From Holly Lisle: What Matters

From Holly Lisle
What Matters

©2001, Holly Lisle

I receive entirely too many letters from beginners with an idea and a desire to get an agent, a publisher, and a contract - in that order and right away.  These tend to be folks who haven't even done a few chapters of the book they hope to sell yet.  Many have never really written anything.  But, armed with their idea, they're quite certain they're ready for the big leagues. 


This is no different than a person who has watched a bit of baseball on television but has never played, deciding he wants to go pro because he thinks he'd be good at it, and expecting agents, editors, and publishers to take this display of hubris seriously. 


But it also isn't the point.  Let's leave the agents and other pros out of the equation for a moment, and just consider the poor, naive would-be writer.  Here is someone seeking a career and hoping to acquire obligations and a big financial debt (and if you sign a contract and accept advance money, and then do not then deliver a completed and professional manuscript, my friend, you owe that money back.) . . . and they have no idea if they even enjoy the work. 


What matters for beginners who think they want to be writers is to find out if they like the work.  To those of you already write regularly, this may seem like an obvious insight.  Evidence would suggest otherwise. 


For those of you who think you would like to be writers, but who don't yet know if you like to write, here is my recommendation -- find out.  Writing is not an easy way to make money, nor is it the quick path to fame and fortune.  It is hard, occasionally frustrating, frequently lonely work.  It is a LOT of work -- a single novel requires months and in some instances years of focus and dedication,  and once completed may never sell.  And a single novel is just the first step in a career.  When you finish the first one, you start on the second.  And then the third.  And then . . . repeat, steadily, for the rest of your life. 


Having an agent is essential to a career writer.  Contracts pay the bills, editors help you make your work as good as it can be.  But they aren't the point.  They aren't what matters.  Ultimately, what matters is the writing -- you with a story or an issue or a  theme you are passionate, about, alone in a room with nothing but your hunger for the words.  The right words.   


If you do not love the words, the hunger, the hunt, go find something that does make you hungry, and that feeds your hunger at the same time.  Love writing if you want to be a writer, because that which you will not do for love alone, you should never do for money. 


Down that road lies bitterness and disillusionment.  And life is too short to walk such an ugly road by choice.


Write, believe, and never give up on your dreams, 

Holly Lisle
Editor-In-Chief,  Vision