For the most part I try very hard to keep my private life separate from my writing life here on my blog. Every once in a while though, something comes up in my private life that intersects with writing and I know I need to share it here.
Over the last ten days I’ve spent countless hours sitting in a hospital room with a sick family member. This was a new, and quite honestly, very frightening experience. What started out as a routine procedure, went downhill quickly, and I was sorely ill-prepared for the aftermath. The decisions. The gut-wrenching worry. The pure terror of not knowing what was going to happen next.
As I was going through this process day-after-day, one thing became very clear: my siblings and I would have to become fierce advocates for our family member. Doctors constantly waffled about how to handle the case, and there was no continuity of nursing care, which was extremely frustrating.
Like bulldogs, my siblings and I spoke up to hospital staff regularly, trying to get care updates. Volleying questions at doctors about medicine, procedures, and long-term outcomes. I’m sure after about the third day, most of the ICU shuddered when my siblings and I appeared, but we weren’t leaving, and we weren’t going to stop asking questions.
While sitting in the waiting room for what felt like the millionth hour, I thought about advocacy. How important it was in hospital care, but how it also plays a major role in your writing career.
When you decide to query you choose your own path. Select who you want to see your work. It cannot be a throw-everything-and-anything-out-there approach and see what sticks. It needs to be smart. Methodical. A clear picture of who would be the right fit for you. At that starting point in the publishing process, you need to start advocating for not only yourself, but your craft.
This concept holds true for the what may become the next step: an R&R. Do the changes the agent is asking for make sense for your story? Do they make it a richer read, or are you compromising the integrity of your original idea? Again, you need to make serious choices about what is right for your art. Advocate for your own story, and not turn it into something you don’t believe in just for the sake of landing an agent.
Advocacy will continue beyond this stage. When you do have an agent, even more changes will need to be made. If the edits/revisions make sense, then move forward. But if something does not sit right with you, defend your writing choices.
The need to listen to your gut doesn’t end there. Choices will need to be made during submission too. Are you willing to make revisions, if your book doesn’t sell? Make changes if an editor asks for an R&R? And what if you know of a perfect editor for your book, but it’s not on the sub list? Then your role is to speak up. Share the thought with your agent. Have an open conversation about who you think would be a good fit for your story. Your agent will have a plan, but you must advocate for what you think is right for your story as well.
This process will continue when you work with an editor. Changes will be requested, and you again will need to speak up for your work if the revisions don’t make sense for your vision of the story.
I’m happy to say my family member is finally on the mend. It was a harrowing week and a half, but I deeply feel that we are only to this point because my family stayed strong, and spoke up for what we felt was right.
I hope as writers you will do the same for your craft. Don’t settle. Don’t give in because you think you won’t achieve your dream any other way. You’ve put your heart and soul into your work, and you need to advocate for it in the same fierce way.