The age of technology we live in has made plenty of aspects of life easier and writing is no different. When it comes to staying motivated and pursuing writing as more than just a pastime, the Internet is beginning to revolutionize the publishing industry with the various tools it has to offer.
For many young writers, getting published, in the traditional ways, is the number one goal a writer should aspire towards. However, the publishing process isn’t necessarily friendly towards young writers and comes with many of its own problems.
The quick and convenient nature of the Internet has made it simple to reach out to publishers. Andrew Titus, an English and St. Thomas University creative writing professor, believes that it is this nature that makes it easy for young writers to become discouraged.
“Because digital culture promotes instant satisfaction, the process of sending things in and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for a response is just that much harder,” said Titus.
The waiting can become difficult, especially when it comes coupled with rejection. Haley Dixon, a psychology graduate from the University of Oklahoma, is no stranger to the work that goes into writing and getting published. She has written two novels. She sent the first of which, The Human Vaccination, to many different publishers.
Dixon said there are a variety of factors that make it difficult to get published these days. Besides age, experience and even gender are both influences that have stood in Dixon’s way of getting published.
“I have two writing names — my real name, Haley Dixon, and then my pseudonym, H. J. Wilder,” said Dixon. “I get more responses in a third of the time for the exact same query as H. J. Wilder than I do as Haley Dixon. My name is young and feminine. I have no previous writing experience as far as they’re concerned despite having written all my life thus far.”
Due to the long waiting process, often coupled with rejection, many people often get discouraged after a few attempts at publication. It can be difficult to maintain a level of determination high enough to pursue a writing career. Particularly within an industry that has proven itself to be very competitive and selective.
“If I sound bitter, it’s because I am,” said Dixon. “Pursuing publishing by a major publication firm means finding an agent… and finding an agent is basically throwing your name into a pile and hoping somebody sees you, likes you, also has a short client list, and finally has enough connections and resources to even be worth being represented by.”
However, with any dream comes perseverance. While the traditional publishing industry may not be welcoming to new and less-experienced writers, initiatives such as NANOWRIMO have inspired young writers to keep themselves motivated to keep writing.
National Novel Writing Month, or NANOWRIMO, takes place every November. It is an initiative where writers are encouraged to try to complete a 50-thousand-word novel in the span of a month.
Shelby Corcoran has been involved with NANOWRIMO for four years and she says the experience has really changed her life. While many writers consider the month a great tool for motivation, Corcoran thinks it can also be helpful in allowing young writers a chance to write freely without judgment.
“In creative writing classes in schools, the teachers’ eyes are trained to look for errors,” said Corcoran. “It’s not always a great feeling passing something in that you worked so hard on – only to receive it back covered in red pen with scribbles all across it. NANOWRIMO doesn’t care what you write, as long as you are writing.”
While Corcoran personally doesn’t believe being published is something she’ll realistically look into for a while, this isn’t the case with many young writers and hasn’t stopped her from participating in these events and exercises online.
“It’s a confidence boost for sure,” said Corcoran. “When you walk away from NANOWRIMO, you are walking away with a 50-thousand-word story, and it’s something to be proud of. I have grown attached to my characters who were born during a NANOWRIMO month. It really changed my life.”
NANOWRIMO isn’t the only online initiative that gets people writing. Although Dixon hasn’t had much luck publishing The Human Vaccination, she is taking a slightly different route with her second novel, Cemetery Sea.
Dixon entered the novel into Dreamlands, a contest on the website Inkitt. The first-place winner of this contest is offered a publishing deal and as of right now, her novel has the most votes.
“Instead of sending out queries and waiting around like I did with The Human Vaccination, I’m taking as many active roads as I can. Like the Inkitt contest, for starters. But also in creating a fan-base to prove to agents that, yes, this is a story that people legitimately want to read.”
Dixon said it was her spite for the publishing industry and determination are what inspired her to enter the contest. Finding and keeping that resolve can be difficult, but Titus had a few words of advice for anyone struggling with it.
“Be brave. Believe in yourself. Trust that the opinions of others count, even if you don’t agree with it. Know the difference between insight and ignorance. Eat more fruit.”
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