Monday, March 17, 2008

Yesterday, Joe and I had a gig at the Coral Springs Festival of the Arts. We gave a little one hour writing workshop on fine tuning your writing. We actually had a pretty good audience, and they seemed to be taking copious notes. That was a high for us. And I really needed that.
The day before the event, I spent several hours in the Barnes & Noble where the event was going to take place. Not because I was scoping out the joint, but because I was scanning beginnings of new best sellers, examining the premises of the new books, picking out some author craft that I could use the following day in the workshop. About thirty minutes into my adventure I was overwhelmed with what Joe and I and most of us are really up against. There are thousands of, hardcover, mass market, trade, and coffee table books all poised to attract the browsing reader. What’s going to make somebody in Nebraska (we live in Florida) pick my book up and take it to the register? What’s going to make the consumer go look for Sholes & Moore? Lee Child, Jeffrey Archer, Jodi Picoult, Danielle Steele and the like are calling out to the customers from the end caps, dumps, and Just Arrived shelves. How do we go up against that kind of competition?
I suppose the best analogy I can come up with is this. How many kids dream of becoming a pro athlete, movie or rock star? For me, my dream was becoming a writer—a best-selling author. For the kid who wants to be an athlete, he might be the best damn quarterback in his whole county, maybe even an all-star in college, but then he has to come up against the big boys. Suddenly, he’s a small fish in a very big pond. It’s the same for writers. You might be a great writer in high school and college, earning all kinds of accolades. You might be the best in your critique group. But in the end, you have to go up against the big boys. As my husband says in his most eloquent way, if you want to run with the big dogs, you have to piss in the tall grass. Like the aspiring athlete or actor/actress, you pray to be discovered. But looking around Barnes & Noble yesterday pounded the fact home that the writing playing field, like all others, is dominated by a few.
All we can do is write the best book we can, hone our skills, do our homework, and pray for the break-out book. I can’t let the enormity of it all sink me. If I do, I’ll never write another book—and I’m sure we are all alike—we are compelled to write. It’s a compulsion. It’s hard and tedious and laborious and exhausting, but we have to do it, live to do it. Even if I won the lottery, I’d still write. Writers have a true love/hate relationship with composing. It’s our therapy and our demon. So, before leaving Barnes & Noble, I sat quietly and decided to practice a little metaphysics. I read THE SECRET. I believe in it. Our second book, THE LAST SECRET, was based on that theory. So, I took some cleansing breaths and then concentrated, envisioning a Sholes & Moore book on that best-seller shelf.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But I’ll bet you’ve done the same thing. I’m giving my writing the best I’ve got, there’s nothing else I can do on that front. What harm can there be in a little new age nudge?


Mark Combes said...

I learned this lesson in my transition from high school baseball to college baseball. Everyone is throws a little bit harder, everyone runs a little bit faster than they did in high school...and I quickly learned that I better hit the books.

That's the thing about writing. You can get better. You can increase your skill. With a sport, you have certain given talents that you can improve on, but if you can't throw a baseball 90 miles an hour, then you'll be watching from the stands. You and Joe have the skills - we'll see you two in the big show any day now.

Mark Terry said...

Good luck.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'm with you Lynn. Positive energy and visualization can go a long way. I actually printed out a copy of the New York Times Best Sellers and pasted my name and book titles at the top. :)

Felicia Donovan said...

Lynn, you've reminded me of what a unique group we are that we are driven to be better and better at our craft.

Before THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY ever got published, I spent lots of weekends at the local B&N envisioning it on the shelf. It was a real thrill the day it was actually there.

I'm especially grateful that this skill has no impact on my knees!

G.M. Malliet said...

I liked your line about how you'd continue writing even if you won the lottery. That may be the acid test for any writer. If I won a few million I'd travel more so I'd have more places and people to write about.