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Giving Up as a Writer is not an Option
Find Inspiration from Those Who Came Before Us
I just finished reading Creole Belle by James Lee Burke, my favorite mystery writer. I have mentioned him before. He is a marvelous writer in every sense of the word. His depiction of scenes is poetic. His rhythm is flawless. His characters are unique and captivating.
Let me share a passage from this book and then we’ll get to the main purpose of this article.
“I’ve acquired little wisdom with age. For me, the answers to the great mysteries seem more remote than ever. Emotionally, I cannot accept that a handful of evil men, none of whomever fought in a war, some of whom never served in the military, can send thousands of their fellow countrymen to their deaths or bring about the deaths or maiming of hundreds of thousands of civilians and be lauded for their deeds. I don’t know why the innocent suffer. Nor can I comprehend the addiction that laid waste to my life but still burns like a hot coal buried under the ash, biding its time until an infusion of fresh oxygen blows it alight. I do not understand why my Higher Power saved me from the fate I designed for myself, while others of far greater virtue and character have been allowed to fall by the wayside. I suspect there are answers to all of these questions, but I have found none of them.”
Now I mention this because I want you to understand just how good this writer is before I make my point.
James Lee Burke is the author of thirty-one novels, and two collections of short stories. He has twice been awarded the Edgar Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year, and in 2009 the Mystery Writers of America named him a Grand Master. Three of his novels (Heaven’s Prisoners, Two for Texas, and In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead) have been made into motion pictures.
In other words, this writer has game.
His novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie, written in the early 1980s, was rejected 111 times during a four-year period. When it was finally published in 1986 it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
You just never know.
You can’t give up!
Videos are part of the writing trade now
The Timing Was Perfect for This Writer
As many of you know, I recently finished my second novel, Resurrecting Tobias. I self-published it as an ebook and in paperback, and then the inevitable deflation occurred. I had spent seven months with that story, and when I typed “The End” I was left with emptiness and yes, apprehension.
What now, I asked myself. What if it doesn’t sell? What if I can’t find an agent or publisher? My dream has always been to have one of my novels published in the traditional way, and to see my books on the bookshelves of major bookstores. What if it doesn’t happen?
James Lee Burke answered my questions.
What do I do now?
There has been a major shift in book publishing during the past ten years. Any writer who is not aware of that is sorely in need of some education.
I have mixed feelings about it all. On the one hand, I like the fact that any writer can self-publish and realize their dream. However, I think there are false expectations that are attached to the ebook craze. Simply self-publishing does not guarantee success in sales, and I think a great many writers get discouraged when they self-publish and absolutely nothing happens.
So let’s talk about that discouragement, and to further the discussion I’m going to call on my old friend, John D. MacDonald, for assistance.
The Travis Mcgee Series
In 1962 John D. MacDonald was named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, and in 1980 he won a National Book Award. He wrote and published sixty-six novels, the most famous of which were the Travis McGee series.
MacDonald began writing shortly after the end of World War Two, and during his first five months of writing he earned a grand total of…..are you ready….twenty-five dollars.
He did not find a publisher for a novel until 1950, a full five years after he began writing.
Can you say persistence?
I could continue with other examples of excellent writers who had to toil in obscurity until their moment arrived, but I think you see the point.
Writers do not give up!
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
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Why Should You Keep Writing?
I have a couple reasons why you should continue writing books despite low sales. Let’s begin with a marketing reason and then we’ll discuss passion.
Writers build a writing platform. We add to our body of work, and that body of work is our product. We are in the business of writing, and our product is our writing.
Every short story that you write is another brick in your platform. Every book that you write adds to your structure. When the magic moment arrives and you are “discovered,” and people want to see more of your work, you will be ready for them because you did not give up. When an agent or publisher falls in love with your current book, and they ask you if you have anything else for them to read, you’ll be able to answer in the affirmative.
Adding to your platform announces to the world that you are a serious writer, and in marketing, image is everything.
But there is a more important reason why you should continue to write even though your sales are practically non-existent.
To find that reason, you need to look inside yourselves. Why did you start writing in the first place?
A very small percentage of you will answer that you write to make money. That is all well and good, but I doubt if you can sustain your writing career with that motivation.
Most writers will say that they write because they have a passion for writing. There is a hunger deep within them that urges them on daily to write. It is that hunger that must be fed, and to not feed it will leave a true writer feeling empty and restless.
End of story.
Instant Gratification Is for the Unenlightened
You can quote me on that.
I think back to the 1960s and a group called “Every Mother’s Son.” In 1967 this group was formed, and they were signed by MGM as an alternative to the hippie craze. A self-titled album was produced and introduced, and a song from that album, “Come On Down To My Boat,” hit #6 on the charts.
In one year the band had disbanded, never to be heard from again.
Now I have no doubt that there was some talent in that band, and I’m fairly certain that, had they not given up, they could have continued to feed their souls and record music, but…..
They gave up.
Let me ask you another question.
Would you rather be Every Mother’s Son, and burn out quickly like a comet on steroids, or would you like to be James Lee Burke and have your words read forever?
The choice is yours.
I know how I choose, and if you’ll excuse me now, I have a new book to write.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”