Aspiring writers in a ‘holding pattern’

Permission to land?
Permission to land?

I’ll be posting a review of Lisa Genova’s remarkable first novel Still Alice over the weekend. In the meantime, some interesting advice from the author.

‘I know so many aspiring writers who are sitting in a holding pattern, with a work completed, waiting to find a literary agent. They’re stuck, unable to give themselves permission to write the next book because they’re waiting to find out if their work is “good enough”, waiting to find out if they’re a “real writer”. This state of waiting, of not writing and self-doubt, is the worst state any writer can be in.

My advice is this: If you don’t find a literary agent falling into your lap quickly enough, if you feel like your work is done and is ready to be shared with the world, self-publish. Give your work to the world. Let it go. And keep writing. Freedom!’

Genova’s powerful novel about Alzheimer’s was a special case, which followed a unique path to publication. Before the book was published, the Harvard neuroscientist contacted the marketing department of the Alzheimer’s Association, thinking they might be interested in some way, “perhaps endorsing it or providing a link to it from their website”. She sent them the link to the book’s website, which she’d created before the book was published. The marketing rep got in touch, asking for a copy of the manuscript. Even though they didn’t normally considering “partnering” books, they loved it and wanted to give it their stamp of approval. The association asked Genova to write the blog for an awareness campaign they were launching at the end of that month.

“Realising that I’d created something that the Alzheimer’s Association thought was valuable, that could help educate and reassure the millions of people trying to navigate the world with Alzheimer’s, I felt an urgent responsibility to get the book out immediately.” She said yes to the blog and yes to the affiliation and went ahead and self-published Still Alice in 2007, which went on to become a New York Times bestseller.

Two books later, you can find out what Lisa Genova is up to now on her website:

3 thoughts on “Aspiring writers in a ‘holding pattern’

  1. I’m back with another penny’s worth. I think we learn so much by actually writing and completing a full manuscript that we’re itching to get on with the next one. In my case, I’m confident that the second one will be ‘better’ or should I say, more organised, planned and ‘commercial’ than the first. I don’t want to hold back, so I pushed myself to get started this month with CampNaNoWriMo – I had to despite other commitments and I’m loving it. Meanwhile, I will continue to submit the first novel, no doubt fiddling and adjusting the query letter as the rejections mount up. In a way, I’d feel I was selling myself and readers short if I self-published just to ‘get it out there’ when, really, it is perhaps too flawed to deserve publication. Does any of that make sense? I want to give you a link, Clare – a very interesting and informative lady and a quite remarkable blogger. She has some super links in her ‘annecdotal’ section, especially for short stories: (she’s also on YWO)

    1. Hi Safia, I’m very impressed you signed up to CampNaNo. That’s a chapter a day I suppose. Wouldn’t mind tackling that myself. Thanks for the introduction to Anne Goodwin, I liked what I saw on the first visit. Your feelings about self-publishing make perfect sense – to me at least. My dream is not to be a publisher. That’s someone else’s job. ‘Getting it out there’ is only the beginning, you have to market the goddamn thing. That level of self-promotion seems like a nightmare to me. I too have a better feeling about my second novel but number one still needs some TLC. Looking forward to cutting those apron strings and moving on.

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