Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Captive SlavesI’m going to kick the poo-pile here, so stand back.

I’m not even going to start with a caveat or a disclaimer.

“Trigger warnings” are ridiculous.


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Often, when someone learns that I am a published novelist, they give me a puzzled look. I know what they’re thinking.

Why are you still working that day-job, living in that house, driving that car?

I used to think that, too. I had already figured out where I’d be teaching (after receiving my honorary degree), had already picked my house on the shores of Green Lake,  and had chosen the flash car I would use to zip around town.

Then I sold my first novel. Nothing changes your worldview more than achieving your dream.

As a writer, I have had some successes: eight novels published, four by a large NYC publishing house, plus a smattering of published short stories, articles, and essays. I’ve also had—I used to call them failures, but now after “periods of redefinition,” I think of them as successes, too. You see, when I started out, anything other than a bestseller was a failure, but soon I would only fail if I got anything other than a solid sale. In time, I accepted any sale as a success, and then…you see where this is going.

A long time ago, Dean Wesley Smith asked me, “If you knew you would never sell another story, would you still write?” My answer was flippant. “Of course,” I said, “but tell me now so I won’t worry about it.” I was green as springtime grass, back then, and had yet to feel the heartbreak that only publishing can provide. Today, my answer still stands, but it stands on its own; it doesn’t need the cocksure attitude to prop it up.

When I started, I wrote as a way to achieve fame and fortune. Sure, some people make gazillions at it, but you can count those who do it consistently on your fingers. In reality, writing is a hard way to make a living, and if you’re in it only for the money, my advice is to get out, now.

Here’s what people don’t get: writing is an art, but publishing is a business, and publishing doesn’t give a toss whether your book is good or bad, it cares whether your book will sell or sit on the shelf. Your novel can be total crap, but if it’s the kind of total crap that sells, it’ll get snapped up. But good or bad, if it does get snapped up, there still isn’t a lot of money in it, and one sale is no guarantee of future sales.

Today, I don’t write for fame and fortune, nor do I equate not having them with failure. I write because I want to tell stories, and tell them well. If a book of mine doesn’t get finished, that’s a failure. If I just hammer out some words and have a lackluster product, or write something I don’t love, that’s a failure. If the faithful readers who do love my books don’t get to read any more of the stories I want to tell, that’s a failure.

Of course, if a publisher thinks I’m putting gold on the page, or Hollywood wants to option my novels, I sure as hell won’t complain. But that’s gravy, and I am able to succeed just fine without gravy.


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