The Long Road to Publication

From The Literary Hub:

Author Anjali Enjeti: When I’m doing the first draft of a book-length work, I try to write two pages a day, every single day until that first draft is done, no matter how terrible those pages are. I rarely use any of those pages later, but it feels good to fill up a blank page. And it gets me into the habit of thinking about the story every day, and figuring out who my characters are, and what they’re meant to do.

. . . .

Interviewer Devi S. Laskar: The road to publication is long and twisted—tell me about some of your hairpin turns and about your waiting game. Clearly something converged since you have two books coming out at once!

AE: I submitted multiple books for eleven years, and during that time I had two different agents, neither of whom sold my books. (One tried very hard and we parted on good terms. Another ghosted me a few months after I signed with him.) I have submitted to quite a few small presses over the years, too. I just couldn’t get anything to work out, and about ten years in, I decided to quit spending so much time submitting. So I cut down substantially. Then the following year, the book proposal I submitted earlier to UGA Press yielded a contract for Southbound. Once I had that in hand, I decided to enter the open submission period for Hub City Press with The Parted Earth. The fact that they’re coming out at the same time is merely coincidental. I sold Southbound on proposal so it took me some time to write the book. And it ended up coinciding with the release of The Parted Earth.

DSL: As an older debut author you must have developed communities who have supported you and lifted you up until this moment ? Or have you been a loner, trying to break into the literary scene? What has been the reaction in the Indian community (i.e. are the aunties aware and proud?) I read that your books have already received several mentions in “must read lists”—what does that feel like?

AE: I am very lucky in this regard. When I began taking writing seriously, especially after I moved to the Atlanta area, I was welcomed into a large, warm community of writers. (Shout out to the Atlanta Writers Club!) I could not have survived as a loner in the literary world. Pre-COVID, I was always attending readings or craft talks or book launches or just meeting other writers for meals. Writing communities have fueled me. I would have never lasted this long in the business without them. A subset of this writing community has been the South Asian writing community, and while there are fewer of us here in Atlanta, the greater South Asian writing community, whether in California or New York or Texas or India, has been crucial to my health and development as a writer.

. . . .

DSL: What does literary success look like to you?

AE: What constitutes literary success has evolved for me significantly over the years. For most of my life, it meant publishing a book. But when I couldn’t get a book deal, I knew I needed to reassess what success in this business looked like. And it became writing essays or articles that demand a more humane world. I’ve covered politics, voting, and elections for the past few years, and aside from enjoying this kind of writing, it holds value. I also teach in an MFA program. It’s some of the most rewarding work I do. My students inspire me to push my boundaries as a writer and I’m blown away by their talent.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG will let visitors to TPV discuss whether writing two pages per day is a good method for writing and finishing a book.

PG will comment that the OP certainly makes the lives of the author and interviewer seem hard from an emotional and guilt perspective.

8 thoughts on “The Long Road to Publication”

  1. Interesting, although I don’t know what “writing two pages a day” means. What, on a legal pad? Personally, I try to write a scene a day. Don’t always make it, but that’s the goal. It’s all about scenes to me (for fiction).

    No need to say much about the whole submitting-and-waiting waste of time. That’s disappeared in my rear-view mirror.

  2. “…no matter how terrible those pages are.”

    Seriously? May I just ask, Why not write those two pages cleanly? If you’re only writing around 500 words per day (a half-hour’s effort) surely you could make those two pages clean!

    • Hi Harvey,

      Just finished my scene. 475 words. Took me two hours. Typical for me. I’m not a “sprint” or “wild” writer. I like to massage a bit. Maybe equivalent to your “clean”???

      So your half-hour 500 words is my two hours. But you’ve been at this way longer than me!

      • It’s all a matter of trusting the subconscious creative mind and the characters to tell the story. I figure they’re the ones who are living it, not I, so I let them tell it. I’m only the fortunate recorder they allow to come along on the journey.

        I write about 1000 words per hour, or a blazing fast 17 words per minute. 🙂 Leaves a lot of time for staring off into space.

  3. Simply a different way of expressing the “write something every day” dictum. Otherwise, what Harold and Harvey already said. (Scene per day is a very good goal, by the way. That is one “fiction quantum” in my lexicon.)

  4. Writing two pages a day, on average, will get you 730 pages a year, or about a novel and a half. Your mileage will vary about whether or not this level of output can sustain a full-time writing career.

  5. “…whether writing two pages per day is a good method for writing and finishing a book.”

    The correct answer is, of course, “It depends.” It is a terrible method for writing commercial genre fiction with an eye toward maximizing income. Commercial genre fiction is a volume business, and has been since the days of dime novels. Most writing advice we see online is aimed at this slice of the market. This is fine, but less good is how people within this world often seem to imagine that “writing” automatically means writing commercial genre fiction. “I cannot imagine anything outside my personal experience” is a bad look for anyone, but especially for a fiction writer.

    In the case of Anjali Enjeti, she is a journalist and essayist and writer of literary fiction. The incentives and imperatives of writing commercial genre fiction simply aren’t relevant. She isn’t trying to put out a novel every two months, wondering if a second draft is a waste of time only indulged in by dilettantes.

    Writers of commercial genre fiction would find my writing habits comically slow, but I am not even writing fiction. I write about early baseball history. The challenge for me is to distill a mass of facts and argument down to a tolerable length in a coherent presentation. And yes: endnotes–lots and lots of endnotes! They keep me honest. If I end up with a thousand words in one day, that is a good day. It is even better if I don’t look at those thousand words a week or two later and completely redo them. There are history writers who take a different approach, of throwing everything they have into a pile and going with that. Their books generally are unreadable.

    • +1000000

      Writing process is a personal thing.
      It is useful to know how others work and how it plays out for them but not imperative to straightjacket yourself, or others, to any single set of rules.

      The only viable rules are “know yourself” and “do what works for you”.

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