Lessons from the Iceberg
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was super naive about the book publishing world once. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I have been known to be prideful.
You see, I wrote a book. I thought it was good. I thought it was original and creative and what every reader was looking for. I thought my decent handle on grammar and spelling would be praised, and that editors would adore me for lessening their workload. And so I held out for the taking my beautiful first book full of sweat and tears and every ounce of my heart. I envisioned the idea of becoming the next overnight sensation like Suzanne Collins or Stephenie Meyer. In fact, I was certain my story was so grand that agents would literally be jumping at the chance to sign me up. You can imagine my disappointment when my less than humble ego was crushed by rejection after rejection. The good news? I needed that!
It was only then that I became teachable.
In 2010, I was signed by a small publishing company out of Colorado Springs owned by Spring Lea Henry, and it was under her tutelage that I began to truly understand and appreciate the craft of writing. I began to learn the many intricacies involved in developing good, strong, arc characters, villains, and heroes. I discovered that even the weather and the scenery and the tone and mood of a story can be a character. I learned how to invoke emotions in my readers with diligently crafted words or phrases. I learned that writing is essentially thinking first before one word is put to paper, and that writers are “word sculptors”. I found my voice.
And then, Spring Lea said this:
“Your story is only the tip of the iceberg. What you have to consider is everything that lies beneath the water. Perhaps your readers will never need to know this information, but you as the author must know it. You must know every bit of your world. Because you cannot master world-building or character development or motives or a kick-ass plotline if you refuse to dive into the water and learn where it all began.”
~Spring Lea Ellorien Henry
After that, we spoke and laughed and referred often to the Iceberg until it made sense in my pea brain. That one statement transformed me into a true writer.
Spring Lea died last month after a short battle with stomach cancer. In her wake, she left mounds of advice I will never forget. In light of this, I recently asked several fellow authors to share the best piece of advice they’ve ever received. This is what they said:
Find your own voice because no one writes like you do.
“Drafts are for sucking–this is the mantra I will live by every time I write a first draft. Seriously, when you give yourself permission to let it suck, the words come so much easier.” by Heather Hildebrand
You will never think your book is “perfect.” You’ll always want to change something. If you wait until there’s nothing left to change, no one will ever get a chance to read your story.
Write the book you want to read.
Write about what hurts the most. Write even when you think you can’t. Write first, edit later.
Write every day! Even if you are blocked or don’t think it’s good enough. No matter what it is, as long as you are writing, you will be that much closer to your goal.
Read 4 and 5 star reviews, as you should surround yourself with positive things that encourage your writing.
~Deborah Josupait Roach
Never give up! There are people behind you who are supporting you and want you to finish it. There are people who will keep you accountable if you have a set goal.
Write, publish, repeat.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Books aren’t like cars. A reader doesn’t just buy one book every 4-5 years and read it exclusively. There’s no reason for authors to compete against one another. We should HELP each other instead.
Educate yourself on the business thoroughly–from experts–before jumping in and getting started. Otherwise, you are wasting your time, money and possibly destroying your intellectual property.
~Stephanie J. Pajonas
Focus on the passion to write first, the marketing second. Otherwise, you may forget why you are writing in the first place.
Read, read, read. Read as much as you write.
Read great, well-written novels to learn how it’s done right.
~Harlow Cyan Fallon
If nothing else, we as a writing community must be humble. We must listen to the advice of more experienced authors, editors, bloggers, and publishers. We must generously offer advice to those following in our footsteps. And together, we will be better.
I’m so glad I’m a quick study.
SPRING LEA ELLORIEN HENRY (1972-2016)