By Dee Leone
Perseverance. Merriam-Webster says it’s the “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” Want to survive NaNoWriMo? Rewrites? The query trenches? You need P-E-R-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E. It also helps to have a knack for putting your kids and spouse to bed early so you can write in peace.
P = Participate in a Path toward Publication.
Better your craft by attending conferences and joining a critique group to improve your premise and plot. Be aware of what’s going on in the publishing industry by keeping up with social media. On Twitter alone, I’ve learned about query contests, won newly released books, found my agent, and consequently became a Red Sofa Literary couch tomato.
E = Enjoy the Experience.
Whether you’re attempting to write a novel, article, or picture book, remember to have fun. The likelihood of finishing a project increases if you look at writing as entertainment rather than a chore. When your characters’ actions become as drab as your in-laws, add something outrageous. Later, you can take out the part where your protagonist ends up on the wrong stage and delivers a speech about the ins and outs of publishing to an audience of proctologists.
R = Resolve to Write Regularly.
Schedule one or more sessions per day and space out your word count goals. Squeeze in writing time while sitting in a carpool line. For unexpected bursts of creativity, keep a notepad on your vacuum cleaner. Stick a waterproof one in the shower or take it on vacation so you can jot down sharp details about the shark circling your snorkel.
S = Study the Secrets to Success.
Story telling? Structure? Setting? Submission guidelines? Study samples. You’re not going to impress anyone by mentioning your second grade chicken pox poem in your pitch. To find out how not to query, read my winning entry for a worst query contest. Apparently, I’m good at being bad.
E = Excel at Employing Exceptional Tricks.
To reach your daily target, allow yourself some leeway. You can’t write, “I must make my goal” ten thousand times for your NaNoWriMo word count. However, if you aren’t quite sure how to describe someone’s blue shirt, for now write “the teal periwinkle turquoise ultramarine cerulean sapphire azure ” tank top. And if you want to use cow dung for a mystery clue later, it’s okay to count research notes about it being rich in minerals and darkening soon after exposure to air.
V = Vary it up.
If something about your story seems off, try varying the voice or vocabulary. Venture into a different time period or an alternate genre. Change the POV or the tense. Make your villain the hero. When all else fails, change writers.
E = Eat and Exercise.
Remember to feed your muse (especially if it mews) and yourself. When the words are flowing, you might forget to take a break. Eat nutritiously to fend off sick days when you won’t be able to write at all. Also, remember to stretch. Keep weights under your desk. Stubbing your toe on them is a great reminder to get up and move.
R = Ready Yourself for Roadblocks.
Bank “spare” time to get through “flat” periods. A child might get sick or a water leak could wreak havoc, so in your quest for the finish line, always move the deadline up in your mind, have a higher word count goal per day, and do what it takes to strengthen your will. Faster, higher, stronger. It’s golden.
A = Attract the Attention of an Audience, Agent, or Publisher.
Establish a brand for yourself on social media. Whether you prefer Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, or maintaining a blog, it’s advantageous to be visible online. Eventually, when someone conducts a search, writing links will come up first rather than the scantily dressed model who shares your name. Trust me. I know.
N = Navigate the Names.
Collect names of agents or editors who accept your genre. Read their bios, blogs, and interviews. Narrow your list, follow guidelines, and personalize every query. Never send out mass generic pitches. If your goal is to have your correspondence deleted without being read, I recommend starting your letter with “Dear Agent.”
C = Celebrate Accomplishments.
If you achieve your targeted word count or finally fix a plot hole, treat yourself to a relaxing walk, good book, or carrot stick! Okay … chocolate. When one of your books goes to an acquisitions meeting (again) and a marketing team nixes it (again), revel in the fact that it’s getting attention. You know parents, teachers, and kids are begging for it. Now. Picture the naysayers crying buckets when your book of silly poems is successful. It will persevere if you do.
E = End!
P-E-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E got me to the end of this post. It will take you to the completion of your book. It will see you through revisions and the query trenches. The writing process isn’t easy, but it’s like giving birth. Once you have a bundle of joy in your hands, you’ll soon forget any suffering you went through to get to that point. The only difference is, with writing, you’ll be changing words instead of diapers.
Dee Leone is the author of BIZZ AND BUZZ MAKE HONEYBUNS (Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin, 2014) and two upcoming books from Sterling to be released in 2017 and 2018. Twenty of her reproducible books have been published in the educational market, and more than 100 of her plays, articles, word puzzles, poems, and stories have appeared in magazines such as Highlights and on websites like PassPorter.com (Disney articles). She enjoys writing picture books, middle grade, silly poems, nonfiction, and screenplays. In addition, she is a member of SCBWI and taught at the elementary level. She is married with two children and enjoys travel, photography, hiking, scrapbooking, and volunteer work.