Okay, so maybe you didn’t want to become a Guinea Pig groomer. But I’m guessing all of us, at some point or another, have threatened to make s’mores on a bonfire from the worthless piles of paper we thought would be our published beauties. We’ve all read the blog posts about pushing through writer’s block, romancing your muse, conquering the three-act structure, etc, etc. and thought, “Okay, then, let’s do it,” only to moan into our pillows that we’re doomed to failure.
So sure, I could give you a pep talk, convince you that you can do it, but I won’t. Today, I’m going to give you three solid reasons why quitting this writing gig may, indeed, be the way to go.
1) Writing is hard.
How many times have you encountered a well-meaning friend or stranger who announced, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. You know what, I’m going to do it. You’re doing it, so can I,” and you’ve smiled and politely responded, “Yes, you absolutely should,” instead of telling them that shoeing grasshoppers is easier?
Writing is hard. You’re creating people, worlds, lives out of the chaos in your brain. Those people have to talk to each other, they have to do things, think things, grow and learn from those things. They have to be people that perfect strangers will relate to and cheer for (or collectively hate). Your settings have to be vivid and your action has to be plausible.
And after you’ve written 90-some thousand words, you may have to scrap a few thousand of those painfully bled words. You’ll have to revise then revise again. You’ll find that you’ve used “brilliantly” 243 times in the manuscript and that your character went from brunette to red-head without ever opening a tube of hair color. Or that the perfectly worded, heart-wrenching scene where the main character confesses his deepest, darkest fears to the Guinea Pig just doesn’t work in that story.
2) Writing is heartbreaking.
You’ve put in the hard work, persevered, and you’ve got a shiny beautiful manuscript. You send it to agents and wait. You know at least 124 of the 126 you’ve queried will love it and offer. How could they not love it? Your email pings and it’s one of the agents, your heart does a hippity-skip and you rehearse how you’ll respond to the offer of representation. Except it’s a rejection. And it’s followed by another 147 rejections.
Until one agent loves it and off it goes to editors. When the "thanks but no thanks" start pouring in all over again, you wonder which one of you – you or your agent – was on antihistamines when you thought the manuscript was ready for prime time.
Until one editor loves it and your baby manuscript is sent out into the real world. The reviews start populating Goodreads and Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And readers point out every flaw you don’t have and accuse your Guinea Pig of being on steroids. Your book should be banned because of all the curse words and they boldly announce that you used “poop bucket” 6 times.
But they’re strangers, what do they matter?! Your neighbor who you walk your Guinea Pigs with every day just finished reading it and you can’t wait to hear how much she loved it. Except she has an awkward grin and mutters something along the lines of “You worked on that book for several years, right? Hmmmm,” and you wish the turkey vulture flying circles above you would hurry up and swoop you away.
3) Writing is expensive.
Have computer, will write. Easy as that.
Not so fast.
There’s software to help you write more efficiently, apps to zap you if you try to get on Facebook during writing time and software to help with keeping your story timeline under control. For some of us, there’s the notebook and pen addiction because each manuscript needs its own notebook to jot down the brilliant ideas and its own pen that you can tuck into the notebook for when those brilliant ideas show up. And if you’re like me, there are the three ring binders and ink cartridges and boxes of paper for printing each draft. And more pens for the revision process because I can’t do the red pen for revision – too cliché (and we all know how important it is to avoid clichés). Anywhoo, a few dollars here and there can quickly add up. And it’s only the beginning!
If you’re serious about your writing, you’re probably attending writing events – conferences, retreats, workshops. The cost on those can quickly add up, especially if they involve travel and hotel stays in addition to registration fees.
‘Scuse me for a sec while I see who’s at the door. Okay, I’m back and with me is the next lesson in “writing can be expensive” … books. In today’s delivery - three books by writer friends. One is a book I’ve already read (received an ARC from the author). Why buy a copy if I already have one? To support the author. And because I loved the book. I’ll use the bought copy as a giveaway at some point.
Notice I said “today’s delivery”? Yup, that’s because it’s the second package this week. I also ordered a book on writing. I have so many of these and I’ll admit that I haven’t read all but I plan to. Really. Just like I will eventually read all of the books on my shelves. Really! Okay, fine. But that doesn’t stop me from buying more. Because I’m a book-a-holic.
Now that I’m preparing for my debut, I’m also starting the hunt for author promos and publicity opportunities. Based on what author friends have done and found successful, I created a wish-list budget. Hubby laughed when I showed it to him (I’m now working on my real-life budget).
But fact is, as an author, you’re going to have to shell out money to promote your book. You’ll be buying copies of your own baby, printing bookmarks, buying those little somethings that you can use for giveaways. You may be paying a publicist to help spread the word or paying for a launch party.
So not only are you torturing your brain cells to come up with amazing new stories, you’re putting your emotions through the meat grinder, and you’ve boarded the express train to bankruptcy.
Told ya I wasn’t going to give you a pep talk! But here's another cute Guinea Pig to make up for it ...
Now that you have a host of excuses to quit, here’s the one reason you shouldn’t …
Writing is the best job ever!
We get to create worlds. And make people (people we don’t have to feed or change or drive all over town at least). And we get to tell stories that will touch others.
My biggest hope (aside from more book contracts, obviously) is to one day hear from a reader that one of my books made them laugh or cry, made them reflect on their own relationships, or just gave them a much needed break from every day stresses. And that hope is what keeps me going when the writing is hard or when the heartbreak feels overwhelming.
Your turn … what’s your reason to keep writing?
Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world, where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.