Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Getting Out of the Writer's Nest

by Cat Woods

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Today I'm taking a different spin on the idea of independence.

There are four ways baby birds leave the nest.

Only one of them is a round trip ticket back inside.

Writers are similar to birds, and the adage—survival of the fittest—rules both the success of fledglings as well as the longevity of writers.


  1. Don't stand too close to the edge, lest you lose your balance. I see this all the time in my windy neighborhood. Unprepared birds gawk out into the world. They haven't committed to flying, yet they don't want to stay confined in their little twig home. They hover precariously with one foot on the ledge until a puff of wind carries them over. Writers, either write or don't. Declare yourself a writer—to yourself and others—so you leave the nest by choice. Otherwise, you'll putz your way through the vast world of publishing and likely starve long before you actually realize you're on the ground. Make writing-to-publish a conscious choice, one in which you are responsible for the path you will take.
  2. Don't jump before you've strengthened your wings. Okay, I don't actually know if birds jump before they are ready, but I suspect a handful of daredevils each year try flying before they've done the appropriate exercises. In fact, there's a fledgling in my backyard who is extremely motivated or exceptionally stupid. Either way, he's out of the nest more than he's in it and always needs my help getting home. I won't beat a dead bird here, but I will say this: do not submit your first novel the second it is done. Do not. Learn to write. Learn to edit and learn to polish. These are all separate things and you can't succeed without learning all three. There are no shortcuts to publishing well.
  3. Don't get eaten. Birds of prey love to swoop down and snag unsuspecting babies from the nest. It's not a pretty sight. Nor is it pleasant to watch eager writers get stalked by scam agents, editors or publishers. Even worse, jealous fellow writers who can crush the hopes and dreams of their competition as easily as a grackle can crush a tiny robin. To protect yourself, research BEFORE taking action. We have a whole list of resources for you to pick through. Use it.
  4. Do prepare yourself. Nature has a way of letting birds know when it's time to fly. They've eaten enough grubs to gain weight, they've earned their feathers and they've strengthened their wings. Be the bird. Be deliberate about your passion and turn it into your job. Work hard and work smart. To do anything less will have you walking down the middle of the road peeping for help that will never come.

But what if we're the Mama Bird? How do we know when to encourage our fellow writers to leave their nests? And is it even our job to do so? Can we do more harm than good when trying to boost others from the nest?

Curious minds want to know.

Cat Woods has built her writer's nest at Words from the Woods. So far she's managed to write by choice while evading hungry predators. In her free time, she moderates at AgentQuery Connect, raises her own fledglings and freelances for local businesses.


SC Author said...

This is a great metaphor. I made the mistake of querying my first draft MS, and I got a TON of rejections. I've now taken a break to strengthen my MS, but that lesson was invaluable.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

What I like best about your metaphor is that you don't beat us over the head with the extension advice. :D Very sound tips, and I always love a metaphor with nature... we should always take our cues from nature.

As for your question... I guess it would depend on how well I know the baby bird. ;) I'm all for getting someone to leave the nest in getting someone to read his/her work - even if it is just a friend or 2. That is the first step, the courage to expose ourselves. I might be slower about the rest.

Jemi Fraser said...

'Don't get eaten' might be my favourite piece of advice ever!

It's really hard to know when that moment is at hand. Fear and nerves can disguise it well. Sometimes a boost from another writer who understands the journey is exactly what we need!

Arlee Bird said...

Some writers are not only like birds, they are birds.
Great metaphor with sound advice.

Arlee Bird
A Faraway View

Jean Oram said...

Cat, you are awesome. And an interesting question. Can we do a disservice to our writing friends by nudging them out of the nest too soon? Going to have to think on it, but I'd say yes. However, I think many of us need a nudge from time to time to push us outside our comfort zone.

A.M.Supinger said...

I'm with Jemi Fraser up there^ "Don't get eaten" is epic advice! :P Great post, Cat!

Cat Woods said...

SC~ It is so easy to be enthusiastic about our newest pieces. They're fresh and fun and full of love. But, they are also flawed. Fixing them is an amazing experience that helps us write better in the end.

Thanks so much for sharing your story and letting us know that it does pay to wait through all the excitement.

Cat Woods said...

PJMarie~ Courage to expose ourselves...I love this. It's a hard step to take, but a necessary one if we want to succeed.

Like you, nature rocks. We can learn so much from it and apply it to every aspect of our lives.

Thanks for commenting.

Cat Woods said...

Jemi and A.M.~ funny, but true. It's my life motto!

Arlee~ birds of a feather! I hope someday your nest is lined with the proceeds of your pages!

Jean~ Definitely something to think on. It's such a fine line between helping and hurting sometimes. Glad I made you think. Now if I can always remember to do so before critiquing...

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