Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's So Easy

"You wrote a book? I'm going to write a book one day. I've read books. It can't be that hard. I can easily write books better than the trash that's out there now."

"So why not write one now?"

"Oh, I don't have time. Later, maybe when the kids are grown. I have to do something when I retire."

"What have you written so far?"

"I wrote college papers. Nowadays I write my annual Christmas letter. I simply don't have time to write."

"I've written the best thing ever. I'll have publishers fighting over it and movie studios knocking at my door."

"Can I see it?"

"Sure. Here you go."

"Uh, you have some errors on the first page."

"What errors?"

"Here, you've used the word your instead of you're. Several times. You don't have quotation marks around your dialogue or even paragraphs when you change speakers. And frankly, your dialogue is stilted."

"Oh, that's not big deal. That's what editors are for. It's about the story. Besides, I already sent it out. I'm sure I'll be getting calls by next week."

I am not making this stuff up.

Here's the thing.

1. Writing is a craft that takes years to hone. It's not something you can just do once you've finished living your life. It's not something that is given to you like magical powers. Yes, it takes talent, but even talent requires work.

2. You may have been a brilliant essay writer in university. It does not mean that you'll be a brilliant romance/mystery/sci-fi writer. It's completely different writing.

3. Reading books does not make you a writer. Reading books can make you a better writer. To be a writer, you need to write. To be a better writer you need to read books and write.

4. If an editor/publisher can't read your work, they're not going to. They have mountains of manuscripts to read. They want to find the brilliance. They can't find it if they have to wade through a manuscript where the writer doesn't even understand the basics of writing. You may have an interesting story, but if you can't write it with all the punctuation intact, your dialogue sparkling, and your grammar correct, no one cares. They're going to find an interesting story from a writer that can do that. Believe me, even with a writer who follows all the rules and has a brilliant manuscript there will still be errors. So they want to start with as clean a manuscript as possible. Do the work before sending it out.

5. Edit, edit, edit, then get someone else to read it objectively. This is not your mother, your spouse, or your bestie. It can be a friend, but someone who won't feel threatened if they are honest with you. And you have to have a thick skin and listen. Then edit, edit again.

6. Self-publishing through Amazon can happen overnight. Traditional publishing takes about two years from the acceptance. It can take years to find a publisher. You will be rejected over and over again. Once the contract is signed there's rounds of editing, cover design, marketing, and everything else involved. Plus your editor has bigger more important books than yours. You are not going to send out your manuscript and get phone calls the following week. You'll be lucky to find one publisher, never mind a fight from several.

7. Unless you have to write as in your soul demands it, find another way to make money. You don't have to give up writing. Write your memoirs for your grandchildren. Write letters. Write stories for your kids. Keep a journal. Blog. But if you feel fulfilled without having books on shelves in bookstores, then find some other way to make money.


Unknown said...

These are such wise words! And the principles are true not only for writing, but for other creative outlets as well. "It's so easy" is usually only said by people who haven't actually tried. Thanks for this post!

Unknown said...

As some who loves blogging I find your words to be very wise and thought provoking. People who thinking is simple and easy, really have no idea what we do. Thank you for sharing this!

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