Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why You Should Write That Book

I read an interesting blog post a couple of days ago about how it's really not a great use of your time to write a book. More specifically, this post listed reasons why it's a waste of time trying to get a book deal.

Basically, the blog author stated the following (I'm paraphrasing her points here):

1) If you think you have a lot of good ideas for a book, you should write a blog instead, because there are very few new ideas.

2) A book is not a good way to gain authority.

3) Books lead to speaking careers, but speaking careers don't necessarily lead anywhere.

4) You'll make more money per hour flipping burgers than writing a book, since the odds against your book becoming a bestseller are "absolutely terrible."

5) When you're feeling lost, a book won't save you.

I cheerfully admit I'm not exactly Albert Einstein, okay? I'm no kind of a genius. But none of those five reasons is even in the same neighborhood as the reasons why I write - Hell, I'm not sure I even understand some of them. Please stay with me as I examine each one individually. Thanks, mom.

1) The post's author seems to be saying that if you have a lot of ideas, none of them would be good for a book, so you should just write a blog.

Has anyone broken this news to Stephen King? He is one of the most prolific authors of this or any other era, and whether you like his style or the genre he writes in, his success is indisputable. How many enjoyable hours would his millions of fans have been deprived of if Stephen King had simply written a blog? The same statement can be made of dozens of authors in every genre. I don't get the point.

2) I don't write to "gain authority," I write to entertain. Period.

I have to laugh when I read the old nugget of wisdom that says, "You should only write what you know." If everyone followed this advice, only serial killers would write about serial killers, you know? And as far as Stephenie Meyer's critically acclaimed vampire series is concerned; well, unless there is some really strange stuff gong on in the Meyer household, those books would never have been written if she followed that advice.

3) Speaking careers? Who the hell writes a book to launch a speaking career?

If a speaking career follows the release of a successful book, that's cool, but most of the people I have met who are successful writers - and I'll grant you it's a pretty small sample, but still - would much rather be pounding away on a keyboard than standing up on a podium talking at people anyway.

4) This might be the best point of all five. In my opinion, it's the only one that even makes any sense. If you're writing a book with the expressed intention of creating a bestseller and gettting rich, it's almost certainly not going to happen. Of course, every single author you know and love had to start out unknown, too, so it could happen.

But even if not one of my novels ever sells, even if I end up making not one red cent off of them, I won't have considered the hundreds of hours I spent writing and rewriting and editing and rewriting to be wasted time. I am happiest when I'm writing - in those magical times when a world I have created is coming to life on a page, and characters are doing things that are extraordinary and surprise even me - no amount of money generated from flipping burgers could ever compete with that, not even if I turned into Dave Tomas and Ray Kroc combined. Especially now, since they're both dead. But I digress.

5) I'm not even sure I get what the point of this one is. It seems to be that writing a book won't give your life direction; but what if the direction your life needs is writing that book? What is so hard to understand about that?

So write that book. No, you probably won't get rich from it; you may not even ever sell it. Perhaps no one but your closest confidants will ever see it. That doesn't make it a waste of your time. Not by a long shot.

1 comment:

neal said...

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