Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gotta Start Somewhere

Stephen King started writing stories for a school paper. Dean Koontz started his publishing career in 1968 writing science fiction and porn. Charles Dickens started writing for newspapers. All wonderful writers - all gifted storytellers - and all started at the bottom with a long way to the top.

If you haven't read On Writing, by Stephen King, you should. It tells the truth about what it takes to get published, the long hours and energy put forth into a passion nearly abandoned and how close Stephen came to quitting (God help us all). In the book, he confesses that he was ready to quit his pursuit, that he threw his breakthrough novel, Carrie, in the trash, and that he prepared to return to teaching full time frustrated by his lack of success.

We all know the end of King's story, and it turns out quite well, however, it was a long and tiresome road. As I thought about King's start I realized how different today's society is from the time he was a boy. In those days, people worked harder, had fewer toys, fewer expectations and dreams that seemed bigger than themselves. Today, we live in a world where we expect everything 4G, high speed and on demand. We see reality tv stars popping up every new season and major contracts and book deals coming out of Simon & Schusters ask! If that's the way things are, I'm cool with that. The problem is, as writers we have been infected by the "I want it now" mentality and it is causing us to rush into the publishing scene to our discredit. No judgment here, I'm as guilty as anyone.

We all know that when we finish our masterpiece, we look at it as if it's made of 99.9% pure gold. I don't know exactly how that works, but we seem to see what we want to see in our early work and have this perception that if we write something, we deserve to be published. Period. Then we go though this period of getting our feelings hurt and our pride smashed when we realize we were wrong, when rejection letters come in by the thousands, and when we realize no one wants to buy our book other than a few compassionate friends and family. When that happens we either plow straight through the criticism, angry and disillusioned, or we pursue the craft with even greater eagerness, through study and peer review with an open mind.

Enter the world of POD publishers, ebooks and online self-publishers. They make the dream of publishing seem so real, so close, so tangible, promising world-wide distribution and marketing assistance to get our book out into the four corners of the globe! Oh, brother, give me a break. The road to publishing is not fast and furious. It's slow. It's relational. It's tedious. It's a crescendo.

It has taken me a couple of years to figure this out. My writing keeps improving with every stroke of my pen, but I still don't have the deal, even though I think I should. And don't we all? But hey, no matter what happens, I'm not going to quit writing and neither should you. We can decide to self-publish or stay the course, navigating our way to a book deal, but the writing must continue. We have to walk through the kiln, the purifying flames of the craft, until we have no more words inside. Should we take advantage of today's technology and hurry up and get our PDF's formatted for Kindle? Maybe. Maybe we'll miss a very big bandwagon if we don't. However, let's never forget that writers are part of a trade that requires us to put in our time, training, building relationships, and much study if we want our very best in print. So no matter how you share your work...go the distance and give your readers what they deserve...your best. BOOM!

PS- I will have a few guest bloggers discussing their writing journeys over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more encouragement and tips!


  1. On Writing should be required reading for any person looking to publish. It felt like he was talking directly to me...and giving me a much needed kick in the pants! I went through a Stephen King phase in high school, but haven't read anything he's done since The Tommyknockers. On Writing made me appreciate King again.

    As for you...DON'T GIVE UP!!!

  2. Oh so very true (re: instant gratification). Add that to the "me first" mentality so many have now and it's a recipe for disaster. I hope that I can keep this in mind as I travel the road.

    Thanks for the reminders!

  3. This is so true. If we feel passionate about anything, the test of time will tell us if it's worth it. At first, I was disheartened that it would take another 4 years of schooling to become a missionary with NTM, but all that time and training was good for me. Writing requires practice to develop the skills of a King or Koontz. I've seen great improvements in your writing over the past couple of years... and you'll only get better!


  4. I agree with @Jesilea that On Writing should be required reading (along with Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird). Thanks for sharing and keep writing! :)

  5. Thanks for all the comments, ladies. I will keep writing and I hope you do the same. In fact, one of the things I like best about writing is that my success is so determined by practice, study, peer review, my style and voice, etc. Their are so many factors and points to sharpen that it can be overwhelming and yet, ever so invigorating. Look, now I'm rambling on like a dork. Thanks for reading. Share, RT, and tell your writer and reader friends to follow my blog. I return Tweets @ follow my fellow bloggers.


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