So it’s Friday. The last weekend of freedom for my kids before school starts on Wednesday. Daughter 2 has wanted to go fishing all summer but things have been so crazy, she hasn’t had a chance to. Hubby, Son 2, and I all went fishing in June, but Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 were at camp so they didn’t get to go.
We planned to go on Wednesday. Got in the vehicle, drove to the lake, and were met with a downpour. So we had to cancel. Daughter 2 was not happy. To appease her, we promised we’d try again this afternoon. Now we just have to hope the monsoon cooperates and stays away long enough for her to do some fishing.
Anyway, all this planning got me thinking about how writing is like fishing.
1. It takes time. Just as it takes time to prepare to go fishing—loading up the car with poles and equipment, making sure the bait is good, packing snacks, etc.—it takes time to prepare your writing. First you have to write it—huge amount of time. Then you have to revise (and often let it sit for a day or two—or more—before diving into revisions) and polish. And even after all your planning and writing, things can still go wrong—just like the downpour. That project you started writing may not be the one you should be writing. You may fizzle out halfway through. You may get an even better idea and start writing that one. So if you encounter a downpour, be flexible enough to alter your plans—if you need to—and try again. Time.
2. It takes bait. Just as fish need bait before they’ll swallow your hook, so agents/editors need a good story. But we can’t just send them the story, they want a little nibble first. Thus we have a query. Sometimes, writing the query is more difficult than writing the book. The query has it’s own hook and bait. The hook has to be shiny to attract attention, and then the bait on the hook has to be tasty enough that the nibble will lead to wanting more—a request. Once the request has been fulfilled, the agent/editor will do more nibbling at your work. They’ll read it, see if they like it before deciding to really bite down—offer representation. Bait.
3. It takes patience. Once your hook is baited/query written and polished, you are ready to cast your line. In writing, this is the point where you send your query to agents/editors. You research their guidelines and tastes, then send your query out there. Ah, the dreaded waiting phase. Here we have to wait for a bite. Sometimes we’ll get completely rejected—the agent/editor fishies won’t even nibble. Other times, a few nibbles will occur—you’ll get requests for a partial or full—but as often happens with nibbles, the fish get away. For some reason, the bait/manuscript wasn’t quite enough to get that bite. And we all want that strong bite we can real in to find a contract on the end of the line, but it often doesn’t happen right away. It can—and often does—take years and may even take many different manuscripts (baits) before we are able to catch an agent/editor. Patience.
4. It takes persistence. If we aren’t able to catch an agent/editor with our bait, there comes a time when we need to switch it up. A completely new manuscript/bait might do the trick. So we start over baiting our hook and casting our line out again. Sometimes we get the same results, but giving up isn’t an option. We keep trying new baits and throwing out our lines until we get the fish we came for. Again, this can take years. We can’t catch a fish with our first try (though there are exceptions—but it’s not the norm). We have to find what works. What makes the fish bite? We have to read work in our genre, write work in our genre, and keep trying. Persistence.
5. It takes cleaning. If you are one of the lucky ones to catch a fish, it isn’t over. Now you have to clean it. No, I’m not talking about gutting the agent/editor. I’m talking about your manuscript. Very rarely will there be a manuscript that doesn’t need some revision after signing a contract. Writing is work. And if you’ve signed with an agent, there may be more revisions/gutting when you eventually find an editor. Cleaning.
So writing is like fishing. It’s not an easy process, but the end result is worth it. You have a beautiful fish that you worked for. This fish will feed your writing soul and help get you closer to your dream of dinner—er a published book.