Counting Down

A writer only begins a book, it is the reader who completes it; for the reader takes up where the writer left off as new thoughts stir within him. ~David Harris Russell

That’s a writer’s hope anyway.

To inspire, entertain, encourage, motivate, and so on.

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Sophomore Novel Slump

There are no easy methods of learning difficult things; the method is to close your door, give out that you are not at home, and work. ~Joseph de Maistre, French moralist and philosopher

“They” say once you’ve written one book, it’s easy to write another.

Don’t believe them … they lie.

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Don’t Give Up!

In literature, when nine hundred and ninety-nine souls ignore you, but the thousandth buys your work, or at least borrows it — that is called enormous popularity. ~Arnold Bennett (1867–1931), English writer

You could have knocked me over with a feather the day I learned somebody wanted to publish my book.

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Proven Wrong

A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron (American novelist), interview, Writers at Work, 1958

I finally read another novel by #1 New York Times Bestselling author Jodi Picoult, and I’ve got to admit I was a bit hard on her before.

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Writing

Rejection.

We writers

Open our souls

To the whole world

To see and to judge

What we labor to bring forth.

Sometimes it’s spectacular, inspired, or even divine;

Other times, it’s nothing but garbage

Wasting good ink and paper.

Or worse, merely average.

Running in circles

Saying nothing

Important.

Note: This one came to me late at night. If there’s a name for this poetic form (with word count increasing by one on lines 1-7, then decreasing back to one), somebody please let me know!

Thanks for Reading, Thanks for Commenting

I was watching the finale of Season 7, The Next Food Network Star, last night (Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King, won, in case you missed it), and something that was announced grabbed my attention.

Premiering on Aug. 27 will be a new show starring The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, who has penned an immensely popular cookbook, memoir, and children’s book. She’s billed as a sassy, spoiled city girl turned rancher’s wife and home-schooling mom of four; her show will spotlight home cooking and life on the ranch.

What’s amazing to me is that Ree is a blogger. But not just any blogger.

She gets more than 20 million page views per month and received the Weblog of the Year award for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Talk about a following!

Seriously, I can hardly fathom having that many people devouring my words on a regular basis. How does she ever keep up with the comments?!?

When I started this blog (shortly after returning from a Writer’s Digest Editor’s Intensive in October, 2009), I did so with a great deal of trepidation. I’ve written practically all my life, but the idea of putting my thoughts and words “out there” for all the world to see kinda gave me the heebie jeebies (yes, that’s a word — look it up!). The last thing I wanted or needed was having a bunch of strangers creeping on me.

Over time, however, it became apparent that the people reading my blogs were, in many cases, very much like me. As I read their thoughts and words in return, and as we commented on each other’s posts, I began to feel a kinship with them. I prayed for them, looked forward to learning more about them, and began to hope that somewhere along the line, maybe we’d actually meet in person.

That hasn’t happened, yet. But it’s okay. You don’t have to see friends every day to remain connected.

I’m thankful for every single one of my readers — whether they leave comments or not, whether I know them personally or not. They make me smile, or laugh out loud; they give me new ways of looking at things and advice when I ask for it.

Writing can be a lonely task. Knowing there are others traversing a similar path makes the journey more pleasant.

So go ahead and leave a comment. How can we connect if I don’t know who’s reading and what you’re thinking?

Writing for Fun??

The co-editorial director of Publisher’s Weekly, speaking in a recent interview, said self-published authors typically sell less than 100 copies of their book, compared to the 10,000 copies a well-selling traditionally-published book will move.

Sad, isn’t it?

When a friend showed me this statistic in AARP The Magazine, I couldn’t believe it.

The article went on to compare two first-time writers. Both penned memoirs; both were over 50.

There the similarities end.

One sold more than half a million copies of her book; the other logged a measly 20 downloads to e-readers.

The difference? The first author has a traditional publisher, while the second is self-published.

Now that’s a pretty significant difference.

I hate the thought of laboring for years to produce a book I’m proud of, a book people will want to buy and read, if only a handful are going to bother doing either.

It’s like trying to carry sand in a sieve.

The quandary between self-publishing and traditional publishing is nothing new. Many of us are dealing with it right now. In fact, my friend Lynne Spreen over at Any Shiny Thing recently blogged about this very subject.

There don’t seem to be any easy answers, either. Especially when you realize that you the author are going to have to promote your book, regardless of how you publish it.

Anyway, the AARP article goes on to talk about how many “older authors” want to share their stories, profit or not. And how many vanity, e-book, and other self-publishing options exist for those who do. And how “easy” it is to become self-published — nearly three-fourths of a million nontraditional books came out in 2009, compared with fewer than 300,000 traditional titles.

This publishing guru speculates the market for self-published works will grow as more people accept the technology.

His advice in the meantime? Write for fun, not for finance.

Say what?

When did writing a book become fun? Every real writer I know, including meself, calls it Hard Work.

And to embark on that journey expecting no remuneration is foolish.

I suppose people with nothing but time on their hands, or celebrities with a hefty trust fund and a full-blown ego, can afford to laze about and tinker with penning a novel, then pay somebody to publish it, not caring what happens after that.

The rest of us sweat bullets to get every comma in the right place, choose the right POV, work and re-work plot, act out our scenes with dialog, check pacing, and a thousand-and-one other details.

All in the hopes of finding the right agent. The right publisher. The right market.

Because this is our baby, and it deserves nothing less than our best.

Why shouldn’t we expect payment, regardless of how we publish?

My Flighty Muse

Why is it that, when my mind and body are at their busiest, my Muse decides to inundate me with writing material??

Maybe I’m in the shower, or exercising, or driving to an appointment, or even just dropping off to sleep. Maybe I’m up to my ears designing Websites for clients or making updates on already-designed sites.

Regardless, it’s then that my lovely Muse appears, and I learned long ago never to ignore her!

She’s a flighty thing, my Muse. Once I tuned her out, and she punished me with too much time on my hands and no ideas. Couldn’t even write a simple Thank-you note!

So I don’t ignore her any more.

I stop what I’m doing, grab paper and pen (or my computer), and frantically get down everything she gives me, with all the detail I can recall. This I stash away in a secret place, to be pulled out when the well runs dry.

Many times, I’ve found her “gifts” questionable. That’s probably my fault more than hers. We mortals often don’t understand or fully appreciate intuition, and ideas can vanish like smoke; then, too, what sounded plausible at one time might, upon deeper contemplation, appear silly.

Nevertheless, you won’t catch me without a notepad and pen — in my car, at my desk, beside my bed. You might call it a journalist’s curse; I call it being prepared.

For when my Muse does show up, I don’t want her to catch me slacking!

And so I Write

Ever since I can remember, it’s been one of my most persistent dreams to write a novel.

As a kid, I started a book (in pencil, by hand!) every summer. Mostly, it was a loose collection of semi-autobiographical tales that happened to a make-believe person.

When summer ended, so did the book. It wasn’t finished, but I put it on a shelf in my closet and started a new one the following summer.

And so it went — for years.

My first career was as a newspaper journalist.

I wrote every day — nonfiction. Real things that happened to real people in real time.

My colleagues and I often talked about writing “the Great American Novel.” Most of them weren’t serious; I was, but dared not admit it for fear of being ridiculed and discouraged.

One day, the “itch” became so insistent that I had to scratch it. I started a novel.

Not on company time, mind you. By then, I was on a new career in Web Design. Running my own business meant I could write around projects.

I wrote while watching my son’s soccer games, or waiting for him to get out of school, or during one of his many lessons.

And I actually finished this novel. Keyed in (on computer) “The End.” Finally, I was a writer!

The book was awful, unless you count spelling, grammar, and sentence structure (thank you, grade school nuns!). If you like tension, conflict, characterization, and such, forget it.

So it joined the unfinished others on the shelf, while I devoured Writer’s Digest magazines, poured money into writing how-to books, attended workshops and tried to learn what I didn’t even know I didn’t know.

Several years ago I faced another dreaded lull in my business.

Time on my hands. Fear of going to the poorhouse.

I started a second novel and finished it, too.

This one was better. With age comes courage (if we’re lucky), and I sent out query letters, hoping to snag a literary agent.

No takers.

I studied some more. Did more reading. Attended a conference or two.

And started my third novel.

I typed “The End” several months ago and have since polished and revised and polished some more. Once again, I’m shopping for an agent. Once again, I’m looking for publication.

Because everybody knows being a writer is different from being an author — right?

Well, sort of.

I’d like to think I don’t need publication to validate what I’m doing. That, even if I can’t go into a bookstore and pick up a book with my name on the cover and my words inside, I’m still a writer.

But why write if you can’t share your words with the world??

So I’ll continue chasing my dream. And I’ll continue to write because that’s what writers do.

As Admiral Farragut once said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”