Along this writing journey, it has been my privilege to get to know a few agents and editors. It is their job to find talent, polish it, and then present it--to take someone like me from a writer to a publishable writer. There's a BIG difference.
Think of being published like becoming a chef. Not the kind of chef who takes the recipes developed by the restaurant chain and simply executes them, but the kind who goes to the market to see what's fresh and then develops a menu around those ingredients. Writers--at least those who want someone to pay for the privilege of reading their creation--must be fresh. Sure, every story is a rehash or remix of one that's gone before, but it's in the way it's rehashed or remixed and the way the characters start to live and breathe that makes the difference. It's in the addition of spices, the use of an ingredient in an unexpected way, and even the presentation on the plate that makes you willing to pay for something as opposed to making it yourself. To look at it another way, think of a painter. At the Musee D'Orsay a couple weeks ago, I was overwhelmed by the talent of the Impressionist painters. Van Gogh is not my personal favorite but seeing his work in person is a far cry from a flat picture in a book. I was standing in front of a haystack painting (tried to find the exact name but gave up after half an hour of Google searching) and listening to the commentary. Van Gogh had taken a famous painting of his day and given it his own spin. I can't remember his exact words, but it was along the lines of, "Isn't that what an artist does, takes something already in existence and puts his own creative spin on it?"
Back to the chef analogy...
I'll admit to making a mean spaghetti sauce, but owning a restaurant requires a few more menu choices. To become a chef takes years of schooling, mentoring, and "paying your dues" as a sous chef before you can open your own restaurant, and even then there are no guarantees. The same goes for writing. You start out as a decent writer and then have to submit yourself to the very humbling process of leaning how to write for publication. Plots, subplots, character arc, twist, black moment, show vs. tell. These are just a few of the concepts that must be mastered. And even then there are no guarantees.
One of the things agents and editors tell you that they hear from aspiring writers is, "God gave me the inspiration for this idea." The rest is implied, although I've heard more than one agent/editor say, "And then this person looks at me and adds, 'So you need to publish this because, otherwise, it would be a sin against God.'" Really? How arrogant and foolish. All inspiration comes from God. He is, after all, the creator of every good thing including inspiration. Every card I make is divinely inspired. Every recipe I tweak to fit the ingredients I have on hand or personal taste preferences is divinely inspired. Every flower arrangement, sewing project, scrapbook page, landscaping project, and furniture arrangement is divinely inspired. Creating beautiful things is one way I fulfill my God-given responsibility of bearing His image on this earth. That doesn't mean someone is going to pay me for it.
There are so many lessons to be learned along the way to publication, but the most important one is this: If God has told you to write, then it would be a sin for you not to write. If He has divinely inspired a story idea, write the story. But just because He has called you to write doesn't mean He has guaranteed publication.
Van Gogh, a man with divinely inspired creative talent, sold only one painting during his life. It drove him to suicide. Had he understood that--just because his genius was a gift from God--it didn't guarantee financial success, it is difficult to imagine how much more this prolific painter would have produced and how much happier he would have been.
Until next time,