Blame My Teachers

Blame My Teachers

Blame My Teachers

Teachers are an interesting sort.  They are like guiding lights showing us the way along the path of life.  For some.  Some of us were difficult students (me).  And some individuals have no business being in a formal education setting (I won’t name names).  The fact remains: The people in my life who had perhaps the most profound effect on me were my teachers.  Three come to mind.  That’s not to diminish my appreciation for my other teachers.  I went to a private school and was fortunate to have a whole cast of characters whose genuine concern was my education and well-being.  They were all good.  They all cared.  And they all affected me.

But I digress, three stand out.

Elementary School

I was fortunate enough to have Mrs. Cowan for both first grade and third.  She read aloud to us.  I still tear up thinking about the intense, emotional experience of Where the Red Fern Grows.  She did voices.  Read with drama and flair.  Story time was better than anything on TV.  She let her students soar with their strengths upon discovering their talents.  Take me for example.  When it came time for math, or science, or even history, I got bored.  Especially Math.  Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine were popular at the time, and I had read them all.  When I found myself waiting for another book to be released, I instead ventured into my earliest manuscripts.  Most teachers upon catching a student ignoring his math lesson to write gruesome and juvenile horror would have disciplined me.  Instead, she read it an encouraged me to continue writing.  She didn’t panic at the blood and guts.  No.  Instead, she took it as the musings of a little boy with a wild and overactive imagination.

Mrs. Cowan, thank you for not stamping out my spark of creativity.  You kindled the flame by showing me how to fall in love with make-believe, and I never grew out of it.  That fire is still alive in me today, and you’re one of the reasons why.

Middle School

In middle-school and high school, I had a truly brilliant woman for English, writing, reading, and drama.  Ms. Huibregste was always prepared for every lesson.  She’s the reason I like the subject of history now.  It is, after all, the pursuit of knowing humanity’s true story inspired by actual events—perhaps the most relevant subject to know in order to refrain from repeating the mistakes of our past.  She loved to laugh and have fun, but she took teaching very seriously, and expected her students to take learning the same way.  Her classes exposed me to great literature and a lot of it.  And my favorite thing about any class she taught was the promise of a whole stack of writing assignments.  My peers and I produced hundreds of thousands of words for this woman.  She made us do it until we knew how to do it right.  Until we were good at it.  Her standards and expectations were high, but always within reach.

Melissa, thank you so much for the pleasure of sitting in your classes for the most crucial years of my development.  I could fill books with the knowledge I learned there (and I intend to).  You taught me how vast literature is, and how to recognize great work when I read it.

High School

In my last three years of high school, I met a man called Mr. Hanold.  He made a first impression as an eccentric, and lived up to it until I graduated.  He taught my expository writing class.  Piggybacking on Ms. Huibregste’s foundation, he gave us pens, notebooks, and said, “Go.”  Whatever musing happened to be crawling around in our beehive of teenage minds we recorded into a journal at his instruction.  All to make space for creativity to flow like a stream from our imaginations.  Once, I left a tidbit I’d written outside of class on his desk.  He read it, and after class the next day, asked me to stay behind and explain myself.  I confessed my deepest, darkest secret to him: writing is the only thing in the whole world that makes me feel truly alive.  He took me under his wing, helped me get published for the first time, showed genuine enthusiasm in reading my work, and critiquing it.  On more than one occasion he said about my writing, “You can do better than this; write it again.  And again.  And again.”

Scott, thank you for believing in my talent, and for believing  in me.  Thank you for telling me the truth about how hard it is to be a writer in this day and age.  I’m so grateful for the courage you gave me to try it anyway.  I haven’t quit.  You can’t lose, if you refuse to quit, right?

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it.  The first teacher taught me to enjoy my imagination—to relish in it.  The second taught me the discipline to produce excellence, to hone my craft, to make the sacrifice of time and study.  The third taught me what it would take to pursue my dreams, and told me I possessed the moxie to make them come true.  Every bit of success I owe in no small measure to these wonderful, weird people.  These teachers.  Words are my thing, but they fall short in adequately articulating my humblest and sincerest gratitude.

So, I hope “Thank you,” will suffice.

Why I Review Books and Why You Should Too

Why I Review Books and Why You Should Too

This post explores the effects and benefits of taking the time to leave honest, critical reviews for books and e-books.  It may seem like such a small thing, but it has a profound effect for the reader, the author, and the book itself.  Discover why reviews are such a big deal, and why authors regard them so highly (even the negative ones).

You’re Already Thinking It

Reading a book is not just an activity; it’s an experience.  If it’s well-written, I make a connection to the characters and invest in the plot.  I feel the emotions from the laughter and joy just as much as the pain and loss.  After making the journey from the front cover to the back, sometimes I feel satisfied and sometimes I feel cheated.  Regardless, after finishing a book, one thing remains true: I have something to say about it.

Just like the conversation most folks have leaving the auditorium of a movie theater as the credits roll, I like give those around me the impression a book left on me.  My favorite character.  The chapter that made me laugh.  The plot point that took me to the edge of my seat.  Why I couldn’t put it down.  I like to hear the same things from my friends (the ones who read).  Books, just like films, can be eye-opening, thought-provoking, and life-changing.  If they found such a book, I want to read it too.

They Influence Your Decision

If you read a lot you probably have a stack of books in queue, waiting to be read.  On those rare occasions when I’ve made it through the stock and I’m actively looking for something new to sink my teeth into, I hit Amazon and start looking through e-books I might like.  When I see a title or a cover that strikes my fancy, I read the synopsis.  Even after the hook piques my interest, there is still one place I look before making my final decision: the reviews.

Reviews show you the feedback of others who have gone before you.  The reviews are categorized and counted by how many stars readers awarded them.  This total is averaged and the book is given a score.  When I see a book with a hundred reviews, and it averages as a 4-star or 5-star, I take it as a good sign.  But I don’t stop there; I take the time to read through a couple of the reviews, making sure to read both the positive and negative things.

All books are not created equal, and in the same vein, not all reviews are helpful.  I would rather see a 3-star review that outlines the reader’s likes and dislikes than a 5-star review that just says, “I loved it.”  I want to know what they loved and why.  It kills me to read oversimplified reviews.  I watch people post novella-length tirades on social media complaining about their experience with a local fast food joint, but they won’t take more than a few minutes to post an intuitive review about a book they spent hours reading.

Behind the Scenes

Readers only ever see the finished product of a writer’s work.  They don’t see the editing and revisions, the cover design, the endless queries and rejection letters, the formatting, and the marketing.  Do you know why authors always encourage their readers to leave a review?  It helps.  Reviews help the book rank higher in keyword searches on Amazon, and they help encourage readers to buy and read the book once they find it.  I wish I could count how many authors I find online doing everything they can to promote their book, and find out they have less than ten reviews.  It makes me sad when I take the time to read their book only to find a little-known treasure no one has noticed for one reason: a shortage in reviews.

For this reason, I make sure to take the time to leave an honest critique of books I read.  I like to think of it as paying it forward.  Perhaps, if I take the time to help an author out, my readers might just do the same thing.  It is not just for the author’s benefit that you take the time to leave a review, however.  The book that you so thoroughly enjoyed, another person might dismiss at a glance for lack of reviews.  That’s sad.  So sad.  So why not give others the opportunity to enjoy what you enjoyed.  To share in your pain and your pleasure.  Perhaps you didn’t like it.  At all.  There’s nothing wrong with leaving a negative review either.  Ever finished a book you didn’t like and wish someone wrote a review telling you what to expect?  You could be that person for someone else.

Why Should You?

If you want to know what’s in it for you, here’s some incentive you might find interesting.  Did you know that Amazon will contact people who leave a lot of reviews?  Merchants selling on Amazon can purchase access to consumers who are likely to review.  These customers will oftentimes get offers to try products for free in exchange for a review.  Now, the people they choose have usually left reviews numbering in the thousands, and probably buy online more often than the average person.  Still, I can’t imagine how someone could decline receiving goods at no cost in exchange for their opinion.  Every time I turn on social media I see there is no shortage in sharing opinions.  Leaving reviews is one of those rare opportunities where your opinion can truly make a difference.  So, why not?

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.  Moreover, I hope this inspires you to leave good reviews for things you read.  Somewhere behind the scenes, there’s an author hoping and praying for a reader just like you.  As always, thank you for reading and feel free to leave any feedback in the comments section below.

Worth the Wait

Worth the Wait

Being the outgoing person I am, meeting new people offers an exciting prospect.  It used to make me nervous, but after some observation, I realized it was the same exchange over and over.  You trade names and ice-breaking questions, namely, “What do you do for a living?”  I used to answer this question with what I do for my day job.  Now that I’m working to build better habits in self-promotion, I answer by saying, “I’m a writer.”  This ensures every new person I meet hears about me and my work.  While an effective marketing strategy, it also opens me up for haters to take their jabs.

“So how much money do you make off each book sold?”

I tell them, and they follow up with, “Safe to say you’re not in it for the money, then?”

I politely explain that I’m not in it for the money.  I do it because I love it.  Yes, I’m building a lucrative career with writing, but it’s a journey and I’ve only just begun.

“So how many books have you sold?”

I tell them, they snicker, and say, “I guess it’s safe to say your book is not exactly a bestseller.”

This is where I get in trouble.  I hate this attitude—as if the measure of my success as an artist is defined only by how much money I make.  Despite my most valiant efforts to hold back the sarcasm, I typically reply with something along the lines of, “No, it’s not a bestseller.  If it were a bestseller you would have already heard of it, of me, and would be asking me for my autograph instead of demeaning my artistic endeavors by narrowing something as broad as success down to how many books I’ve sold and how much money I’ve made.”

It’s about this time I lose any hope of this person ever buying and reading my books.  And while I should perhaps be a little less cavalier about it, I feel no great loss.  Success takes time, and anyone I encounter who cannot respect the journey, gets categorized as a hater.

Ain’t nobody got time for haters!

Rather than get discouraged, I think on people who took a while to come into their own.  One of my favorites is the inspiring story of Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  By and large, his story is a long and tragic tale, but it takes a twist at the end no one would expect.

At age 5, his father died.  He dropped out of high school at 16, and lost four jobs by the age of 17.  He married at 18, fathered a child at 19, and his wife left him at 20.  He worked as a railroad conductor until he was 22.  After this run of bad luck, he joined the Unites States Army and washed out there.  When that didn’t work out, he applied for law school and was rejected.  He tried his hand at selling insurance and failed yet again.  Failure after failure paved the road leading him to work as a cook and dishwasher at a café.  Here, he worked until he retired at the age of 65.

Day one of retirement landed him a check from the government in the amount of $105.  Taking this as a slight, as if to say he lacked the capacity to provide for himself, he felt life no longer worth living.  Deciding to commit suicide, he sat under a tree to write his will, but instead he wrote what he would have accomplished with his life.  It was in this moment of clarity he realized there was more in life he hadn’t done, more he hadn’t tried.  In attempt to soar with his strengths, his mind went to the one thing he knew he could do better than anyone else he knew: cook.

After borrowing $87 he bought and fried up some chicken using his recipe.  With no restaurant of his own, no avenue to sell, he took the time to go door-to-door and sell to his neighbors in Kentucky.  Imagine the nerve!  Knocking on someone’s door and asking them to buy fried chicken from a stranger!  But guess what.  It worked.

At the age of 88 he was the billionaire owner of the second largest restaurant chain with almost 20,000 locations globally in 123 countries.  And he almost committed suicide because he felt he was a failure.

I have one up on Harland Sanders.  He didn’t realize what he loved and what he was really good at until he was 65 years old.  I’m not even 30 yet and I know exactly what I love and what I’m really good at.  I have years to hone my craft, decades to get exposure for my work, and all of the passion and determination it takes to make something work.  It won’t happen overnight—until it does.

One day, my books will be on shelves.  Someday people will know who I am and the work I do.  Eventually, I will not have to work a day job to make ends meet; I will use my talent and creativity to employ myself.  I’m already living my dream.  Just because it isn’t fully realized doesn’t mean it never will be.

When you get discouraged, work harder.  It will make you feel better.  When you get down, think about Harland Sanders, how long it took him to find his niche, and how well it paid off.  You’ll get there so long as you never give up.

Turn Your Manuscript into an E-book

Turn Your Manuscript into an E-book

This article outlines how to turn your manuscript (as a Word document) into an e-book. What took me weeks to research and glean from several sources, I’ve compiled here in a one-stop shop for you. It takes a little bit of effort, but the good news is: it’s not hard—at all.

When it came time to publish the second installment in my fantasy series, Crusade, I knew right away I did not want to take the traditional route to publishing. I spent years trying to get Conspiracy published. Countless query letters. Piles of rejection notices (if they bothered to reply at all). Only to end up getting roped into a joint-venture contract with a vanity press. Needless to say, that process left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So I started researching self-publishing.

Formatting: Write the Right Way

This is the most time-consuming part of the process. Your Word document has to be formatted a certain way or it will look wonky when it hits the e-reader device. My suggestion, if you plan to publish multiple books, is to format your manuscript while you’re still writing. Waiting until the end and trying to change everything is a hassle. Believe me; I know.

Table of Contents

Microsoft Word has tables integrated into the software that will make these for you. It’s really important to have one so it will transfer into your e-book. While the software typically keeps the reader’s place, it’s a huge convenience to be able to jump wherever you’d like to go in case that fails.

The Table of Contents in Microsoft Word works on the styles templates. Usually, you’ll see them displayed across the top of the screen.

template

Chapter titles will appear in the Table of Contents using the Heading 1 style. You can alter the font, size, and alignment as you will. I use Cambria font, 16-point, boldface, center alignment for mine because I like the way it looks on the e-reader screen, but feel free to get creative. It’s your book and should look the way you want it. It is important to note, you should make sure any part of the chapter title you want to appear in the Table of Contents is part of the Heading 1 style.

I’ll use one of my format as an example. I include the chapter number, title, and perspective from which the chapter will read.

—1—
A Sample Chapter
CALEB

Whichever parts of this segment I include in the Heading 1 style will appear in the Table of Contents. If I included the whole thing, it would look like this:

—1— A Sample Chapter CALEB

As you add to the manuscript or make changes, be sure to right-click on the Table of Contents and click Update Field, Update entire table, and save the document. Remember, you don’t have to follow this format to the letter; it’s your book.

Paragraph Format

Speaking from experience, this can be a pain if you mess it up. I’ve noted writers will format their manuscripts in different ways, usually based on preference. Some use double-spaced lines. Some use indentations. Others use HTML format (line break after each paragraph, no indentation). When it comes to turning your manuscript into an e-book, there is a right way to do it.

For the body of your story, use the No Spacing style. Do NOT use the Tab button to indent. At the top of your page, Microsoft Word will have a ruler. On either side of those rulers are little brackets to margin the indention on the page. Move the top bracket on the left side over one inch for the body of your story. Now, every time you hit the Enter button, the next line will indent automatically.

If you highlight a large body of text, move the ruler, and find some of your paragraphs are double-indented, this means you’ve hit the Tab button. You’ll need to go back and manually delete each incident. It’s a pain, but if you don’t, some of your paragraphs will appear that way on the e-reader.

After the end of each chapter, insert a Page Break. The hotkey command for this is CTRL + Enter. Hitting enter until a new page starts in Word is not sufficient. If you don’t include the Page Break, when you swipe left to turn the page on the e-reader, the end of one chapter will bleed into the beginning of the next and your title will appear in the middle or bottom of the page at times. To keep it streamline, use Page Breaks after everything.

Book Cover

You’ll need to have cover art to complete an e-book. The best resource I can recommend is Fiverr. There are a ton of artist out there willing to make an e-book cover for as little as $5.00. As with most things, you get what you pay for. You can post a request for work, set a budget and outline exactly what you’re looking for. There are artists out there using this site as their main source of income. Once you’ve found an artist you like, and they complete the work you commission for them, you own the image and can use it as you see fit.

File Conversion

I use Amazon to publish as it’s free, user friendly, and pays 35% royalties (25% higher than the industry standard). You control your price within their very reasonable parameters. But before you upload your book on Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, you need to change your manuscript from .doc or .docx into a .mobi file. Here’s some great news for you. There is FREE software called Calibre. It’s user friendly, and if you have trouble, there are some YouTube tutorials out there to show you step-by-step if you’re a visual learner.

Once you download the software, the first thing you need to do is save your manuscript as a webpage or .html. You can do that by File –> Save As, and in the drop-down box beneath the file name ‘Save as type’, select Web Page. Take note of the file location and get ready to convert.

Click on Add Books and find your HTML version of your manuscript. Once it’s added to the queue, select it and click on Convert Books. It should default to .mobi conversion, but make sure that’s what the target file will end up becoming. Upload your cover, title the book, add your name or pseudonym as the author name and start the conversion. It takes approximately 60 seconds to change it.

Uploading on KDP

You’ll need an account with KDP. You can use your Amazon account if you already have one. If not, it’s free and easy to create. Once you’re logged in, click on Create New Title, fill out all of the necessary information, upload your .mobi file, set your price, click the agreement and hit Submit. Kindle says it can take 72 hours for your book to be available in their Store, but I’ve never waited more than a few hours for it.

Once it’s available, it’s time to start marketing. As marketing an e-book is an entirely different animal than writing and publishing one, I intend to write an article outlining some of the marketing techniques I’ve used and found successful.

Until then, I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Thank you for reading!

4 Practical Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

4 Practical Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

Introduction

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller

Ever sit down in front of your computer in full preparation to do some serious writing, and then draw a blank? Yeah, me too. I think it happens to all of us. It can be frustrating and disheartening, especially in this day and age where everyone is constantly on-the-go and in-a-hurry. This article will offer some practical, easy-to-apply advice to help overcome writer’s block. With any luck, you’ll be tickling those keys and filling pages in no time.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal has gained a very 90s-teenage-girl connotation, but can serve as a helpful tool. My mind gets cluttered with day-to-day life. The dishes in the sink. The laundry in the basket. The bills needing paid. Dinner to be prepared. The list goes on and on. Taking the time to write out what’s on my mind, what I’ve done, what I have yet to do, and when I plan to do it helps me to process and clear my thoughts.

Another tactic is free writing. Open a notebook and write everything you’re thinking until all your thoughts are hashed out. Once you run out of things to write, set it aside and put your focus into your work. You might find this kind of clarity extremely helpful in the creative process.

Read as Much as You Write

This one is a tough one for me because I write all the time. I try to devote every spare moment to my work, but I find if I’m not pouring into myself, my work suffers. My primary project is Tales of Espiria, a fantasy series, so I try to read in the same genre. I recommend you do the same; read what you write. I discovered quickly that I have developed quite the critical eye when it comes to my genre. When reading work by renown others (Sanderson, Martin, Jordan, Tolkien, etc.), I take the time to appreciate it more. I take note of the authors’ methods, make notes of the things I like and the things I don’t like to better improve my work.

You don’t have to read the same genre you write. Sometimes it’s good to pick up a feel-good or self-help novel for motivation. Topics like organization or time management help encourage me to stay on the ball and keep working. Regardless, make sure you’re taking the time to take some creativity in so the creativity you’re putting out stays fresh.

Write Something for Fun

If you’re a writer, I hope you’re not doing it for the money—or at least just for the money. It’s a long, hard road and takes a lot of time and dedication before the payoff arrives (in most cases). For me, I get so caught up in Tales of Espiria, I forget that I’m allowed to write other things. To break up the monotony, I take the time to write short stories, poetry, blog articles, book/movie reviews, or fan fiction. Writing is fun and fulfilling for me. Sometimes finishing a few small projects keeps me driven to continue the big ones.

Fan fiction is so much fun. I have written a couple of them and plan to continue. You can create a free account and post on Fan Fiction. Write about your favorite TV series or comic book universe. It doesn’t have to be long, there are no deadlines, there’s no pressure to market it since you’ll never get paid for it, and you will probably have a lot of fun doing it.

Story Cubes

My husband bought me a gift one year for Christmas. I opened a set of dice to find a random assortment of pictures and words printed on them. They might be the best gift he’s ever given me. When I’m itching to write something but find difficulty focusing on the project I want to work on, I give these dice a whirl and build an impromptu story based on the random assortment provided. They’re short, sweet, and to-the-point stories, typically less than 100 words, but sometimes that’s all it takes to get the creative juices flowing.

There are several varieties available online. I recommend Rory’s Story Cubes. They are marketed as children’s toys but do not be dismayed; these things are awesome and worth every penny.

Conclusion

The best advice I can give is to mix it up and find something that works for you. Each individual has his or her own process and way of thinking. Take these tips and cater them to your methods. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there staring at your screen for an hour and expect your work to write itself. I’ve been there, done that, and know nothing makes me feel worse than feeling like I’ve wasted valuable time.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Please let me know and feel free to share with others. If you have any advice on what you do to overcome writer’s block, feel free to contact me so I can feature it in a future blog. Thanks for reading!

What Writers Are Really Like

What Writers Are Really Like

Writers Are Weird

Writers are the weirdest people you’ll ever meet. Well, perhaps not the weirdest, but nowhere near what society would call ‘normal.’ Their minds are seldom in the here and now; they might look calm and collected on the outside, but behind their eyes, their imaginations are always running wild. Writers come in all varieties of personality types, but one thing you’ll find unites them all is this: they never stopped playing make-believe. That childlike sense of wonder about the world around us stood the test of time against the odds of our society’s tendency to encourage people to ‘outgrow’ their imagination. It’s why I like meeting other writers. Regardless of our differences, be they race, religion, income, or any other arbitrary categorization we use to define human beings, our souls are going to connect on a similar wavelength.

In high school, my Expository Writing teacher said to the class, quoting E. L. Doctorow, “Writing is a socially-acceptable form of schizophrenia.” I think every writer at some point in his or her life has questioned their own sanity. I know I have. People make jokes about hearing voices in their head not being normal, and I would think to myself, “I hear voices in my head all the time.” Don’t be alarmed, however. These voices come in the forms of personalities and characters who might one day find themselves on the pages of a future novel. While not true of all writers, you’ll find that most of us tend to talk aloud to ourselves, and not just when we’re working.

Writers Are Artists

In twenty-first century America, we find, heartbreakingly so, that fewer and fewer people read. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I’m just not much of a reader,” I wouldn’t need to write to make money anymore. Living in a digital age, with a buffet of streaming media at the tips of our fingers, more people prefer television and film. So why produce art fewer people will appreciate? Well, have you ever heard someone say, “The book was even better than the movie,”? There’s a reason for that: visual entertainment, no matter how crammed-packed with special effects, will never—I repeat, never—compete with the human imagination. You see, especially for those of us who write fiction, it is the part of the human mind to which we appeal.

When someone says they are an ‘artist,’ we typically think painter, sculptor, dancer, or musician. When someone says they are a ‘writer,’ we have a tendency to put them in a separate compartment. But that’s what we are: artists. Our canvas is a blank piece of paper or computer screen, our paintbrush, a pen or keyboard, and our finished product, an experience. It may come in the form of a story, a poem, an essay, or a blog. We use words to paint a picture in the minds of our readers in hopes to take them to another place, perhaps another time, and see through the eyes and ears of someone who doesn’t even exist. And why? Because we want other people to read our work and enjoy it? Sure. That’s a part of it. But real writers do it because they love it more than anything else in the world. Just ask one.

Writers Understand People

Writers are a scary judge of character and it’s rare to find one gullible or easily-duped. We spend so much time trying to understand people in order to make our characters as believable and relatable as possible. We don’t force our characters say or do anything, we invent them, and let them loose. We constantly ask ourselves, “What would he say?” or “What would she do?” and develop a honed skill at reading people as a result. After studying human behavior for so long, trying to not only understand it, but essentially replicate it, writers can usually deduce the motivation behind people’s words or actions. Long-story-short, I wouldn’t recommend trying to bullshit a writer, though you’re welcome to try. You’ll just give them the opportunity to call out what you’re doing and why.

On the flipside of this, oftentimes you’ll find writers make great friends. We pay attention to what people respond to, positive and negative, and for those we love: we aim to please. For this reason, you’ll notice writers sometimes wear different hats depending on who they are around. It’s not faking or insincere, but another representation of who they are—one they think you’ll respond to best. What can I say? We’re a complicated lot, rich with layers and complexities, and sometimes downright ridiculous. But as Marilyn Monroe once said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Writers Work Hard

If you’re familiar with ‘Family Guy,’ you have probably seen the bit where Stewie heckles Brian about writing a novel. If don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve included the entire quote here for your pleasure.

“How you uh, how you comin’ on that novel you’re working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice litte story you’re working on there? Your big novel you’ve been working on for 3 years? Huh? Gotta, gotta compelling protaganist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? (voice getting higher pitched) Yea, talking about that 3 years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah? (voice returns to normal) No, no, you deserve some time off.”

People love to say this to me for some reason. I suppose they think it’s funny and I suppose it is; I laughed when I saw it—the first time. There’s a terrible misconception concerning writers: that they sit around doing nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Writers work hard. Really hard. Don’t believe me? Sit down at your computer, shell out 80,000 words that make sense, comb through it to make sure it’s as free from grammatical and spelling errors as possible, and then try to talk someone else into paying you for the opportunity to read it. After you’re done, let me know how long it took you to do it.

The truth is we pour our heart and soul into our work. We are just as passionate as any other artist about our work. Blood, sweat, tears, countless hours, and cups of coffee go into transforming ideas for others to understand and enjoy. Another misconception is that all writers are ‘starving artists.’ Some of us are pretty darn good at what we do and make a decent living doing so. Next time you hear someone say they are a writer, remember that just like any person with any profession, they take great pains to produce quality work, and are proud of the accomplishments like anyone would be.

To My Fellow Ink-Slingers

If you’ve stayed with me until this point, hopefully you’re reading this saying, “Yes! Yes!” I know what it’s like being a writer. Every challenge, every insecurity, every snarky comment from every hater who thinks our craft obsolete or irrelevant, I’ve faced it all, and I’m sure you have too. Being a writer isn’t easy. The work is hard, the pay sucks, and the label comes with all kinds of disheartening stigma. But chances are though, you’re like me and you don’t do it for the money or the approval of others; you do it because you love it and you can’t imagine doing anything else. To that I say, “More power to you!”

Our craft is not obsolete and it is not irrelevant. While fewer people read nowadays, the global population is larger today than ever before, and a great many of them still read. Your efforts are not in vain and under no circumstances should you let discouragement of any kind dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. You will find success if you make the decision to never quit and possess the three necessary ingredients: talent, skill, and determination.

Conclusion

For those of you who took the time to read, thank you. Readers are a writer’s best friend. I appreciate you more than I could adequately articulate with words alone. I hope this has given you some insight into what writers, as people, are really like. For my fellow writers, remember this if nothing else: you can’t lose if you refuse to quit. Oh! And one more thing: don’t ever stop listening to the voices in your head.