Thursday, June 02, 2011

Novel Writing 1.3: My Journey

In 2008 my first novel was published.  The first mistake I made was not realizing that a new writer--or any writer--nowadays has to go into warp drive in terms of self-promotion.  Three years later, people I think I know really well will say to me, "I didn't know you wrote a novel!"  Now, part of that is their fault, but the biggest part is mine.

If I ever get another published (I have two under contracts, unexpected sequels to the first), I will repent of my false humility and promote my book to the biggest extent I can.  I will schedule book signings, readings, talks, at libraries, churches, schools, etc.  Even then, your sales may be disappointing.  People will expect free copies.  People will trade (that's ok; I am still at the stage where I just want people to say, "you're a good writer," although a movie deal would be great).  Don't give away books--people won't read them and won't appreciate it (well, maybe your mom gets one).  I can't tell you how many books I gave to people hoping they would talk them up or review them online and I doubt the books were even read.  I did have a friend read it on a radio program, though.  That's pretty cool.  But it didn't translate into sales.

Anyone who is serious about writing better get out of his/her head right now that people will beat down the door just because your book appears on Amazon.  I was researching epublishing a few weeks ago and found that some books are actually at about 11 Million.  I didn't know Amazon had that many books.  Mine has gone as low as the 100,000s, but now is stuck at 2.6 Million, no matter.  Looking at Amazon will drive you crazy.

Now, at this point I have said nothing about writing itself.  That's for another post.  My final word here is that if you are wanting to write for one of the following reasons, forget it:
1.  you think your story will make you  millions and you'll start a great career in Hollywood.
2.  you think you can live off your earnings as a writer

3.  you think no one has ever had an idea like your book before.  After I wrote my book, I realized that I had rewritten Antigone, a play I teach every semester.  It's the treatment of the story that matters.  It has to be a good story well told, not just a good story.
4.  you don't like rejection.
5.  you think no one else understands you as a writer (your job is to be understood)
6.  you don't like to read.  Oh, come on.  I have not taken lots of classes in fiction writing (one in graduate school, which was very good) or read scores of books on it (John Gardiner's The Art of Fiction is the best).  I don't subscribe to Writer's Digest (although it has great articles).  But I read everything I can get my hands on--well, almost.  I tried to read The Corrections and got nauseated with the sex.  But you have to be a reader to be a writer.  You have to know what words look like on a page.  You have to passionate about and intimate with text.  You have to be able to distinguish between the best and the just-got-published-because-someone-saw-a-market-for-it. 
7.  you don't want a lot of people to read your manuscript before submitting it anywhere.  Writing is lonely, but you have to come out of the closet and get input, because you'll think everything you write is good if left to your own devices. 
8.  you hate your day job and think this is a way to change careers (go to trade school).
9.  you don't want to spend A LOT of time by yourself
10.  you don't feel a calling (well, this applies to the Christians.)  I would not write if I didn't feel it was my gift.  It's too hard.

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