In Tough Times: Three Reasons to Stay Hopeful about Writing by Rochelle Melander
Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. —Shel Silverstein
In the past few months—really, in the past year—I’ve thought about chucking the whole writing dream and reinventing myself as a, well, I’m not quite sure what. Aside from my childhood dreams of becoming the next Carol Burnett or Cher, I’ve never really wanted to be anything but a writer.
And yet, every time I turn on my computer, I see another statistic that makes me want to quit:
*80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
*70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
*70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins, www.JenkinsGroupInc.com)
After reading one too many posts about the dismal future of publishing, I decided to turn off the computer and take a nap. (I did read that naps boost productivity, so maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.)
The next day, while running at the Y, I listened to Bon Jovi sing,
Never give up,
never give up,
never forget where you’re from. (Bon Jovi, Army of One)
And then I had one of those aha moments people talk about. Writers, here are three reasons to have hope in the midst of this crazy time in publishing:
1. Writing rocks. Last week, when I interviewed JoAnn Early Macken for the Write Now! Mastermind class, she talked about how she loved playing with words. That reminded me why I write: because I love words and stories. When I write, I experience flow—that magical state when we are so engaged that we lose track of time. No external reality can steal the joy of creating. The gift is in the process. It always has been.
Tip: Keep writing. My friend Jane Rubietta said to me recently, “The only terrible writing is the writing we don’t do.” And I say: you cannot revise or sell NOTHING. So write, writers, write.
2. Readers read. In the age of Fifty Shades of Grey, it seems like more people want to create content than digest it. Every day I talk to people who say something like, “Oh, I don’t read books. I just want to write one.” But according to one post I read, more people are reading books today than in the 1940s. And no doubt, people read tons of content online. And the advent of ebooks and fan fiction sites have made it easier for people to access our work. Alvin Toffler said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” As a writer, I’m excited by the fact that our medium is changing, making it possible to reach more readers in new ways.
Tip: Describe your ideal reader. List where they hang out online and offline. Start connecting with them now.
3. Opportunities abound. Over ten years ago, my husband and I attended a writing conference where the main speaker screamed at us, “No, no, no, no. Get used to it, you’re going to hear it a lot.” No kidding. My attic is packed with old manuscripts and boxes of rejection letters. But guess what, people: today “no” doesn’t mean “never.” It means, “Not here.” Today we have a gazillion options for publishing and promoting our work. How can that be a bad thing?
Tip: Make a list of six to ten venues you can use to get your work into the hands of your readers. Get creative!
A final word. Writers, we have more control over our work than ever. This is both good and bad. With the additional control comes the responsibility of creating good work and finding readers to purchase it. It can all be quite overwhelming at times. In the next weeks, I’ll be unpacking some of the big questions:
*Should I get an agent or go it alone?
*Should I self publish or look for a traditional publisher?
*Should I do an ebook or a trade paperback or both?
*Should I hire an editor? When? What kind?
YOUR TURN! If you have questions you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below. As a thank you to you, I’ll be raffling off a 30-minute coaching session.
What a great, inspiring post to wake up to! Thanks, Rochelle!
Great post! Amen to the part about the ‘joy of creating.’ I’d been waking up depressed every morning for several months. Today I woke up happy. As I lay in bed considering the difference, I knew immediately it was because I’d been creating a new game over the weekend. (Although I also write pb mss, puzzle books and games are my area of successful publication.) My question I’d like to see more help with is: What are the best ways to break into the Christian picture book market without an agent?
GLAD you woke up happy and inspired. And great question!
I’m debating on whether to get an agent or not. ::sigh::
Good question. I will definitely cover this.
Another great post! I’d like to learn more about copyright rules I need to follow when writing non-fiction. For example, if I want to include a famous quote in my work, do I need to get permission from the person or family estate (if deceased) or is giving attribution enough? Are there any books on copyright rules for writers that you would recommend?
I will answer this in a tip. Until then, know that the rules are different depending on how much of the work you are quoting. For example, it’s much harder to quote poetry than a reference book. Publishing houses differ in what they require, and for some quotes you will have to pay to use them. I paid to use some Rumi in a previous book. Good luck!
Is it necessary to include a question mark with a rhetorical question? I have many examples in my book where the character is asking a question to themselves. For example: He turned and left the room. Why couldn’t he have stayed just a little longer? Maggie picked up her coat and headed out the door.
I would include question marks for rhetorical questions. Sounds like an interesting story!
Great post, Rochelle. Love the quote by Shel Silverstein.
I’d like to read more about when (& where) to hire an editor, as well as what a writer can expect to pay.
Great questions–I will definitely write about this one!
Thank you! This is a great post. Two years ago, I quit a well-paying job that was killing me (serious). I started writing and have self-published two books. And while I haven’t sold millions, I have great feedback and support. And – I’m healthier and happier, which is enough.
Good for you, Martha! Glad to hear this worked out for you. Any questions for me?
“The only terrible writing is the writing we don’t do.” Love this idea. I’m going to write it on a Post-it note and stick it on my laptop.
How do I convince other writers who are about to self-publish that their manuscript needs one good going-over by an editor?