I was honored to give the Sunday Keynote speech at the Florida Writer’s Conference – a fantastic group of dedicated writers and all-around wonderful folks. Every time I leave a conference, I try to take the overall temperature of the conference goers. Are they excited by all they learned? Are they confused at the contradictions they may have heard? And worst of all, are they defeated at the odds of a mainstream contract?
For that reason, I felt it important to remind them that they (and you) are diamonds. So here’s what I told them Sunday morning:
Scientists say that diamonds are simple carbon molecules, created under high pressure.
Likewise, the publishing industry is made up of ordinary people growing and learning who they want to be under the most extraordinary of circumstances. And for all of us, sooner or later, there comes that moment of high pressure. So how do we become diamonds?
Elements for creating a diamond
Time: No one knows how long it takes to create a diamond. Weeks? Months? Years? Millions of years? There’s no way to carbon date a diamond. Likewise, there’s no way to carbon date a writer. Writers sometimes lose sight of the process and focus on the end product – publication. What happens is that desire short-circuits the most important gift of all – time to learn the art of writing and effective storytelling.
Environment: Diamonds are formed 75-120 miles below the earth’s surface. That environment is optimum for their creation. What is your environment? Have you parked your posterior on Writer’s Island? Creative Writing at your local junior college? Writer’s conferences? Online networking? Writer’s groups? Ask yourself whether your environment is conducive to making you the best writer you can be.
Personal Environment – Are you the Hobbyist who has a sweet story that you’d like to make available to friends and family? Or are you a Serious Writer who has many books burning a hole in your soul and will consume you if you don’t get them down on cyber paper? It’s an important consideration because it will define which publishing option is most appropriate for you.
Personality Environment - Are you shy, or have you channeled your inner hambone? Your personality will create the foundations for how to best optimize your promotion plan.
Temperature: Diamonds come from pre-existing rocks that melt in the Earth’s upper mantle. Similarly, you authors take your literary temperature by gathering all the ingredients you’ve learned to write your book, analyze that fickle mistress, the marketplace, and define your readership.
Fluctuations: Lordy be! Fluctuations are Life’s middle name. But for diamonds, the fluctuations in temperature force the carbon atoms to go deep into the Earth’s crust, where it melts and becomes new rock once the temperature reduces. For you writers, fluctuations are happening almost daily in the growing publishing options. We have DIY ebooks and print publishing, vanity, mainstream. It almost gives me a Wizard of Oz moment…”Lions and tigers and bears, ohmy!”
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with fluctuations. We need them in order to test the boundaries, to grow, to evolve. If everything stayed the same temperature, then how would we become better?
Timing: If conditions are right, like pressure and chemistry, then the carbon atoms in the melting crustal rock bond to build diamond crystals.
In publishing, it’s invariably all about timing, right? Have you written something that is suddenly hot in the social mainstream? Is your story the perfect counterpunch to a worldwide event? Tra la!
Conversely, are you writing in an impacted genre, like teen angst YA, or are you the ignition point to a new twist, like Stephanie Meyers was to vampire romance?
First and foremost, you must stay true to your heart. Write what you love, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your timing may be off and your diamond crystals may have a tough time forming, but as a lovely diamond-in-the-rough, you’ve been mindful about Temperature, which invites you to be aware of how to insure your story has unique qualities that is impervious to Timing. In other words, you’re very smart diamond crystals.
Guarantees: Now here’s the rub. After facing all those processes of Time, Environment, Temperature, Fluctuations, and Timing, there is no guarantee those carbon atoms will turn into diamonds. If it’s too hot or there’s a drop in pressure, then the diamond crystals may melt partially or totally dissolve. What a buzzkill, right? But that’s the nature of Nature.
And you literary diamond crystals are no different. There are many elements that influence whether you will turn into a diamond or remain partially melted rock. In spite of the fickle marketplace, the economy, the subject matter, impacted genre, talent, and the myriad of publishing options, these very elements are an invitation to you to stretch those carbon molecules in a way you never considered. Rather than lament it, celebrate it. Honor it…and yourself.
Discovery: So let’s say those lovely carbon molecules do everything right; it still takes thousands of years for those diamonds to rise to the surface where they can be discovered. We can be grateful not to be in their shoes, right? However, you lovely writers still have the same considerations. You can’t rush your journey to the surface.
The laws of nature create the conditions for simple carbon molecules to form into a treasure. So does publishing. Doing it right takes time. Overnight success is a myth. It takes hard work, determination, time, education, and stashing several books under the bed before you get a publishing deal that’s appropriate for you. Just because you can doesn’t mean you will. Embrace that reality, and honor it.
Quality: Diamonds are classified by varying degrees of clarity, color, carat size, and the very cool thing is that there’s room for all kinds of diamonds. Everyone wants and loves diamonds. They’re rare, but conversely, there are a lot of them. So you need to ask yourself what color/carat/clarity are you?
Given the advances with technology, and changes in the economy, publishing is in a state of change. But we’re in this together. Through the process of immense pressure, we each combine our elements into making something wonderful together – whether you choose DIY or mainstream
And just because these options exist doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, or that one will be successful at the expense of another. Or that one will be successful at all. It simply means that through the process of pressure, you’ll create your own diamond that will allow your color, clarity, and carat to shine through.