Being a writer, I spend quite a bit of time reading (when I should be actually writing) the websites of my counterparts. On the one hand, it is nice to see "we" all struggle with the same issues, especially when it comes to trying to find actual time to write. On the other hand, it's discouraging to see just how much competition there is in the industry. Okay, maybe competition is a strong word because I have yet to find a writer who is not supportive of other writers, even in the same genre. At Lit Fest over the weekend, I saw two mystery writers who became friends, then one introduced the other to her agent, and there were a lot of, forgive the phrase, kumbaya moments. It was inspiring.
Still, as I walked around the fest, seeing all the books laid out in row after row at the used book tents, browsing the tables where writers sold copies of their books, and listening to other writers on panels and in the audience, I started to panic. I need to finish these damn stories I am writing/revising! I need to publish them. If the lady who wrote about talking cats can get a book published, then I need to get working. I don't even care if anyone buys my books because, frankly, after seeing all the options out there, why on earth would anyone want to read my novel?
I know I will never be Sandra Brown or Nora Roberts. I may never luck out and get into the big publishing houses in New York (even though it will always be a dream). When I asked Lauren Weisberger, author of "The Devil Wears Prada", about the publishing process she said she already had some connections and it was dumb luck. It made me question myself: Should I be working in the industry? Waiting in the wings for the right opportunity like a roadie who's on tour, who's secretly an excellent musician and then gets his big break when the guitarist comes down with the flu and he raises his hand and says "I can play all his solos blindfolded" and he gets the job and then bam, everyone wants to know who's the new guy? (Sorry, rant much?) Am I networking enough? Do I even have time to network? And for crying out loud, why can't I finish the revisions on this damn novel?!
Back to me spending too much time reading and not enough writing...I frequent Writer Unboxed and today's post struck a cord (hence today's bloggy blog post). Sarah Callender said the most poignant thing. "I can’t stop writing any more than I can stop breathing or blinking..." Oh Sarah, truer words have never been spoken. And while I waited (too long) until my forties to start taking my craft seriously, I have always been a writer in some way, shape or form. I don't expect to make a million bucks but if I could, I'd write until my hands fell off. My brain has so many stories filed away, I know there is no way they will just stay put. They need to transfer to the page.
I think I've always just assumed that I will publish and people will love what I write. That is every author's dream, of course. But Sarah Callender's post proved she has that little voice in the back of her head that taunts her. Who will read it when there are so many others out there?
My answer: Not Everyone.
Sure, I can see several people I know personally who might have an inkling of curiosity about my book, enough to read a chapter or two. But unless, you're in the demo for my genre (Women 18-44), then I can't imagine it's going to be at the top of your Summer reading list. That said, what will my novel have that someone in the demo may actually find interesting? Actually hold the readers' attention? (Notice I said readers' cuz I know there will be more than one, or I at least hope.)
Callender comes up with some interesting criteria for what readers want. It involves the writer evoking feelings, good and bad, in the reader. The reader feels a connection to the characters because "characters who illuminate and mirror truths about our selves helps us feel less alone." And the reader likes to be surprised. Whether it's a good surprise or a bad one, no one likes to bored.
It made me think about my own stories, at least the top three I am working on. What do my stories have that might entice someone? The setting is most always in Chicago, or based around the idea of Chicago. The heroine is always "in search of", and despite the genre I write, it's not always love she is searching for. Devyn is searching for a new gig in photography after being publicly disgraced (title: To Be Determined). Kate is searching for a place back in the music business and helps resurrect the career of a famous rockstar (title: Waiting for the Night). And Maddy is searching for a way to repair her deceased father's reputation by collaborating with the one person that helped destroy it in the first place (title: Beyond Belief).
Are these novels going to be best sellers? Will they have the same buzz as, say, Gone Girl or Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Maybe not. But I will try my best to make sure they have an eye-catching front cover, an enticing synopsis on the back cover, and the criteria that will keep a reader turning the page.