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Sometimes, writing is about NOT writing 🙅🏼♀️📝
Today's guest is author Lyn Liao Butler.
Like all passions, it’s easy to let writing consume your life.
When the creative juice is flowing just right, writing can make you feel on top of the world. You might think about your story on your commute to work, while you work at your job, and as you’re falling asleep at night. It can feel really, really good to indulge in your creativity as an artist, even if it means obsessively writing your manuscript at odd hours of the day.
When it comes to getting your manuscript published, though, it’s all business.
The truth is that it might take you a year or more to get a literary agent, then months to get an acquisition editor to make you book deal, and then another year or two before your book is physically published. That’s just the way the business works. Sometimes, establishing yourself as a published author isn’t about writing at all; it’s about being able to grind through the waiting time.
In today’s interview, author Lyn Liao Butler details how getting through the publishing process is an exercise in patience.
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Someone Else's Life is an Amazon First Reads pick and is available for order on all major platforms.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in your publishing journey?
Patience. Publishing is SO slow at every stage: querying, going on sub, waiting for edits, waiting for publication date. It can take a year and a half to two years from the time an editor buys your book before it comes out. I don't have a lot of patience and a lot of what happens is out of your control. I had to really learn to focus on something else, which is why I'm glad I have my fitness/yoga teaching and my Etsy shop, so that I didn't drive myself bonkers waiting for things to happen.
What is one thing you wish you had known about the publishing process before going through it yourself?
The author has the least amount of control. This was such an eye-opener to me, since it’s our work that is being published, marketed, etc. But we're usually the last person to know when something happens to our book, and there is very little we can do to move the needle on sales or how well the book is going to do. That is all up to the publishers and we're often not told what is being done. This is why it was so important that I had a group of author friends all at the same imprint so that we could support each other and ask questions.
How did you get your literary agent? What was the querying process like for you?
It took me 3.5 years and 3 manuscripts before I signed with an agent. She found me in the slush pile so querying really does work. I had no contacts whatsoever in the publishing industry, and it was just consistent work, connecting with other writers, finding out as much as I could about the publishing industry, and honing my writing that led to signing with my agent. That and also sheer stubbornness on my part.
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How do you balance finding time to write and managing other obligations and responsibilities?
As I mentioned above, I think it is very important to have something other than publishing to focus on. For me, the balance of teaching fitness/yoga and sewing for my Etsy shop is the perfect compliment to my writing life. When I'm stressed by how a book is going to do, or if my agent will be able to sell another book, I can take that out on my students in a sweaty fitness class, or ohm it out of me in a yoga class. I sew at night, which is like meditation to me, and I also play with my three dogs, who are my constant writing companions. For me, I don't have a set writing schedule. Because my work life changes so much, I have learned to always have my laptop with me, and I write whenever I have time; waiting for my son at his swim practices, in between teaching classes, in my car sometimes.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? What's your drafting strategy?
Plotter all the way. I wrote my first book as a pantser and it was horrible. Now I don't even start writing until I have outlined chapter by chapter the entire book.
What's one writing "rule" or commonly followed piece of advice that you decidedly break?
I am not a fan of the "Write Every Day" rule. I don't write every day, and I don't believe people should force themselves to write everyday if they don't have an idea, or are stuck on a point. For me, I often go weeks, even months without writing a single word. But I am always thinking of the story, percolating ideas, working through plot points or character traits, so that when I do sit down to write, I know exactly (or close enough) what I want to write and the words flow. For this reason, I almost never get writers block. If I sit down and nothing is coming out, I will stop and go do something else. Often, how to get past that stuck point will come to me as I'm walking the dogs, or taking a bath, or sewing.