Monday, August 12, 2013

A Damn Good Book


Do you ever step back from the struggle to create your latest book and remember why you got into this writing business?  Do you remember how little you knew?  Whether your first story was penned in crayon or  written in pencil in a spiral notebook or typed on a computer with slick little Word auto-correcting, there was still that first moment you thrilled at knowing you created a spectacular work.  (Please note I didn't say anyone else had to agree with you that it was spectacular.)

Walk down memory lane with me for a moment.  I started like most everyone else -- a horrible book in hand, the vow to do better than that, and a blank screen in front of me.  I knew nothing about plotting, pacing, and conflict.  I could shape the 'grab two hankies' combined with the 'happy sigh affect' at the end, but the opening hook  (what's that?) and the middle lacked, ummmm..., originality?  My characters never talked on paper the way they coaxed and prodded me in my head.  I definitely had no end goal in mind, or at least one that was based on any understanding of how publishing worked.  A synopsis?  A query?  I have to write one of those, too?  I've plugged along at this thing now for over twenty years.  I had just sold my third book and felt I was still learning.  (Update: Patti has published her sixth full novel and three short stories as of this posting).  I suppose that if you ever think you know it all, it's time to shove away from the desk and quit because there should always be something new to learn - with every idea, with every word and paragraph, and with every completed manuscript.

For instance, with my third book, I ended up defending my manuscript and for the first time understood where my tipping point was - that point where I would walk away without selling it rather than allow something that went against the intent of my story.  (My compliments to my Editor-in-Chief at the time - one smart, saavy woman - who saved the day for me.)  Early on, as a newbie writer, that was not something I even considered ever having to do, let alone feeling strongly enough to take a chance with my reputation and career by doing it.   You've heard the stories.  So have I.  Manuscripts on topics that supposedly won't sell ending up back in the writer's drawer.  Titles changed by publishers to maintain a formula.  Tweak this, don't do that in edits.  Diva authors throwing fits in an attempt to get their way.  Believe me, when I first opened my mouth, I felt like a diva author.  After all, this was my publisher.  What right did I have to complain?

I've had a bit of time to reflect on the problem, the steps I took, and the answers that resolved the situation and it boils down to one thing.

Write a damn good book.  Then, believe you wrote a damn good book.  And then find your tipping point.

There are many, many, many new opportunities evolving every day in the publishing world.  The ebook market and ereaders have changed reading - for the better, in my humble opinion.  That means when one door closes, another possibility opens somewhere else.  Believe that. Search for that.  Take the risk.  Take advantage of every change in the industry and every open door that creates for your work. This situation was one of the reasons I decided to switch to indie publishing and have control over the what, how, where and when of my books and the connection to my readers.

So when you sit down to write, birth the story that's in your heart because one thing in this volatile industry will never change.  It's money in the bank.  It's job security.  It's the motivation to continue pushing when giving up would be tremendously easier.  What is that?  It's simple.

Readers still want a damn good book and it's your job to give them one.

[Originally published on Happy Endings, March 2011]

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