I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends…

19 Oct

By Sarah J. Maas


So, several months back, I posted a semi-tongue-in-cheek survival guide to revisions on my personal blog. Mostly, my must-have supplies included things like ten pounds of candy and sweatbands. And to be honest, I totally did need those things to get through revisions.

BUT having just sent in my final line edits for QUEEN OF GLASS (now onto copy edits!!!), I can look back at the trek through revisions and say that there is a LOT more to surviving it than twix, diet mountain dew, and neon-green sweatbands.

Some writers go through many, many rounds of revision. Personally, I went through two rounds, with a third, very small round of line edits. But each round taught me something new. From the small things (it’s “toward” not “towards”) to the larger-picture stuff, I feel like I’ve emerged from revisions knowing not just more about myself as a writer, but also more about my strengths as a person.

It’s different than working with your agent or your critique partner (though it’s similar in some ways). Mostly because with each round, you realize you’re getting closer to the final product—which you CANNOT change. There’s a sense of finality looming over the whole thing, and it pushes you to really, truly making sure you’re giving your all. It’s exciting to realize you are SO close to being published—it’s exhilarating, actually.

But there are the dark moments, too. The moments when you wonder if you’re just kidding yourself and your manuscript is a giant mess that you’ll never have enough time to fix, the moments when you think every word is garbage and you just want to go veg on the couch and pretend you don’t have a deadline to meet.

And those are the moments when you really need your #1 resource when surviving revisions: your writing friends. See, I spent years thinking that CPs and writer-friends were great for everything before the book deal—no one ever really told me how very important they are for the stuff after it.

They will talk you off ledges, they will reassure you that your work isn’t garbage, they will brainstorm with you for HOURS even though they have their own deadlines…They will hold your hand and never ask for anything in return, because they know exactly what you’re going through.

You’ll find yourself revealing your doubts and vulnerabilities—voicing the things that really terrify you, the dread so horrible it keeps you up at night. And you know what’s the most surprising thing you learn? You’re not alone in feeling that way. Because your friends either have faced or are facing the same fears and pressures and doubts.

Not to mention, when you get stuck during revisions, they know your work well enough to help you brainstorm your way out of it, or to just approve a semi-crazy idea that you have that miiight solve a plot problem. I cannot tell you how many times I emailed or IMed one of my CPs with a “What if I did THIS!?” question about QOG, or a “How do I fix THAT!?” complaint, and they helped me through it. Better than that—they made me EXCITED about those changes.

I’m a fairly independent person, and leaning on others doesn’t come naturally to me. But I realized, thanks to all of those emails and IMs and skype sessions, that revealing my vulnerabilities doesn’t make me weak, and voicing my fears doesn’t make me a coward. It makes me human—it allows people to get close to me and allows my relationships to grow.

I recently sent in the acknowledgments for QOG, and I honestly felt that I’d never have enough space to properly thank the people who helped me through this process—that WORDS don’t accurately convey the gratitude I feel. I don’t think I can ever fully convey that.

Revisions made me open myself up to others in ways I didn’t think I’d ever be comfortable doing—partially because I realized that no one EXCEPT my writer-friends would understand what I was going through. (Family and non-writer friends tend to give you “You’re amazing! It’ll be fine!” answers. Which are great, but not helpful.) I realized I NEEDED to have writing-friends who understood what I was going through–that I wouldn’t survive the process without them.

So, please, do me a favor: no matter where you are in the publishing journey–first drafting, querying, on submissions, already published–if you do one thing today, go tell your writing friends/CPs that you love them. Thank them for all they do for you. Because while writing a book might be a mostly solitary act, publishing one isn’t. And it shouldn’t be. 🙂


Sarah J. Maas has written several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA epic fantasy that will be published by Bloomsbury in Fall 2012. She is repped by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency, and resides with her husband in Southern California. You can visit her website here, and follow her on twitter.

And she loves her writer-friends  & CPs very much. ❤


20 Responses to “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends…”

  1. Ellen Levy-Sarnoff October 19, 2011 at 1:16 AM #

    So true. Beautifully put, Sara. I’m about to finish my first novel (and I’m a lot older than you!), Dewitched, a sequel to Snow White from the POV of the Evil Queen, and it’s taken my writer friends to push me through. Good luck with QOG– you’ve worked so hard, you deserve success. I can’t wait to read it.

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM #

      Thank you, Ellen!!

      And wow!!! DEWITCHED sounds SO cool (awesome title, btw)! Best of luck finishing it & beyond!!!! 🙂

      • Ellen Levy-Sarnoff October 19, 2011 at 12:54 PM #

        And thank you, Sarah. I have followed your career/blog for quite a while and you are a true inspiration! DW is about to go out on submissions…now editing (grrr!) the sequel. Can’t wait for QOG! 🙂 els

  2. Kat Zhang October 19, 2011 at 5:08 AM #

    ❤ you! 😀

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:28 PM #

      ❤ you more. I couldn't have gotten through revisions without you. ❤ ❤

  3. Laura Hughes October 19, 2011 at 5:33 AM #

    You really captured what I’ve been feeling lately, Sarah! I think the line, ”I’m a fairly independent person, and leaning on others doesn’t come naturally to me,” echos it exactly. However, I recently realized that I LOVE it when my CPs email me with questions or panic. I love talking them through it/being a cheerleader. So, chances are, they like doing it for me too, and I shouldn’t feel like I’m bothering them/I should work through it alone. Anyways, congrats on finishing the edits! I can’t wait to read Queen of Glass!!!

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:33 PM #

      Thanks, Laura!!!

      Totally agree about loving to help your CPs, too! It’s great to reciprocate the love/support, but also super-fun/amazing to be a part of another person’s journey!!

  4. claudiajustsaying October 19, 2011 at 8:06 AM #

    Just saying….shared many of those feelings publishing my first blog yesterday.

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:34 PM #

      Cool! We must be on the same psychic wavelength! 😉

  5. Arianna Sterling October 19, 2011 at 8:25 AM #

    I completely agree with all of this! I have yet to even brush the publishing world, as I’m busy with other (still totally writerly) things right now, but even at this point I don’t know where I’d be without my friends on Absolute Write and other places around the Internet. It’s so important for brainstorming (even when they tell me an idea I’ve had is stupid…better to know BEFORE I put it in the book, right?) and fixing things later on and just–well, everything you said.

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

      I’ve heard that Absolute Write is an amaaazing resource for writers. I kinda wish I’d checked it out back in the day! It seems like you’re getting invaluable advice (and even better companionship!)! 🙂

      Great to hear from you, Arianna!

  6. Susan October 19, 2011 at 8:42 AM #

    ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    I couldn't have gotten through revisions without you. I (obviously) couldn't have written and revised NAUTILUS without you. I can't write my second SS&D book without you. Great post, and thanks for always being there when I need you.

    ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:40 PM #

      Awwwww!!!! ❤ Thank YOU for always being there 24/7!! I honestly have NO idea how I would have gotten through everything these past few months without you. ::hugs::

      I wub youuuuuuu.

  7. Asia Morela October 19, 2011 at 9:32 AM #

    Great post that made me smile! 🙂

    I wish I had real writer friends. I mean, I know a couple of people online who write, but they are not really *friends*. I’m glad I found some very supportive online communities lately, where people will come and say really nice things in your public thread, but it’s not like a one-on-one honest discussion, ever. I’m not on email or IM terms with any of these people.

    Hopefully this will change as I stick around and perhaps get closer to getting published. I really agree with the importance of friends in general, and I would love to have what you do.

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:44 PM #

      You know, when I was first starting out, I’d look at all the pubbed (or agented) authors and feel kinda left out because they all had BFFs and amazing CPs, and I had NO idea how to find them online. And somehow, over the course of the past few years, I *did* find them. Sometimes, it took some reaching out on my part (like finally just emailing someone to say hi/talk outside of blogs & twitter), sometimes they reached out to me. But the point is that you DO find them–maybe not all at once, but eventually, you will. 🙂

  8. Asia Morela October 19, 2011 at 9:36 AM #

    By the way, your comment about “toward vs towards” made me jump and scream “WHAT?!” Every resource I’ve found on the Internet so far (including Merriam-Webster dictionary) tells me both are correct. “Towards” being perhaps more British English, which is still the standard for correct spelling here in Canada. All the red underlinings of spelling checks have not yet deterred me from writing “neighboUr”, “coloUr”, “flavoUr”, “analySe”, “defenCe”, etc. 😀

    • Sarah J. Maas October 19, 2011 at 12:45 PM #

      Well, both my agent AND my editor separately told me it was “toward,” so…I think in the US, that’s the rule. Believe me, I was shocked. And when I told some of my non-writer friends, they didn’t believe me, either!!

      I think in Canada, you can still get away with “towards,” though. 😉

  9. Erin Bowman October 20, 2011 at 6:30 PM #

    This is a lovely, wonderful, beautiful, honest, and touching post. I’d be nowhere without the support of my writing friends during this journey — both before and after the book deal. Thank you for this, Sarah! ❤

    • Sarah J. Maas October 20, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! 🙂 And yeah–I have zero idea what I’d do without my writing buddies. Like, ZERO.

  10. Carradee October 21, 2011 at 9:40 AM #

    Very true about the helpfulness of friends, but…

    There’s nothing wrong with towards. It’s primarily used in the UK; toward is primarily used in the US. That’s the difference.

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