Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Should I Give Up Writing?

Last week a guy asked what my plan B was, concerning writing. I didn’t understand what he’d meant at first so he clarified.

“What will you do if you don’t sell this book? Will you go back to school to learn something new, more marketable? Will you try to get a promotion at your current job?”

His questions left me silent for a long while. I’ve never been asked that before so when I finally had an answer it seemed anticlimactic.

“I write another book,” I said.

I don’t think that was a good enough answer. Writing another book probably didn’t seem like a plan B to him, more like throwing good after bad. No one who really knows me would ever ask me such a question because they know that giving up on writing is not an option. Most writers do it because they love it. You really have to because it’s such a solitary thing that I’ve been accused of being a recluse, an old maid, you name it. That’s just the way writing is. I’ve never met a writer who could do it with a room full of people talking, with the television on and babies crying. It requires concentration, so yeah, I kinda have to be alone—at least in the room alone. It’s often thankless. You have to wait months, years, or decades—if ever—to see any type of profit or accolades. So if you’re in the business for the glory then get out.

Yes I want to be published and yes I want to make enough money from my writing that it’s my single source of income, but if I don’t sell this novel, I HAVE to write another one. In this guy’s mind, not getting a book published would probably be the ultimate failure, but that’s the view of a non-writer. Actually, there are quite a few people in my family who think this way. They ask, “Are you still trying to get that book published?” It’s easier to say, yes, than it is to explain “that book” is now on the back burner and I’m querying a new one.

Writing for publication is filled with a million little successes so I don’t feel at all like a failure.

The first time you complete a novel = Success!
The first time you take hard criticism and make yourself a better writer = Success!
The first time you write a well-crafted query letter = Success!
The first time an agent requests a partial = Success!
The first time an agent requests a full = Success!
The first time an agent offers representation = Success!
The first time an editor wants to buy your novel = Success!
The first time you see your novel on a shelf in a book store = Success!
The SECOND time you complete a novel = Success!

Tell me, why would I want to give up on that? I’ve only gone through half that list! So if any of you out there are thinking of quitting, if there’s anything on that list you want to stick a pin in or mark off your list, hang in there. It happens every day so why wouldn’t it happen for us?


Jai Joshi said...

I know exactly what you mean! Non-writers just don't get it.

I've had people say to me "Now that you've published that book and stuff, are you going to get a proper job?"

Because I'm polite I don't knock them upside the head but that doesn't mean the urge isn't there.


Corey Schwartz said...

Yes, non-writers TOTALLY don't get it! That's why it is important to have lots of writer friends :)

Karen Denise said...

Jai, that would KILL me! And knowing my temper, I'd probably verbally knock them upside the head if someone said that to me.

Corey, I need more writer friends that I can see in real life. I have loads online and I love them, but I gotta find some writing peeps in person!

Tere Kirkland said...

I know deep down in my heart your answer is the right one.

If book one isn't good enough, you take what you learned writing the last one and write a new one. That's my plan!

Keep writing! I know you'll get there eventually!

Heagar said...

I know the feeling well. Sometimes I wonder if I'm in it for the right reasons, but I wouldn't be writing so much and working so hard if it was just for the money. 'Cause let's face it, there's easier ways to earn money. Thanks for your blog!

Melissa said...

Great post! This is why I haven't told many people that I'm writing a book. Most people do not understand how long it takes to get published (if ever). I don't know how long it's going to take, but I can't give up. I HAVE to write:)

Stephanie said...

So true...non-writers do not get it. I remember telling my dad I was giving up my floral business.

"So, are you going to get a job at a flower shop again?"


"Then what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to write."

No response after that, just a look.

I hope he's changed his mind...after seeing my stories in print.

You can't give just keep going...keep growing...keep perfecting. Only the people who give up never succeed. I'm miles form where I was when I finished my first novel.

Karen Denise said...

Thanks Tere! Always there with o boost!

Heagar, you're right, there are easier ways to make money. So you must really love writing. Like Tere said, eventually the hard work will pay off.

Melissa, it really is hard to tell certain people that you write. Most of the people I know ask if I'm writing another Harry Potter. Seriously people.

I love that Stephanie...he just looked at you. I remember ask my dad if he wanted to read my manuscript. He said, and I quote, "Naw, I'll read it when it's a real book."
Man, you've just gotta laugh at this stuff.

Joanne Fritz said...

This post really rings true, Karen. I especially love this part:

"Writing for publication is filled with a million little successes so I don’t feel at all like a failure."

And your list of successes that follows is terrific. I've reached the one about completing a novel for the first time. Yes, it does feel like a success, even if that novel isn't the one that ultimately gets published.

I know I've got plenty more to write. Hope you do too. You know Jerry Spinelli wrote four novels before he finally got published. You just have to ignore the non-writers who simply don't understand.

Melissa said...

The only people who know how serious I am about writing my novel is my family because they are supportive and even though they don't really get it... they don't believe in giving up and would never tell me I needed a back up plan.

Gosh, I love my family.

I love all the successes you have listed here. It's something us writers need to keep in mind at all times.

Karen Denise said...

Thanks Joanne and Melissa. When I was writing those successes, I realized that there are so many more in between each on of those that I couldn't been all day listing. I love writing so much and can't wait to check off all of those successes for myself, then repeat it all over again. I hope you all get to do that as well!

Amy Sue Nathan said...

You have the attitude that will enable you to achieve and allow you to enjoy all the successes you listed -- and more!!

Would love to feature this post on STET. Email and let me know!

Many people could learn from you!!