Friday, July 29, 2011

The Magic Bullet

As a growing writer, I find myself doing more and more stuff related to writing. This means reading more stuff about writing. Blogs, both from pros and those yet to be published. Podcasts, also from pros and amateurs. And especially books. Writing books from all stripes of writers, even from writers I don’t normally read. And one thing I’ve noticed in all of these forums is that new writers such as myself often ask questions where we’re looking for a quick path to success, that short route that will get us into the shoes of J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers. Sometimes, we even phrase our questions in the form of complaints, and I've even heard many say that these two authors achieved their success through luck.

Well, I’m here to say that all of these sources of writerly information also have the same answer to these questions of “how to I get my book published? How do I write a successful novel?”

Hard work.

And that’s it. That’s the answer. I’ve come to see that it’s the only truth out there. When hundreds of published writers all give this answer to those questions, it’s not because they all belong to some secret published writers club that is inventation only, and they don’t want to invite you. It’s because it’s the simple truth.

I know that many of us, myself included, don’t want to see this answer. Or, more often, we nod in agreement, while inside still not believing it, still hoping that there’s some magic bullet out there that will bring us success.

But let’s look at things. Yes, on the surface it appears that Ms. Meyers had some incredible luck in getting her series published and then turned into a series of successful movies. But even with all that, she still had to sit down in front of her computer and write. She had to write and write until the story was finished. Then, she had to go back through it and edit it and re-write it, and do that until it was finished. Then, she had to seek an agent, which meant doing that thing many writers seem to hate: submitting query letters. And I have no doubt in my mind that many agents passed over her book, for one reason or another. Yes, even Stephanie Meyers got rejection letters. But, she kept working, she kept submitting, she maybe even revised her novel more. And then she got an agent, and you know what happened then?

That’s right, she worked more.

There were no doubt more rounds of edits, more drafts that had to be done with the help of her new Agent in order to get the book to a state that the agent felt could be sold. And then the agent did her job, and started finding a buyer.

But even there, I’m sure that Ms. Meyers kept working. She went back to the computer and started on her next book. Maybe she even started on this before she got the agent. In fact, I’d put money down on that. It’s what we writers do.

Then, when she got a publisher who bought her book, the work still didn’t stop. She went through more edits and rounds of drafts, before the editor felt the book could be published. After it was published, no doubt Stephanie had to market her book. She had to do book signings and show up at book stores.

I’m not sure how it works when Hollywood buys your book (hopefully, some day I will), but I imagine that it involved even more work for Ms. Meyers. Maybe not in terms of the script itself, but I’m sure there was still work for her. Negotiations, meetings, reviews, help in making the movie look more like her book. Whatever it was, it was work.

Did she have fun doing all this work? I certainly hope so. Otherwise, it wasn’t really worth it, millions of dollars or not.

So, even though her success seemed quick to us, that’s only because we say the end product, and not all the backend work that went into it.

Hard work.

It’s what we need to do. It’s what I need to do, it’s what all writers need to do. It doesn’t matter your genre, your word count, your style. It doesn’t matter if it’s novels, short stories or poetry.

Hard work is the only thing that will get you there.

So when you hear authors or your favorite blogger say that there is no magic bullet, listen to them. Don’t just nod your head to be polite, think about what they are saying. Because they may just have some insight into this.

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