly, learn to take a break and recharge your batteries. My favorite method is reading. For me, there's nothing like reading a book that pulls me in like quicksand, a book I can't put it down. A book that reminds me of the pleasures of reading, being entertained, to laugh, to cry, to give a little sigh of regret when the last page is turned and there is no more story.

A book that fires The Dream.

We are writers. We are entertainers. We are many things, but above all else, one thing unites us.

We are dreamers.

Publishing is a board game of uncertainty and like the ancient Egyptian game of Senet, there are many obstacles to arriving at the kingdom we seek. But if you keep playing, keep writing, keep working to push past those barriers, you can win.

Dare to dream.