Guest Post: What to Expect When You’re Aspiring, and Why You Need a Dragon

Today I am pleased to welcome Lauren DeStafano, author of the upcoming dystopia WITHER! She's got a guest post for the League here, and was gracious enough to do an interview with me over on my blog. Comment to both for a chance to win a copy of her book, which debuts tomorrow!

What to Expect When You’re Aspiring, 
& Why You Need a Dragon


Sadly, Barbara Poelle’s blog has been discontinued, leaving a gaping absence in what I read on the internet in my pajamas Tuesday mornings. But my favorite entries were the ones in which she used baby animals to demonstrate the publishing industry, mostly because they managed to be so accurate, yet you also wanted to hug them. I would love to keep that tradition alive right now, but if you ask me, the path of a writer looks something like this:

When you start out, you are here:



You aspire to be here:



Or, if you’re on the modest side, perhaps you’d be content to be here:



But before you can be either of those things, you should consider getting one of these:



Allow me to explain…

It makes no difference if you are a Harvard professor who perfects his literary opus in the twilight hours once the papers are graded and the kids tucked in, or if you are a teenager writing a rough draft in a spiral notebook labeled “Math” during study hall. At the start of the publishing journey, everybody is a fluffy kitten. And when you’re a fluffy kitten, all published authors, regardless of their advance, print run and popularity may seem like a Pegasus to you. This is because they’ve written a book and found a publisher who deemed it worthy of being on store shelves. That is the holy grail of the aspiring author’s journey. And, really, what more could a kitten ask for?

In my kitten phase, I had Pegasus daydreams with show pony hopes. I worked on my manuscripts on the office computer, or late at night when I was so drained from my workday I could barely remember what commas were. I was inundated with “how to write” “how to be published” “how to get an agent” “how to make editors fall in love with you” books and articles from friends and family hoping to give me a leg up. And there those things sat on the bottom shelf, unread. I perused them sometimes, but would quickly become intimidated. There was just so much advice, much of it conflicting, all of it written with adamant urgency. I decided I was better off just writing it my way and hoping for the best.

Eventually I got an agent. For a while I thought this alone would upgrade me to a Labrador Retriever or maybe a Gorilla, but despite my delusions, a kitten I remained. This realization came to me when, rather than agent rejections, I received editor rejections. Many were personal, but most were boilerplate. At times I sought advice from fellow aspiring authors, but, much like before, I found the responses conflicting and intimidating. And once again, I found myself writing and hoping for the best.

As an agented writer, I was still a kitten, but I was a kitten with a pet dragon who both knew the industry and came to know how I operated as a writer. This is a valuable combination that I hadn’t encountered in any of my prior advice-seeking adventures. There were several people who knew the industry, sure, but not one of them knew me—and that made all the difference. Thus, I give you my most valuable piece of advice: look for an agent who gets you. Because no matter where your journey to publication ends, nothing will ever be so important as where you start.

Conversations with my agent led to new drafts, and more confidence. I was still writing the way I’d always written, but I started to tackle those word documents with a fury. If something wasn’t working, I changed it. If my writing was hindered by an obstacle, I wrote, deleted, and rewrote until I was happy with what I saw. I had a whole 80’s montage thing going on.

And still, the rejections came. And still, I kept at it. (I have to emphasize my willingness to improve. If a kitten isn’t getting a dragon, or has a dragon but isn’t getting an editor, that kitten should look into what is and isn’t working in his or her writing, and go from there).

And then… success! Success came hurtling through the plate glass window of my life like an angry bull who’d had a few too many, knocking over the wingchairs and startling the pigeons. If you’re a kitten, the greatest day of your life is the day you get an agent-dragon. After that is the day you get a publishing contract. That’s when the crazy stuff begins.

What does it mean to work with an editor? Well, I can only speak for myself, but my experience has been just phenomenal. The word “editor” can evoke images of changes, red-pens, rewrites and a sledgehammer to the house of cards a writer has assembled with such precision. And, don’t get me wrong, red-penning is a part of it. But it was abundantly clear from the moment I started working with my editor that she signed on for this story because she already loved it for what it was. There were no attempts to shape it into something else. We had, and continue to have, detailed conversations about the world, the characters, and what makes the whole thing tick. Editing is a blast. Things jump out of the manuscript that never would have occurred to me before reading my editor’s notes.

After that, copyedits. I have heard a lot of authors gripe about the tediousness of copyedits, but I sorta find them comforting. The hard stuff is done. Now it’s all about commas and continuity. This is the literal red pen phase. And once it’s over, the manuscript is as done as you, the author, can make it.

Then… ARCs.

Then… finished copies! On bookstore shelves! And you’ve done it. And I have news for you, whether you see yourself as a show pony or a Pegasus, you’re a Pegasus. You’re a force to be reckoned with, lightning bolts crisscrossing behind you and little rainbow clouds swirling around under your feet. This is your thing. Own it. You earned it.


THANK YOU LAUREN for sharing with us your story! And remember--comment here and comment on Lauren's interview here for a chance to win a copy of WITHER for yourself!

72 comments:

Nicole M. White- said...

One Very new fluffy kitten thanks you for a terrific post.

Renee Collins said...

Brilliant analogy. I just got my dragon, and I definitely still feel like a kitten. I'm looking forward to my moment to roar. :)

Little_Dhampir91 said...

Awesome post!

Erin W. x

Riv Re said...

Wow. I'm caught on the cuteness. (Awesome post by the way, but CUTENESS). Us fuzzy kittens are awesome.

Sasha said...

I am definitely at the "kitten" stage, but I'll keep working.

Great post :)

Knighton said...

I love, love, love the analogies! I can't wait to read the book! I will share this post with my students.

Birdy Books said...

Awesome insight to the industry. One more point on my list of why I love Lauren DeStefano!

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ksmeza said...

Haha scrolling through the pics definitely made me laugh, too great :)

I love the post, I did not realize how much work it takes to get a book published.

Sarah Lydia said...

great story and tips lauren!

Lisa Gail Green said...

I love this post! So inspiring. I AM a kitten who is lucky enough to have a dragon on my side. Now I just need to work until I find that editor because I've always wanted to be a pegasus!

Stephanie said...

So excited to read Wither!

Such a great post! I'm currently getting an MA in publishing, but I write too, and even knowing the industry fairly well, I know that if I ever finish the manuscript I'm working on, I'll still be a kitten.

I love what you have to say about editors. I've had the opportunity to do developmental editing work with authors through my classes, and it's the most fun thing ever. I get to fall in love with a story, see what makes it truly great, and help it live up to its full potential. Yay for editors and authors being friends!

lalibrarybug said...

Kitten to pegasus...LOVED IT! I am so glad you shared this and know that it will be great for other writers to know how you felt as you transitioned...

Corinne O'Flynn said...

Dear Pegasus,
This post was awesome in its most pure form! You have nailed so much of this experience, and duh... no wonder.
Your friend,
Kitten

Dawn Embers said...

This is a great blog post. I may need to post a link in a writing group on a diet web site I'm in because there are some who don't understand why an agent is needed at all. I try to defend those of us who want to go for an agent and this does it in a much better way.

The book, Wither, looks amazing.

Solvang Sherrie said...

What a great post! As an author with a dragon (I LOVE dragons!) who is currently on submission, this is so great to read, to know that even if the first one gets repeatedly rejected, there's still hope. Thank you!!

Jessica316 said...

I loved your analogy! Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to read Wither.
Jessica
Jessicaarb@live.com

Shanese said...

Awesome.

Bo0kJunki3@gmail.com

Kelly M. Olsen said...

Lauren. I love your analogy. It really helps us kitten understand what is in store for us, should we be fortunate enough to succeed. This book, Wither, is your roar! And I love to hear new authors roar for the first time. Congratulations. You are a very talented writer.

Vivien said...

This is one of the best posts I've read in a while. And so adorable!! I literally said "aww" out loud. Loved it.
Congrats on your success!!

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

TheGirlOnFire said...

Great post. Loved the pictures!

Stephanie - thegirlonfire
thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

Misty (Mistys Book Mess) said...

I like it when people share their rejection/acceptance stories. It really makes the rest of us going through similar situations feel more at home :)

Thanks

Catherine A. Winn said...

I agree with Misty. I really enjoy reading about another author's climb to success because I can relate to the struggles and hope for a similar result :)

Kay said...

I love the kitten to Pegasus journey. I'll keep batting around my story like a ball of yarn and hope for a dragon of my own one day.

Hardygirl said...

I adore this--especially since I actually HAVE a pet dragon in my picture book (as well as a real, agent, one)!!

sf

Diane said...

Fingers crossed to win this book!!! :O)

Christy said...

I really enjoyed your post! Thanks for the chance to win the book (which is high on my TBR list!) :)
shortcut_2_mushrooms(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)nz

Pam Harris said...

What a great guest post! Also very encouraging. :)

Anjell! said...

i love the genre!! want to read this:)anjell4you(at)yahoo(dot)com

starryeyedjen said...

as others before me have said, what an awesome post and very encouraging! thx for this!

mrsjbruce(at)gmail(dot)com

Ana Lucia said...

I love the analogy and how she explain every stage on the writing journey.
Fingers crossed I win.

luarroyave(at)hotmail(dot)com

Teril said...

Ah yes that was a great post and I loved the interview on Beth's Page. Now I cannot wait to read Wither more! I would love a copy.

Kaya H
kasuranna at yahoo dot com

Melody said...

This was a great analogy! It is a talent indeed to make sense of the publishing industry...and throw in cute animals, too. :)
Oh, and count me in for the contest for Wither! I already commented on the interview post. :)

Tori Scott said...

Such an amazing post. As an aspiring author you sometimes feel like a greasy salesperson, slingin' your manuscript like a rusted, rejected jalopy. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not greasy...I'm cuddly. Meow!

PS - If I don't win Wither, I may die from despair. Die.

http://www.ToriScott.net

Taking it One Book at a Time said...

The, "What you are and what you aspire to be", pictures are great!

Jessica

takingitonebookatatime@yahoo.com

Victoria said...

What an excellent post. Love the analogies.

Ashley Christine said...

I'm still a little kitty who hasn't gotten past chapter two :P
I loved this. It's so inspirting.

My email: ashley.thinks.candy.is.good@gmail.com
(don't laugh)

Jeigh said...

I love it. You're awesome. Can't wait to read Wither!

firynze said...

As an editor, I really want to hug you right now.

Krispy said...

Cute analogy. I've always wanted a pet dragon. Thanks for the post and giveaway!

lulilut said...

Thanks for the contest and I enjoyed reading your post and may everyones' kittens fly!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love that this post is a whole different story than your interview at Beth's. I really feel like I've gotten to know you a bit! :-)

KRwriter said...

I love the kitten analogy! I do feel like a naive little kitten trying to navigate the publishing world!

jpetroroy said...

What a great analogy. Perfect.

jpetroroy at gmail dot com

Julia Karr said...

Great post! Thanks for guesting with us!

Aimee L Salter said...

This kitten is all aflutter! What a great post.

Thanks for the excellent advice and encouragement to us kitten-gorillas.

bookluvrmindy said...

I would like to win Wither!

Will you follow my blog as well?
www.MagicalUrbanFantasyReads.com

Gabrielle said...

This is such a wonderful blog post... I love dystopia, and am still not a fluffy kitten on my publishing journey. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

That is great advice - and thanks for making it palatable (which advice often isn't)

mottcat AT yahoo DOT come

Snazel said...

That was a lovely post! :D But I wish the Editor had a animal-familiar as well!

IF I win the book, (which I'd love,) my email is jasmine (dot) medusa (at) gmail (dot) com

IvaliceAlliance said...

I love this post! Great analogy. So stoked to read Wither!!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I loved this post too. It was so inspiring.

Rebekah said...

I loved this post. So inspiring to us kittens out here! Thanks for sharing!!

Katie said...

I want a dragon for a pet...

PShh said...

Wants it needs it gots to haves it

Maia said...

love this post

mendy said...

Loved your post, as well as your analogies. I never realized how tough it is to be an author.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Fabulous title and inspiring post! Thank you for writing it!!

Minas said...

Great post! I can't wait to read Wither!

minas_1989(at)hotmail(dot)com

Jennifer said...

Wow! What an inspiring post! I have wanted to be an author and get published all my life but have been intimidated by the process. Thanks for sharing how hard work and perseverance really pays off! I hope one day I will be able to find an agent who knows me and will be my dragon so I can get published. Thanks!

Melissa said...

I will never look at kittens the same way again. I'm not a cat person, you see, but now I feel like getting a sweater with a fluffy kitten on it!
Thanks for the insight on publishing.

ashelynn sanford said...

I love this analogy. So creative, and what an inspiring post. Thank you, Lauren. :)

Anita said...

Thank you for the great read!

Erika said...

Amazing advice and encouragement. Thank you! The pictures were great too :D

Cialina at Muggle-Born.net said...

Aw! I love hearing about the editorial process. I think it's fantastic that you were able to find someone who loved your work for the way it was. Sounds like you had a great experience. :) I can't wait to read your book. Best of luck.

Book Twirps said...

This was definitely inspiring and encouraging. Definitely words I will live by from here on out. Thanks for posting this!

Kim said...

Your post made me want to become a kitten. I'm not even to the kitten phase yet. Just thinking that it would be so cool to be a kitten...someday.

linda2060 said...

I'm a newborn kitten! But I still want a dragon for a pet. Can he be cute and I don't know...a vegetarian? Someday, I just might be a show horse!
Can't wait to read Wither!
Lindadao2060 at yahoo dot com

ansindt said...

This looks like an awesome book! Would love to win=)

Ronyka said...

I like this book alot. I wan it

catherinemjohnson said...

Meow! I'm looking for a dragon now, and that's an adventure full of potholes as it is. I'm surprised I haven't got stuck up a tree yet ;)

Carina L. Tai said...

Very cool! Dragons are such interesting creatures :)

alicia.aatran@yahoo.com
http://dystopiandesserts.blogspot.com