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In Search of . . . a Publishing Contract and A Future as A Writer

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I am maneuvering my way to becoming a published writer. Let me amend that: A paid, published writer. No, I don’t have a publishing contract or a literary agent, but I do have a self-imposed commitment to get it done. By tears, shedding of my blood, or losing my fingernails from typing too much, I will be a paid published writer.

I have been writing or dreaming about being a published, working author for most of my life but, as you know, life sometimes has an agenda of its own. While my wishes were to write every day and seek publication, my needs to eat, have a roof, buy shoes and, of course pay bills, were more pressing. Okay, the shoes weren’t so pressing, but damn it I love shoes.

I began writing as a preteen. Writing was an outlet for me to manifest my unreturned love of Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon. I didn’t get serious about my desire to write until I entered college and had an English professor who not only taught his students to become proficient in the craft of writing and critical thinking, but who asked us to write creatively.

My first story was pulled out of the air in hour, or as short a time as my 19-year-old self could spare. I wrote a weird moody, time-traveling suspense-like short story. My professor liked it. A lot. He proclaimed it the best story written in the class.

Something from that validation awoke in me the desire to focus on writing stories and books. I even, in a misguided attempt at pushing myself, tried my hand at writing poetry. I learned rather quickly that I suck at poetry. What seems like an easy splash of words put together in short passages is a torturous activity best left to brilliant people. That’s right, I’m saying I’m not that brilliant.

When I focus, I can write the hell out of fiction. That is where I am brilliant, that is where I excel, that . . .

. . .may not be true, because people have either not read my work or, after sending numerous query letters to agents and publishing houses, I have been rejected and thrown into an ugly abyss of doubt. An abyss so deep and dark that I got lost to the writer in me, and that is when life decided to kick my proverbial tush.

It was time to work on living my life. It was time to move to many different states. It was time to get married and it was time to work at my career. I walked off the path of dedicating my free time to writing and I worked in my not-so-free time. I didn’t have a second job, what I had was a single job in a constantly changing industry that consumed my life and began to consume me.

I worked and I read because I needed balance and balance for me was the mind-candy of books. I read many, many, many books by people who also had a dream to become published writers. As I watched authors who I was a fan of become more established and successful, I discovered new writers who went on to become established and successful while I wished and hoped and dreamed to have the time and the fearless to become a writer. What I came to realize is that there comes a moment in a person’s life, when you have to ask yourself,

“Self, is this really who you are?” and “Is this really how you want to live?”

Many times, we ignore the questions because these are hard questions to answer. Most of us have no idea what we really want to do with our lives or we know what we want to do but are too afraid of taking a chance and failing or we are afraid of what our family and friends will say. Peer and family pressure are immense hits to the psyche. Many people would say they don’t care what people think, but I believe that the percentage of people this statement is absolutely true for is very small.

Every human has fears. One of the biggest fear is failure and from that, looking foolish. These two road blocks to accomplishment are the evil mosquitos that won’t leave us alone, nor can we kill them. They want to suck our blood and take away the essence that makes us uniquely ourselves, but we can work our way through to the other side and this blog is my testament to doing just that.

A few months ago, I took a personal stand to throw myself out into the world by creating a website and writing a blog. I have declared war on my mosquitos also known as my inner critic who I not-so-affectionately call Vlad. This website and my daily dose of humility in front of my work-in-progress children’s book is my way of answering the questions above.

“Who am I really? I am a writer. I am a storyteller. I am an adventure seeker and I have things to say.

How do I really want to live? I want to be free in what ever way that freedom manifests itself through my words and my actions without fear holding me back.

Fools are geniuses who simply don’t care and I want to be a fool.

My posts here will not only be about my journey to becoming the writer of my dreams. My posts will be part of a conversation. Because I require a lot of mental stimulation and, heck, sometimes I’m just not that interesting, I will write about books I am reading, music that stops me in my tracks, adventures I am seeking and anything else that grabs my fancy.

I hope you hop aboard this flight of writerly delight and join me on the journey of this twisted, bumpy path I have chosen to walk. Wear comfortable shoes and strap yourself in. Let’s have a conversation and work our way to the other side of foolishness.

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About Deborah Blake Dempsey

  • I have the same dream. I wish to be a successfully paid Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy and Historical Romance author. I am also working toward my dream. I have already completed my first romance novel although it needs some serious tweaking and I believe more details here and there. I am currently working on my first YA fantasy novel that I’m writing with my younger sister. I have a lot of confidence in our story considering that there are books out there in the same category that I was less than impressed with. I’m hoping to finish our novel this summer, if at all possible so that we can edit it and begin sending query letters out to agents before 2012. I truly and deeply wish you luck on your endeavors. This post truly spoke to me. Good luck!

  • Hi Samantha – that’s wonderful news. Completing a first novel is a huge milestone. Huge! If you haven’t already done so, join Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. You will not only get quality information from an incredible organization, but the community of writers you will meet will help steer you in the right direction. I’m involved with both and they have been key in getting me over a lot of obstacles.

    As for the YA with your sister. Kudos to you both for the collaboration. Confidence in what you are writing is key. I wish you the very best of success in both (and future) endeavors.

    Good luck and good writing,

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Deb and Samantha –

    Best wishes to both of you – and my you avoid my mistakes. I’m a wife’s worst nightmare – a husband who is an unpublished writer, who loves to take the time to write but doesn’t take the time to market my writing. I’ve got one novel and one short novel finished…but I’m too insecure (or is it too lazy?) to start sending out query letters to agents and editors.

    I wish you both the best!

  • Thank you Glenn. First, do you know how many people are envious of your ability to write and complete a novel? It’s hard work and you did it. Pat yourself on the back. Second, you are showing a love and commitment to writing and that is wonderful, but don’t be afraid of sending out your novel. Rejection letters are inevitable and apart of the publishing game and, strangely, it will help you in your growth. I’ve received more than I ever wanted to receive, but each one validates that I’m hungry for it and pushes me to be better. So send out your query letters and when you receive your first rejection, and you will, celebrate it. I know it’s a crazy concept to celebrate the first rejection but this means you are one step closer to receiving a call or letter of acceptance.

    And for your wife, she understands. You’re staying out of her hair and, if you do become the talk of the literary town, she’ll thank you by buying herself her favorite thing. 😉

    Keep committed, Glenn.


    You could be the next great novelist or you could be a writer who simply enjoys writing for yourself. Either way

  • Hi everyone. I’m so happy to read this article and the comments.

    @Glenn: You might want to read and get idea also from these articles…

    Overcoming Writer’s Block

    Walking the Publisher’s Walk

    Hope it helps.

  • For Deborah, Glenn and others: There are a few online communities out there which allow you to post some of your stuff and get peer reviewed by other aspiring and (occasionally) established authors, and do the same in return. The process teaches you a lot about what works and what doesn’t, what’s marketable and what isn’t about your writing.

    HarperCollins’ Authonomy is one such website. There are a few others (some free to join and some not), but their names escape me right now.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc and Irving –

    I’ll check them out – thanks!