Writers are risk takers. Writing requires taking risks.
Sure, some writers will say they are introverts or maybe that they avoid taking risks, but they’re lying.
Yes, lying…to themselves, and maybe, to their readers.
Writers risk their words.
Writing is a bold and courageous act. Every time you type or scribble a word, you’re taking a gamble. Is it the right word to convey your intended meaning? Is there a better word, one more likely to resonate with readers and catapult your writing from good to great?
Writers risk their stories.
There’s an old adage that says ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. If true, writers face a death sentence. Writers must find new stories, or find new ways to tell old ones. Secret baby? Hot, alpha billionaire starts over after losing it all? Killer stalks sleepy, small town? Young boy discovers he’s part wizard and goes on to face epic battle between good and evil? It’s been done. What do you have to say that makes your story different? Are you conscientious in your story choices, raising the stakes and nailing the pacing, or…are you too careful, too safe, robbing your story of style and verve and causing it to fall flat upon the page?
Writers risk rejection.
On so many levels. We dread agent and editor rejection, but others also put fear in our hearts. Any writer who shows his work to others risks feedback that suggests he’d be better suited to painting houses, a vocation requiring a steady hand and attention to detail, but maybe not a whole lot of imagination and emotional investment. Family and friends may offer kind words because they don’t want to offend you, but contest judges and critique partners can be harsh. (When this happens, stop and remember that feedback is a gift. Almost any feedback is better than all those agent and editor submissions that go off into a wormhole somewhere in the galaxy.)
Writer risk their dreams.
It’s the story of your heart. You’ve convinced everyone—your crit partners, your contest judges, your agent, the publishing board—to take a chance on this story. On you. But the reading public is as unpredictable as a flash flood, and your book doesn’t sell. Was it the packaging? The marketing? The writing? The story? You may never know, making it hard to convince the Almighty Publishing Sages to take a chance on you again. Do you continue to write and seek publication or do you cast aside your character charts and plotting aids deciding it wasn’t meant to be?
Writers abound whose hopes and expectations have disintegrated in the hot lava of publishing uncertainties. To a certain extent, new writers can elect to hide behind the shield of ignorance. Burning with excitement, if they strike out with little knowledge of the publishing industry to get in their way, they sometimes manage to catch lightning in a bottle and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams.
For most writers, the road is long and tedious, and the risks are as real and big and scary as the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.
After ten years of writing, I’m not exactly sure whether to call myself a new writer anymore. I certainly can’t claim industry ignorance. I’ve published a handful of short stories, blogged three to five times per week for the past five years and written over 80 freelance articles. I read every tidbit of publishing information that comes my way, intent on keeping up with the trends and changes in this Willy Wonka-like business. But the writing of my heart, my novel, remains as elusive as a blue unicorn.
I could offer a host of reasons why. Some are certainly valid, unavoidable impediments that kept me from finishing and perhaps publishing a full-length book. Others were self-imposed, born of my own fears and idiosyncrasies. If I’m honest, and I need to be because dishonest writers are rarely good writers and I’m striving to be good at this craft, risk avoidance has gotten in my way.
Recently, I’ve made some changes in my approach and am working harder to achieve my dream. I’m taking some risks. Time will tell if they pan out in my favor. Want to join me?
If you have been holding back, afraid to step out of your comfort zone or hiding behind a litany of excuses, I challenge you—whether you’ve written for a week or twenty years—to take a risk. Now. Commit to one action, one change that swirls the bile in your stomach and makes your skin crawl, but also will likely thrust your writing forward. Prioritize your writing tasks over other activities. Hole yourself up to write in a place with no interruptions. Submit your work to a critique group. Meet with an editor at a writing conference. Send a query to an agent or a publisher. Release your ebook.
In short, take a chance.
To parapharase a familiar camp song, there’s no getting around it and no getting over it, you gotta go through it. Writers have to take risks to be published. Take a chance with your words, your stories…your writing.
Freelance writer Patricia Woodside pens articles on business, personal finance and health topics, along with articles geared to writers. An avid reader, Patricia reviews books on her blog as well as for FreshFiction.com. This short story author and hopeful novelist dreams up inspirational romances when not enjoying the central FL sunshine with her husband and three sons. Follow Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her blogs Readin’ N Writin’ with Patricia and It Starts with Me.