Good questions, right?
I’ve been writing fiction off and on since 1990. I’ve submitted works to major publishing houses and received rejection form letters with a few personal rejections thrown in. I’ve tried to be ‘normal’ all my life and obviously not well or I’d be a big name in the traditional published writer world.
Back when I first started submitting, there were independently published writers. They sold their ‘books’ out of the back of their van, truck, or car. Most of their works had those plastic ring binders, while the shorter works were stapled. All of them had covers with ‘original’ artwork scribbled by the author. Ninety nine percent of the time, these authors had to self-publish via vanity press because their subject matter was way too esoteric for a major publisher to consider. The history of a now extinct town in West Bumfuk Egypt? Yep, esoteric. Publishers aren’t in it for their health or for the benefit of art and the author. They’re in it to make money and lots of it.
So how does this history lesson apply to today’s world of literature and why writers write?
Today is very different. With one click and a document, anyone can be an ‘author’. This fact is both wonderful and horrific. People who were subjectively rejected by the Big Five are now able to publish and letting readers enjoy works written outside the boundaries. Me, personally, I’ve wallowed in this like a pig in a mud hole, enjoying the ability to read works outside of the romance formula. There are authors I one-click who have never been traditionally published. They’re the ones I’m sitting around like a word junkie and asking “You done with that paragraph, yet? Can I be your alpha reader? Don’t care about editing, just gimmie gimmie gimmie.” You know who you are.
Traditional writers have always…how to write this…looked down their nose? Thought less of? Didn’t take seriously? …the self published authors and with good reason. I’ve been through four Warrior Dashes and each was much easier than getting traditionally published, even the Dash I didn’t train for AT ALL. Plus, there is NO instant gratification with traditional publishing, and I’ve heard one multi published author, Jodi Thomas (who is wonderful!! I’ve worked with her husband at a college and both of them are great people!), who has said you’re being paid to wait, not write. As an impatient control freak, I more than admire the traditionally published authors. They do what I am mentally unable to, which is wait.
Which all leads us to the bottom line and answering the question of what if I didn’t write and why continue to write, especially when considering 2014’s bust after 2011-2013’s boom.
Being personal, here are my bullet items.
I write because I must. There are so many stories in my head, they need an outlet. Plus, I can’t help inventing new characters and plots, and even if it’s garbage. I truly have no choice in this. Some of what I imagine is fit for publication, others you’ll never see because no one wants to read a Mary Sue about Data from Star Trek:TNG. Yes, I feel shame and no, you can’t read it.
What went up and came down will go up again. This is a certainty to me because I’ve endured many booms and busts. From the oilfield, to the dot coms, to housing markets, and now to self-publishing, I’ve seen days of making tons of money to making just enough to keep the lights on and ramen noodles stocked. This downturn in ebook sales doesn’t scare me. It reminds me of what my true goals are and that is to write the best story possible, every single time.
My mother taught me a long time ago that there are no even numbers in art, so here’s a third. What would I do if I didn’t write? I’d keep reading and I’d be more aggressive about scheduling knitting classes to teach. I might even go back and see what it would take to update my computer science degree from client server skills to web guru. Not a problem because I’d already went from mainframe to client server. I can do all this for the money, but writing? I do it for my heart and soul. Cliche’? Yeah, but still very true.
Now back to work! My editor is expecting The Very Worst Man in her email on January 2nd and it’s going to be fun to deliver.