Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 30, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Truths About Writing

By Sharla Rae

Okay, be honest, at times, you’ve thought of hanging up your writer’s shoes. It’s not just the sledge hammers that everyday life keeps throwing at you, it’s the stress of the ever-changing industry and that little voice in your head that keeps telling you to get a life away from the computer, away from the imaginary stories in your head, away from the hopelessness of ever seeing your work in print.

Agents, editors and fellow authors all preach the same sermon, “Learn the craft, write a book from your heart, and you’ll get published.” It’s easy to get fed up with these speeches and they begin to feel like a puppy-dog pat on the head – atta girl; you can do it; you know you can! Is your backside wiggling with excitement, yet? Is your tongue hanging out with eagerness?

Okay, we all need a few pats on the head once in a while. In fact, writers do all kinds of things to keep themselves jazzed, like attending conferences and chapter meetings. And what’s the good message we hear? Atta girl; you can do it; you know you can! But beneath it all, we also hear whispers of the bad and the ugly. Over the years, I have attended numerous conferences both national and local and at every single one, predictions for the industry are bleak.

Who are we supposed to believe, the nay-sayers or the ones who pass out the puppy-dog pats? Well, so far, publishers still exist so I choose optimism  . . . with a very savvy and jaundiced eye. And there’s the rub. I’m a storyteller. I don’t want to deal with the rapid-fire industry shifts. It puts this happy puppy off her feed.

Let me share a bit of my publishing history. After publishing three historical romances and about the time I offered my fourth proposal to my editor, distributors started gobbling up each other. Publishers jumped on the bandwagon and both found themselves with large inventories while inheriting whole stables of authors. Midlisters and new authors (that would be me) were suddenly redundant, and many fell through the cracks of the unwanted.   

Talk about depressing! My rejections read something like, “Love the book, love your style, but we have too many of these stories right now.”

I didn’t give up. I’m a steadfast Capricorn of Scotch Irish decent. I’d done it three time already so I could d*@# well do it again. Atta girl!

Then another shift occurred and it felt very personal. This time, my rejections read, “Love your style, love your humor and characters, but we’re not buying American-set historicals. Write a Regency.” Anybody who writes Regencies knows that those English blokes have a special lingo and a history of their own. Being a perfectionist, I knew I’d study for at least a year before I wrote another word if I went that route.

Stubborn to the core, I believed those preachy articles that repeatedly told me to write what I know, and write from my heart. I refused to change because a few strangers in New York told me I must. Was I wrong?

Yes and no. I was writing what I loved, but there was little to no market for it. Had my name been better known, perhaps I’d have continued selling. But I was still a mostly-unknown author and soon found myself editing my husband’s scientific reports for work. I wrote and improved my fiction writing, but it was in the background. When I happened to attend a PAN meeting or two at local chapters, the other published authors looked at me as if they wondered how I managed to crash their meeting. Talk about humiliating and discouraging!

So, what woke me up? Resentment? Yes. Self-pity? Yes. And those two ugly emotions fired up my Capricorn nature. I like to be boss, and I never quite a job until it’s done and done well. And this Cappy was far from done!  

I finished my current historical – I never quit a job mid project -- that’s just me – and I started researching and plotting a paranormal/futuristic romance, another genre I love. I also dug my CEO hat out of the closet. It itches a little but it fits just as well as it did back in the day. I now spend non-writing time on the business of writing.

And then . . . 

In walks e-books, another game changer. For the less tech savvy, the how-tos are daunting, but nobody can ignore the wowing possibilities. I’ve decided I can do nothing but embrace it. My characters need a home, be it on a printed page or a virtual one.

Dump the good, the bad, the ugly into a blender and what do you get?  

Tough love. There is no good time to write and there is no bad time either. That’s life. If you toss your computer out the window, who cares? Thousands of writers are aching to replace you. Conversely, nobody cares if you hop 0nto the roller coaster of a writing career and hang on for the thrill of the ride. The question is, Do You Care? For me the answer is YES!

Will you be still tempted to quit? Yes, every single day.

Will I ever give up? Absolutely.

I will give up . . . when it stops being fun; when I run out of words, when the stories dry up, when my skeletal fingers crumble at the keyboard and my skull falls off. Whether or not I ever publish again, I’m a storyteller. It’s what I do.

0 comments on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Truths About Writing”

  1. Gritty, down to earth honesty! Atta girl! You're too good a writer to give up.

    Yes, I know that's another pat on the head. Nevertheless, it's true.


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