Tag Archives: persistence

The view from Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA, in 2003.

Tempus fugit velut sagitta est, Fugit velut Musa sapientum fixa fructum. Not gonna translate, either. I just read a Twitter feed link about this being Madeline L’Engle’s 100th birthday. Holy cats, huh? Of course, she did manage to start a very good and popular book with “It was a dark and stormy night.” (Brit friends, in this case that period belongs inside the quotation marks.) I have to hand her kudos for that. I’m more like, “It was a dark and stormy night, so I stayed in and watched Netflix.” (Okay, Brit friends, carp about that one all you want. And this one.) 

My point this week is persistence. Unaccountably, I am still not famous and rich. Or at least rich. But I persist. I’m about to start shopping a novel yet again. This time for sure! How do I know? Because every successful author I’ve ever met, or listened to, or read advice from, says so. It’s like Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice! (You don’t want to hear me play the violin, by the way.) (Yes, I sort of can.) Honestly, anyone who says I can’t write a good story is just wrong. Too bad for them when I am famous, huh? And, I know it because all my life I have wanted to write and travel and dole out bits of wisdom. I’ve done it a lot, but not for money. Now, though, the world shall see.

Nothing heavy this week. Just persistence. Are  you persisting?

Cutting Back

Oscar Goodman Welcome Speech at a Conference I Helped Organize and Produce. Probably won’t do that again. 🙂

That conference was a lot of work. But, if you’ll forgive me a quick aside, several years later I ran into Oscar at the ALA Conference when it was held in Vegas. He remembered me, by name, and where we’d met. Then he gave me a free copy of his book, which of course you should buy. I have trouble remembering the name of someone I just met, which may explain why he’s a successful politician, and I’m not.

I have cut back to writing basically just one day a week. That may get expanded, but for the moment that’s the way it is. That day is Tuesday, because for the life of me I can’t manage to get much business as a ride share driver on Tuesdays. I have no idea why not. Other people do it. Today, of course, is Wednesday, and I made about sixteen bucks an hour, which is pretty good for that sort of work. (I meet a lot of interesting people, too.)

On Tuesdays I do the things I resolved to do when I was at the RWA conference in Denver last month. And maybe other stuff as well. I do have an idea for a book, which might be a funny book, but so far that’s all it is. Maybe two projects at one time is enough? We’ll see. But, as I’ve stressed before, I do write. Just yesterday I got some kids through a dangerous situation, people shooting at them even, by using their brains (and running like heck.) It’s the first draft, so it’s fun to write, and no doubt will take three times as long to revise as it did to put down, but that’s okay, ’cause that’s how writing works. Will I have to do it all on Tuesdays? Who knows? But I will do it all, that you can take to the bank.

(It’s gonna be a great book, too. Oo-oo, you’ll like it!)


Back to the Old

Joan of Arc in New Orleans
Joan of Arc in New Orleans

Keyboard. Maybe you dictate. Use a pen. A pencil. Point is, I’m back to writing.

(Sort of a shame. That rant last week got a lot of attention. But, anyway.)

Regular readers of this space will have noticed that I post more items from Odd Godfrey than I do from myself. The reason is simple. Leslie is out in the middle of the wide ocean, with plenty of time between watches to compose things. I have stuff to do. (If she reads this, I’ll tell her that some hacker wrote that line.) No, of course she has much to do. Read her post from October 10th if you want to get a better idea. And she writes. A lot. Which brings me to my point.

All of my working life I managed to incorporate writing into whatever job I had. “A newsletter? I’d be happy to make one!” “A new manual for operating the furbermeizer wrangler? Coming right up!” It didn’t matter what the job was, I’d write something about it. In short, I have been a writer for my entire life. I’ve been a serious writer of bald-faced lies for only the past ten years, maybe less. It took me years to learn how to create lies in a manner that people (may) want to pay for. I persist, due to the one piece of advice I hear from every published author I meet: Keep Writing! I do! I do keep writing! Look, I’m writing this as I write! Leslie Godfrey is also a writer. She writes from the vast expanse of the oceans. (Plural oceans. Read her stuff if you wonder why I say that.) If you’re wondering if you’re a writer, here’s a clue. Do you write stuff? Even when you don’t have to write stuff? Do you feel bad when you don’t write the stuff you meant to write, or maybe not on time? If the answer to any of that is “yes,” then, you, madam or sir, are a writer!

I aspire to one day being able to write advice from the point of view of someone who has sold a raft of books. That day hasn’t happened yet, but I keep on writing. So, this may seem like an obvious way to get back on topic after two weeks ranting about disasters and gun control, but this week’s advice is simply this: Close your browser right now, open your word processor, and write something, dammit!


The forest reclaiming a picnic spot in the Nationalpark Eifel, Germany. Photo by Steve Fey
The forest reclaiming a picnic spot in the Nationalpark Eifel, Germany. Photo by Steve Fey

(More about this and many other pictures in future posts.)

I recently took a twelve-day, eleven-night trip to Western Germany, with side trips to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Holland. My Internet was pretty spotty. We had it in the apartment (Wohung) which we rented for seven of the nights, but connectivity ranged from too slow to be useful to just useless. This is relevant to the title of this post because I keep my work on a drive provided by Microsoft in return for us subscribing to Office 365. It’s a good way to be sure that my work is safe, and generally accessible, unless, that is, I get stuck somewhere that has a bad Internet connection.

I did some things, mostly involving social media and email, but I didn’t want to risk damaging my manuscript, because how would the world ever survive without it, you know? So, for the time I was gone, up until, frankly, today, it was entirely Nonowrimo for me. I did open the file a couple of times this week (we got back late Sunday evening) and read some things, but I only got over my jet lag as of the morning of this writing, which is Sunday, November 6th, if you’re wondering. One week to get over jet lag? I agree, that sounds excessive. Never before has it taken more than a couple of days, and last time I flew back (from Rome) I didn’t notice a thing.

So, here’s the writing related part of this post, what I did today was start my next chapter, and plug away until it was done. That’s what I do most weekdays, but as I’d missed most of three weeks, I did that on a Sunday as well. I’m drafting, which was the most fun part when I was just starting out, but which now is the difficult part. I have to come up with a reasonable framework for a story, with a lot more detail than my initial outlines, and that takes some real mental muscle to pull off. Revisions are easier, because there really are rules to follow for such things. But for the original, unedited version of a novel, nobody knows what going to happen next, at least not in detail, and least of all the person writing the book.

There is no making up all those chapters unwritten due to vacation stuff. So I write them now, one chapter at a time. That’s how it’s done, folks, one chapter/paragraph/word/letter at a time.

Hope this was helpful.

Another Year Older

Towster, England, December 26th, 2007. I was there!
Towster, England, December 26th, 2007. I was there!

A word about steeple chasing, first. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that the horses are just landing after a jump. There is a second rail about a meter behind the one you see here. The ground shakes as if there were a major earthquake coming. Damn, but that was fun!

When I took that photograph I was 58 years old, which means that the photo is almost 9 years old. That was our Boxing Day adventure in the UK. Frankly, I’d do that again. (Especially in England, where almost nothing is open on Boxing Day.) Last Saturday I had another birthday. No big deal, really, it was the 67th anniversary of my birth. After 66 prior birthdays, the whole idea is wearing thin, anyway. I gave up active real estate work at the beginning of this year. That means that, for practical purposes, I am retired. When I was a callow youth, I said, blithely, that writing would be my “retirement career.” Damn, one should be careful what one says in one’s youth! Because of course, that’s what I am, a writer. Heck, I’m writing as I write! (See what I did there? Heh heh!)

I wanted to be a writer in my youth. But it didn’t seem possible. Family wasn’t behind the idea, and, frankly, such writing as I did was awful. It sucked. It was bad. Even then, I couldn’t stand to read it. (And, fortunately, it’s all been lost. Go for it, literary historians of 2243!) But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, one thing that I’d tell my young self if I met him, it is that you always must be true to yourself! (Didn’t somebody write that once?) And, writing rule #1: Only write stuff you want to read! And one more rule, which I have heard repeated by virtually every successful writer I’ve ever heard speak (and I kid you not): Be Persistent! Why? Well, for one thing, if you persist, you’ll get better (at least most of us will.) And for another, the world will never discover you; you must present yourself to the world. So, the more stuff you have to present, the more likely somebody will really like at least some of it, and you’re off!

So, there’s the advice from this older man: follow your own heart, write what you like to read, and persist!

I doubt that there’s a single other rule for a creative writer that makes any significant difference.

Rules to Sell Your Writing By

I’m not listing rules here. Sorry. But I am commenting on how hard it is to sell something you’ve written. How should you go about it? Get an agent? Skip the agent and query an editor? Skip them both and put it out in e-format and market the hell out of it? Well, sure. I’ve heard stories of each of those methods working really well. And the sale of a book, like the sale of anything else, depends upon some hard and fast rules. Unfortunately, those rules are not logical in the sense that you can parse them using a Ben Franklin Close (look that up if you want; it’s a real thing) or other hard, logical means. Like any sale, the rules of selling something you’ve written are perfectly logical, but they are emotionally logical. And the greatest story out there can be rejected a thousand times just because nobody reviewing it for possible publication felt like buying it at the time! That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with it: there’s a famous story about somebody who changed the names in Casablanca and shopped it around Hollywood, where it was rejected by every single mover and shaker in that town! It’s even a true story, I’m pretty sure, and it illustrates my point very well.

Even if it isn’t a movie, there’s a lot of expense involved in publishing a book. You can check it out for yourself, if you want to. Just see how much a printer would charge you for five thousand copies of a three-hundred page book, library bound and with decent paper. But, e-publishing is different, you say. No books to print, or bind, or store or anything. Yep, that’s an advantage, and feel free to go ahead and publish your work. Like a speaker I heard recently pointed out, however, there are tens of millions of books on Amazon, but only those in the “top 200,000 in sales” actually are selling any. All those others? Well, as you might have been thinking, they didn’t cost much, did they? If you think about it, an e-book still needs layout, good cover art, and marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. You can opt to do that yourself, if you have any marketing talent. But it’s going to take more graphic talent than is evidenced by the average Garage Sale sign for your efforts to be successful. You’ll have to actually know how to do graphic design (or pay someone to do that for you.) You’ll have to know how to get people to want to read your book, even if it’s a great one. Ask your self what you think of television commercials (adverts if you’re a Brit.) Marketing people generally like them, so long as they’re well done. Thirty seconds of time in a second tier market will cost you thousands of dollars. Now how do you feel about them?

Selling comes down to appealing to potential buyers on an emotional level. Sad, but true. If you write fiction, then maybe you have a leg-up in sales, because presumably you can get inside your characters’ heads and figure out what they want. Maybe, if you can do that with real people, you have a chance at selling your own work. If you can’t do it with living beings, you can hire someone to do it for you. Which brings you smack dab back to needing a publisher. Aaaargh!

I think of my own moods. One day I may really like something, but the next day I think it’s really stupid. I’m not unusual in that. Maybe the second day I’m tired, or hungry, or I twisted my ankle in a pothole on my morning jog, or my kid got caught stealing from the candy store. Or any one of a million other variables that you, as the writer, can’t possibly anticipate or do anything about even if you could know about them. The only thing you can do, and this is the truth, is make your query absolutely irresistible. That way, even if the editor is having a terrible day, she may put it aside and read it later, when she knows she’ll feel more like doing so. An ordinary query, well, it’s just a part of a pile of work that’s interfering with thinking about being tired, or hungry, or, you know. And that’s a “maybe” only. Maybe she’ll just get frustrated and reject the whole pile just because it clears her schedule. Maybe. There’s no way to know, and no law says she ever has to tell you why she didn’t buy what you were selling.

Which brings up some more emotional rules. Such as “Don’t bug the agent/editor.” “Don’t be clever with them.” “Remember you will need to get rejected a lot before you actually sell anything.” It’s true. In sales there’s a rule that you make twenty contacts to get one prospect, and twenty prospects will yield you one sale. That’s 400 contacts to sell one item! Because, for some reason, the other 399 people just weren’t emotionally ready to buy what you were selling. In this case, they just didn’t feel like risking a lot of work on your book. It isn’t personal, it’s just the way it is.

So, I guess I do have a rule or two. Rule #1 is to be persistent. Keep learning, keep submitting, keep writing. You haven’t failed until you’ve quit. And rule #2 is be ready for tons of rejection, because that’s what you’re going to see. If Sony wouldn’t touch one of the greatest movies of all time, and Decca wouldn’t hire the Beatles (and they wouldn’t,) you must know that it isn’t personal, it’s just tough. When it feels really tough, just re-read rule #1, and keep on plugging.