Find your wingman: never fly solo on your publishing journey – Kerry Lonsdale

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By Kerry Lonsdale

Every writing journey has to start somewhere. Mine started in the shower. Cliche, I know. But it’s the truth. A story idea popped into my head (while shampooing). By the time I toweled off, I had a hook, a plot, and a brilliant ending IMHO.♥

Next, I did something quite daring I had never done before. I sat at my desk and wrote. I wrote, and rewrote, and revised, and edited, and within six months I had a 95,000-word novel. This all came from someone (yes, moi!) who had not written anything other than technical papers, marketing copy, and longer than a short story. I was quite impressed with myself. *pats self on back*

I then made another fantastic decision (because my first fantastic decision was deciding to write the book). I decided I needed an agent. But before I submitted my manuscript, it needed to be edited by someone other than me. Being the professional, career woman I was at the time, I figured I needed a professional editor. After spending a great deal of time researching (ok, maybe a couple hours and a few websites), I found an editor. I signed the contract and sent off my manuscript along with a $1200 check.

(Pick your jaw up off the floor because it needs room to drop again.)

As you probably suspected, the editor shredded my manuscript. Not just my story, but my grammar. That was my first experience at being skinned. (Any writer who’s been rejected knows this feeling.) Call me a masochist. I did it again.

I revised my manuscript and sent it back, along with another $1200 check. *jaw drop*

And once again, the editor tore apart my manuscript. *finger and a thumb in an L-shape on my forehead*

Not to be dissuaded, I revised the manuscript, again, and at the time, was quite happy with the results. I then emailed 50 query letters. Yes, all at once. (The one good thing I did was personally address each one.)

My results, of course, were spectacular dismal. Thirty rejections. Eighteen no-responses. Two partial requests, which resulted in no-responses.

Had I known to find a beta reader, or participate in a critique group, chat on writer forums, or join a writers’ association, I would have saved more than time, money, and humiliation. I would have realized I’d hired a copyeditor when I needed a developmental editor. I would have received honest and unbiased feedback on my writing, voice, and plot while I wrote the story. I would have learned not to burn my query bridges in one shot, but to submit a few queries at a time to allow time for agent feedback and revise the manuscript based on suggestions that resonated with me.

But we learn from our mistakes, right? It is because of the mistakes I made at the beginning of my publishing journey that I am a huge, HUGE, advocate for paying-it-forward whether it’s beta reading a manuscript, editing a query letter, referring an author to an agent I know, founding an association, volunteering hours upon hours to build that organization, or answering questions from a newbie writer.

So, here’s my advice for you… I cannot recommend highly enough to find that one person, group, or tribe to walk, ride, or fly alongside you.

Writing is a lonely business but we don’t have to do it alone. Every single one of us needs that critique partner to talk us off the ledge when the rejections keep coming. We need the beta reader to give us honest and unbiased feedback about our stories so we know how to polish the plot until it shines. We need the members in our associations to introduce us to their connections. Who knows? That connection could be our future agent or editor. We need our tribe to share each other’s news and success stories so we reach a larger audience. And we need that writing partner, the one you text or skype at all hours of the day, to smack you on the forehead when you make stupid decisions, like forking over $2400 dollars for the wrong type of editor.

So, dear writer, never fly solo. Go out there and find your wingman.

Oh! And about that first manuscript I wrote? It’s in a drawer. Locked away. Forever. C’est la vie!

Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an online community of authors located across the globe. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy. Everything We Keep is Kerry’s first novel.

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