Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Inspires?

I've written a lot about writing. I like that topic better than writing about the industry.

Glyn Pope recently wrote that he had read a book that was so well written that he wondered if he should just give up writing (he was being dramatic). My friend Joy Collins and I were having an email conversation about a book she read that was so well written that it inspired her to strive to be a better writer.

Not to be egotistical, but I know I can write. I know no one sees coming what happens to Kathryn's friend in Kathryn's Beach. I've had many comments from readers about how that effected them. There aren't as many comments about High Tide, but I know that the characters come alive and even though humorous writing is a tough market, I've managed several humorous scenes in that book while telling a poignant story. The impact is more subtle, the inner response more quiet though personal beyond words to those who can relate. I know the writing and the story 'type' change in Storm Surge to a different level, perhaps less personal for the reader and more typical writing, but one of the best books I've written.

I don't have a crisis of faith about my writing - though I fully understand those who doubt their skills from time to time. I never want to give up the craft, but I could easily kiss the industry goodbye and never look back.

I've been at my new job for a month now. No one bothered to ask what I do when I'm not working. So they are just finding out about the writing. Get this, they asked if I'd lend them a book to read. That was an awkward moment. I don't exactly have a loaner copy of my books. I don't even loan other people's books that I own. Why? Because I know that the author doesn't get a dime for books that aren't bought new. Nope, not from the used bookstore, not from the used section in Amazon, not from the garage sale down the street.

I never think about giving up writing, but I could give up publishing in a heartbeat. Imagine no more query letters, romancing agents, hoping they can successfully shop the ms, that the sell through numbers will be high enough not to hurt my career. Oh I could give that up and never look back. Especially now that I publish my own books and have to do my own marketing. Oh yeah, I could walk away from that very easily.

The industry isn't like the public thinks it is. One person at the office asked if didn't I get a bunch of free books. No, I never have. Most publishers give a very limited number of comp books to their authors. The free books we give our closest friends and family are not really free, we've bought them. Now sometimes we can buy them at a discount and I certainly do get a good deal now that I do my own thing, but shipping isn't free - coming or going. So yeah, I could give up publishing them even though my books are well received.

What a horrible thing to write when I know most of my audience [for First Draft] are aspiring writers. But the reality is that writing is one thing and that thing is a very satisfying adventure. Reading a book is one thing, but writing one and seeing the story unfold before your eyes is even better than any reader can imagine. Once the role shifts to a drive to publish, it changes things. Frankly, I want back the old days when I knew nothing about the industry, when I didn't have to read about eBooks and their readers and figure out if I really want to do that with my books because of the price of eBooks.

People in that discussion, usually consumers and non-industry executives of eReaders, don't realize that the end price of any book is offsetting other expenses. The price question isn't only about the cost of producing that copy of the book, but the price of staying in business to produce books; that bestsellers have to 'carry' the underperformers.

In a way this blog post is simple rambling thoughts of a crazed writer who spent too much time in the heat today. In another way, it is a collection of facts that challenges the myths of the industry held by the general population.

If you want to learn more about how the industry works from a couple of reliable sources, look for these books: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner; or a really good book about the script industry - everyone should own this book if no other book about writing of any type - The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski.

Here's Glyn's blog post:
and Joy Collins is at


  1. Thanks. One thing I didn't say that we all know, to be a writer, one has to be a self motivated person. Millions of people start writing a novel and never get it finished. Millions of people say they have thought about writing and never begin.

    So to those of you who write, I applaude you.

  2. Well said, all of it.
    I think I may enjoy the publishing part of it more than you do, Nadine, but marketing is a place where we both agree.
    And, yes, there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Just about everyone tells me they have a book in them but it's rare for most to get beyond that point. Anyone who completes a whole manuscript should pat themselves on the back. Whether it's the next great American novel or "just" a book, the fact that someone gets that far is noteworthy.
    Why do we write? For me, it's something I have to do. I see the world as a writer. I find myself narrating my life to myself sometimes. Maybe that's a form of insanity. But I tried not writing and wasn't happy. I have to write. Some days it may just be a blog entry but at least it's something.
    And I read. Every day. Yes, that book [The Help] made me wish I was a better writer. It certainly gave me the drive to want to be better. To try harder. And to get back at the keyboard and write more.