So I’ve had the bubbly, and come back to Planet Earth after signing with Scrivener. People have congratulated me and told me I deserved the book deal. It’s been altogether lovely.
Here’s the thing; I’ve done nothing that lots of other people can’t do. If I can land a book deal, I’m pretty sure any diligent writer can do it, too.
You must have heard the saying that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The proportions may be a little skewed for effect, but most of what gets anyone anywhere in any field is work. That’s what got me the book deal, that and a bit of luck.
Now, just as pain comes in chronic and acute, I figure work comes in chronic and acute. You need both kinds for success.
Chronic work is the practice you put in learning your trade, making mistakes, learning how to fix them, absorbing the vocabulary and the head-learning and the body-learning of the craft. Chronic work is also any long-term project that you have to drill away at, like a novel or a column.
Acute work is the push you put on to get a particular task done, often to a deadline. I usually think of acute work as middling-to-short deadline stuff, like final revision on a short piece, preparing a piece for submission and making sure I haven’t left anything out, sending out a query, finding markets
Sometimes they’re combined. “Today I’ll find three more paying science-fiction markets” is acute work. But researching markets is chronic work, because it’s something you have to keep doing, at least if you want to sell your writing.
So what work did I do to get this book deal?
Chronic work keeping sheep. A bit of luck when I was asked to write a shepherding letter every month for Richardson’s Roundup. (Although that, itself, grew in part out of my persistent writing in to the show on other matters.) Acute work writing the shepherding letters, one a month. Chronic work thinking about memoir, about shepherding, about what other purposes I could put those letters to. Chronic work researching markets, learning about grants. Acute work writing a grant proposal. Chronic work writing fifteen stories about shepherding that I hadn’t previously told, and rewriting the ones I had to match my developed writing style.
Then I had another bit of luck. Laurence Steven, who approved my Writers’ Reserve grant proposal(I sent out eighteen), asked if I would send him the manuscript when it was done.
More chronic work, rewriting to readers’ suggestions. Acute work getting the manuscript in to Laurence. Then – waiting. And then everything fell together, all the shepherding, writing, research, into an offer to publish.
It wasn’t magic – it was work, and a bit of luck. It was passionate interest and honing the craft and persistence. Knowing I’ve done it once assures me that I can do it again.
You can do it, too. All you need is a touch of inspiration, a lot of perspiration, and just a little luck.