We need to know if we’d like our books to become a part of a bigger world. Many like to call that publishing, but I consider that a business term. Getting a book into the world is all we can count upon. If you’re honest, you might find you’re not counting on it — and regretting the investment to carry your book into its next phase, so it can have a better shot to get an agent’s offer to represent it.
You’ll be able to make your way into the world without investments you might regret. The question is, can you go as far as you desire? You might have something free going for you: this book won’t leave you alone.
One of my workshop members queried 32 agents to get representation. She got it, and a good agent. Those were hand-tooled queries, too. I’m not one to handicap the future where art is concerned. But that desire to make a book, or a lack of it, has an impact upon the energy needed to make your book grow clearer and stronger.
Together we do make a book better, to give readers as discerning as yourself an easier time of finishing a story. A better book has a better chance of becoming a published book, but there are no formulas. For example, I’ve learned there’s many a memoir hiding inside a novel. Our wish as readers in the 21st century is to demand more realism in our fiction. “Based on a true story” is like catnip. Some novels are better as memoirs. But even memoirs have conventions. I think of these conventions like manners. They make access to your story easier. Even literary fiction has conventions.
I help people with memoirs, too. It’s about creating a story arc, no matter what the form. As humans we’re trained to expect things within story, but nothing is the same for everybody. (Well, being thrown into a lava pit is the same for all of us except the masochists. That’s over quickly, thank goodness.) I believe art doesn’t care about fiction or nonfiction. Art cares about deeper truth, the kind that moves hearts, using stories that linger in our bones. You can get there faster and go deeper with a bigger readership by believing in whatever you aim to build.
Painters can be self-taught, but visual art stands alone as one field where the discipline and training isn’t obvious to many viewers. People do train and study, though, and there’s a great deal of craft in the creation. The self-taught painter might be more common than a self-taught novelist. But there’s learning of the rules to be done everywhere before breaking them, I believe. Not just that rules of prose, but practices that open up what we need to say, so people get to our story’s climax — and carry that joy into the rest of the world.