I wanted to put fingers to keyboard in order to lay out a few thoughts on something that can’t, and shouldn’t, be ignored.
The Author Ego.
Humans are selfish by nature. We tend to rationalize the world around us in terms of our own existence. How are we affected? How did this happen? Nine times out of ten, most people find themselves on the wrong end of a self accountability ladder. “It wasn’t me.” “I did everything I could.” “I don’t understand.”
“The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something.” – Muhammad Iqbal.
How much, or how little, does our own behavior catalyze our current situation? The answer is simple. One hundred percent.
There are many shades of ego, but the Author Ego is the darkest. As expectations can become the graveyard of broken dreams, so too can the ego stand in the way of our success.
For those of you already ‘agented’ and published, you are doing something right. Something the rest of us are trying to figure out.
Like eighty percent of Americans, I too cultivated the novel idea that I could –well — become a novelist. So I did it. With one creative writing class under my belt, and a love of English Literature, I wrote a book.
One huge gigantic book just shy of half a million words (budding authors everywhere have sprayed coffee all over themselves).
I had no idea what I was doing, so I just kept going.
Five years of stealing an hour here, and an hour there. Of getting up at 4am to get in five hours of quality book time before going to my regular nine to five. Ego wasn’t driving me then. Ambition was.
And I did it. I finished. It was good. My hopes rose…until I ‘Googled’ the words ‘word count’.
Debut novels should typically fall between 60,000 – 90,000 words depending on the genre. Shocked didn’t even begin to cover my reaction. My book was almost five times that length!
So I did what any other newbie would do — picking a cliffhanger, I slapped an epilogue at the end and went about my merry way as I queried the literary world; and in my mind, they were welcome.
Now, I don’t want to say that I wasted large portions of my life, but I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be to break into the literary industry.
It led to a discovery: writing a book is easy. If it wasn’t, then literary agents would get back to us within hours instead of weeks, but because it’s relatively ‘easy’ to write a book, they have hundreds of queries to get through. Every week.
Anyone can write — I’m testament to that fact — but not everyone can truly craft a novel.
I had no luck getting published with that beast of a manuscript. Chopping it up did nothing for it, neither did the re-writes or revisions that followed.
I should have shelved it then. After all, it would always wait for me, but I found that I couldn’t wait for ‘it’.
My ego was damaged, and I ‘couldn’t understand’. I even came to the conclusion that there was no way these agents were even reading my sample pages — the same whine of wannabes clogging forums with their bitter, bruised egos.
Have you ever wanted Mr. Big Shot Agent to tell you the truth? Why can’t they go all Simon Cowell on us so that we can just throw in the towel?
Probably because if they did, we wouldn’t keep going. We wouldn’t grow and develop, and people like Stephen King would have never been published. (Did you know that he actually tossed ‘Carrie’ in the trash after it was rejected, forcing his supportive wife to go dumpster diving because she wanted him to rewrite it? No? True Story. Now look at him!)
My moment of clarity came in the shower — as all good thoughts do.
I realized that if I stood any chance of progressing — any chance at all — then I would have to deflate my sense of awesome and listen.
Really listen. “I didn’t quite connect with the protagonist the way that I had hoped”.
A form rejection line that some of you might be familiar with…but have you ever read between the lines?
I dissected what was really being said, without those agents actually saying it — because if they did, I probably would have thrown in the towel.
“I didn’t quite connect” – Dialing down my ego fifty notches, I realized that what the agents were trying to convey was the simple yet devastating truth: I was telling instead of showing (even though I was confident in my showing abilities!), and as a result they had no emotional connection to my protagonist.
‘Showing’ — aka describing a character’s experience through the use of all five senses — connects your readers to your manuscript, creating that emotional connection that compels them to read on.
It. Is. Essential.
Without taking that step back, I never would have had that lightbulb moment, and without that lightbulb moment I would have continued on as before: lost, hurt, and angry in the face of rejection.
Bitterness is born of wasted tears, so don’t waste them. Anger becomes futile in the face of useless ‘what ifs’, so toss them away.
Instead, open your ears, pull down those walls, and really read those rejection letters, bad reviews, or critiques.
If you do, you will soon realize that you are your own worst enemy, and that your Author Ego is crippling your potential writing career.
Until next time, I can be found on Twitter @Maria_Tureaud