April 15, 2016

The Long and Winding Road - Tracy Krauss

Like the apprentices of medieval times, my writing apprenticeship began with lots of observation. In other words, reading. I still think that reading widely is one of the best ways to learn, but one drawback is the way styles and conventions change. I was a closet writer for about sixteen years before I ventured to share my words with anyone. While it wasn't the worst writing in the world, it certainly wasn't the best either, and much of that was due to my reliance on classics, while not paying attention to what current best practices entailed. I came to a rude awakening when I submitted my first manuscripts. Rejection followed rejection and things that I had never even thought about before  came glaringly to light.

The next stage of my apprenticeship relied mostly on this painful trial and error method. Rejection was followed by revision, resubmission and inevitably more rejection. Forgive my use of the cliche, but it really was a 'rejection-revision-resubmission-rejection' merry-go-round, and it lasted for about seven years. Looking back, I am sure I could have learned most of these lessons by taking a course or joining a critique group, but I didn't have the time, the finances, or the contacts. (Hindsight says these options would have been easier and faster, but c'est la vie...)

I've heard other authors say they could have wallpapered a room with rejection letters. In my case, I literally could have done so. I was tenacious if nothing else, and estimate at least 140 submissions to various publishers and agents over that period. It was cathartic to tear those early letters up in despair, but now I wish I would have kept them. In any case, I finally got some positive feedback on three different submissions in 2008 and signed a contract for my first book, And the Beat Goes On.

The apprenticeship continued, however. I was suddenly thrust into the world of marketing and self promotion; social media and networking. Talk about a steep learning curve! Since that first book came out in 2009 I am amazed at how much I have grown and learned about all aspects of the industry - and also appalled at how much I still need to learn! I often feel like I am one step behind the pack, struggling to keep up.

Not only has the learning continued on the business side of things, but my writing has changed and grown as well. (At least I hope I can say that!) I have a fairly long list of published work from novels to stage plays to non-ficiton, yet, it seems I am always finding things that I wish I could change. Too many adjectives, too many elaborate dialogue tags, too much exposition ... these are just a few things I see in some of my earlier novels that make me cringe. Until the rights to those works revert back to me, however, there is little I can do about it. While the average reader doesn't seem to notice, I NOTICE - and that means this apprentice is still growing and not ashamed to admit it.


If I was to do anything differently I would probably make sure I joined a critique group sooner. It is so important to have other eyes look over one's work and some of the mistakes that irritate me now might have been avoided if I had had more honest criticism. Also, I think I would be more diligent in making sure each contract is the best it can be. I was so excited to even get a contract the first time that I didn't really care what it said. Seven years is a long time to wait for the rights to one's own words. Similarly, formatting mistakes I have found in another series of my books are beyond of my control.
 
My writing apprenticeship has been long and sometimes winding, spanning more than thirty years. I use the verb 'has' because I still feel like I am a long way from mastery. Maybe that's the key to keeping things fresh.

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Tracy Krauss writes (among other things) from her home in northern BC. Website

17 comments:

  1. Tracy,
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I think you express how many of us feel with your statements: "I often feel like I am one step behind the pack, struggling to keep up." and "While the average reader doesn't seem to notice, I NOTICE - and that means this apprentice is still growing and not ashamed to admit it."

    You are a lifelong learner, which is critical to being a good writer. I'm glad to be on this journey with you :)

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    1. Thanks Ruth. Similar to one's faith journey as a Christian, I don;t think anyone actually 'arrives'.

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  2. I often wonder if the rule of the day in the publishing industry is important. What you learn today will be a no no tomorrow. The learning will never end.

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    1. Things change that's for sure!

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  3. And to think I look up to you as an expert, Tracy! Shows how far I have to go. This article is helpful to me, reiterating the truth that even once a writer is published, she's still growing and learning. Helps me cut myself a little slack.

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    1. Please cut yourself A LOT of slack! I read your first chapter by the way and love the book. Well done!

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  4. As a fellow InScriber, Tracy, I salute you for your accomplishments, your patience, your learning to live with rejection and all. I agree with you that for most of us, beginners or advanced, a local critique group and a larger group like InScribe are invaluable for encouragement, inspiration, and for been-there-and-done-that know-how. Don't know if that would pass an editor's critical eye, but no matter.

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    1. So true, Sharon. I am so grateful for Inscribe and all that I have learned since becoming a member, not to mention the wonderful friendships.

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  5. I appreciate your honesty, Tracy, and your still-positive perspective. A good reminder for me too. Thanks.

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    1. There is no point in NOT being honest when one's words are out there for everyone to see! I can't claim to be perfect or to have 'arrived' because it is evident that that isn't the case, so I might as well own it, right?

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  6. Thanks for sharing the (continuing) unfolding adventure!

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    1. Looking forward to your post later this month.

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  7. It's comforting to know we writers aren't alone in this journey! Thank you for your honesty.

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  8. Thanks for sharing and your insight … you have valuable experience and wisdom.

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    1. Tracy, I value the things that share about your writing. The decisions you've made and the insight you share. It's nice to know that I'm not the only "closet writer." So much of my writing, no one has seen. I'm making small strides into the world of sharing. It's both enjoyable and frightening.

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  9. I look up to you as an accomplished writer and woman of God, Tracy. And I somehow feel validated to see so many similarities in our apprenticeships. Thanks for your encouragement and openness. I also have to chuckle: we both used Beatles lyrics in our titles, haha!

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    1. I seem to like using song titles for some reason...

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