Monday, January 19, 2015

Time is Irrelevant

Good Morning. Anne R. Allen had a great post this weekend on what mistakes newbie writers make. I laughed as I read it because I made every single one of them and then some. I thought back to then, and up to now, and how much I learned over the y-e-a-r-s I've been writing.

I've been writing since I was a kid. Just like most of you. There's some inexplicable NEED in us to get the stories out of our heads and onto paper, or in this day and age, onto the screen. In my comment to Anne, I said how I began scratching out my prose on legal pads, and then graduated to a Smith-Corona electronic
typewriter with erasable ribbon. That was big back in the day. No delete button anywhere.

I didn't get my own pc until 2005. I knew how to access email, but other than that, had no clue what a computer could do. I started writing my first story THE LADY'S MASQUERADE on it, copying what I'd written down on legal pads. I had it nearly finished by the time Monster turned 18 months. She was in day care then, while I worked as a housekeeper, and one day I caught her pushing buttons on my pc. Well, it seems the sitter at day care had an old pc that could access games, and Monster wanted to play them on my computer. Alas, she crashed it (or so I thought because I had no idea how to fix the mess she made) and I lost everything on it.

We moved to NC in 2007, and I was back to legal pads. My cousin Tommy is an IT guy and has his own business (very successful I might add). We visited one day in 2008 and he gave me an old XP desk top. Because I knew nothing about computers other than how to access Word, he said it had 5GB of RAM. I asked what that meant. He said, "It can hold 100 books at 100,000 words each." Yay. I could write whatever I wanted and not have to worry about running out of paper.

So here I sit, 7 years later with my obsolete XP desktop, with (has to be by now) a billion words in my RAM. (And I use it every single day.) I have 16 books published, with a few short stories thrown in, writing a half dozen more books that I may or may never finish. I did a mock-up cover for the latest book I'm writing, and put it on Twitter over the weekend.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if I can do it, so can you. We are only as inhibited as we believe we are. "But I can't learn that stuff," you cry. I never believed I could do any of that either. How many times did I want to give up, throw my computer through the window? Gadzooks, I need to meet a person 6 times before I remember their name. Do you have any idea how long it took me to learn how to format a book. IN WORD. Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure out how to erase the green and red squiggly lines, or how to set my margins, or how to create headers? A long time. A really long time.

Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure out what a gerund was, or a double negative, or just the basic "rules of writing"? YEARS. Yes, I took high school English. Yes, I took creative writing courses in college, but that doesn't teach you how to write in the real world, for real readers. It teaches you how to write "perfectly". Real people don't want perfect, they want a good story.

A mom at school, who didn't know I was a writer, said, "Oh, you write novels. Gee, that must be really hard." Yes, yes it is. I didn't know "writing is hard work" until I published my third novel. That's when I began to make money. That's when I figured out that writing for money is a JOB.

And with every job in the real world, there's always something new to learn. I read industry blogs to see what's going on. I read writing blogs and craft books to refresh my skills. I figured out which social media I can use to keep my name circulating. I figured out what to do to spur sales. And found out the hard way that it's pretty much -- just keep writing, publish the best book you can, pray a LOT, and hope for the best.

Time is now irrelevant in this new publishing dynamic. I published my first book in 2011. With Amazon's algorithms geared toward indies back then, I rose like a shooting star. I thought I had made it. I thought the rest of my career would be easy. Then with traditional publishing seeking some of that, I sank like a rolling stone. Algorithms change. Only now, 4 years later, with the Grace of God and my series completed have I seen an uptick.

And that's the way it is. Up and down, back and forth. We can't always be on the way up. We have to come down sometime. However, time is irrelevant. If you only have one book in you, then so be it. Write it. Finish it. Publish it. How many authors have only been one hit wonders? Harper Lee. Margaret Mitchell. J.D. Salinger.

And yes, those authors are pretty much national icons now. But how long did it take them to achieve their success?

No matter how long it takes to write THE END, just write the book.
Write the best story you can.
Learn the rules before you break them.
Read the craft books. Even if you think they're hogwash. Read them.
Find your "voice" and don't give in when someone wants to change it.
Learn how to edit.
Learn how to format.
Learn whatever it is you need to do to get the best story possible.

Just keep writing.

Time is irrelevant.

Tell me -- How long did it take you to finish your first book? How long before you published it?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015


J.B. Chicoine said...

Great post, Anne! I think I wrote my first novel in about six months--the first draft, that is. I lost track of how many revisions and edits it went through. It wasn't ready to publish for about six years for all the reasons you mention (as you well know).

Honestly, you're an inspiration in determination and perseverance--you go girl!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think I rewrote that first book a dozen times and like you I wrote it the first time on paper. And the ups and downs are emotionally frustrating. I felt like your post was speaking directly to me.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Well....since you asked, it took me six years to write my first novel, but only two to write the second. Now I'm writing a memoir, trying to write the best story possible. And when in the trance of writing, time becomes irrelevant. How right you are about that.

Bish Denham said...

Well, you know what an inspiration you've been to me, Anne, answering every dang question I could throw up on you. You're like a hero to me!

Anne Gallagher said...

Bridget -- Oh yes, revisions and edits. I guess I forgot to mention those. And the fact I had to trim 50k words off that first novel before it was publishable.

Susan -- Writing is hard work, and you're absolutely right, emotionally frustrating, I think because we do it alone. Sure we tweet and blog and talk to other writers, but what it all boils down to is YOU and the keyboard. We just have to keep on plugging.

Yvonne -- In the trance of writing, everything becomes irrelevant to me. Dishes, kids, dogs, laundry. Which is why my house is such a disaster. But there's nothing like the passion I feel for what I do. Which is why I don't mind my messy house.

Anne Gallagher said...

Bish -- I'm not a hero. Just determined to do what no one ever thought I could. I knew I could write a story, and maybe publish it, but I needed to PROVE it to the naysayers.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I'm not holding my breath :)

Laurel Garver said...

I've been down on myself for being so slow to produce, but you're right that sometimes it will be hard slog, no getting around it. Indeed, if I'm capable of learning how to do ebook formatting in HTML, I can and will eventually learn to write faster.

Maria Zannini said...

Time is Irrelevant...until you die. :)

I've always been a DIY kind of person. I don't want anyone doing something for me unless I understand exactly what's being done.

But as I get older, I've insisted on doing what I love and being with who I love first. The rest in ancillary.

Donna Hosie said...

I loved this post. Very motivational.

dolorah said...

Wow, XP. Thats so obsolete now. I hated moving away from it; I still consider XP the BEST operating system. Alas for those early days of satisfaction!!

I think I'm still writing my first book. Constant revision, with no hope of publication on the horizon. boo hoo, lol. Someday. I'm still writing some short stories. I like those better.

Nice to see you are still around Anne.

(BTW: this is Donna Hole under my new blog name.)

Linda G. said...

Great post! In this business, talent without persistence is next to useless. :)

Anne Gallagher said...


Laurel -- There is nothing wrong with writing slowly. That just means you THINK harder before you write something most of us would delete during revisions. And hey, learning how to format in html is no small feat. Kudo's to you.

Maria -- I hear you on the DIY. I've been drawing up plans to remodel my kitchen for the last 3 years. I want to make sure I know how to use every tool before I take down cabinets and put in new floors. And yes, being with the one you love is more important than anything else.

Donna -- Thanks. After all you've accomplished in the last few years, YOU are very motivational.

Donna/Delorah -- Oh XP, how I heart thee! I still use it, because I kind of have no choice. But she's slowing down a lot and I know I'm going to have to put her down soon. Boo. As for writing shorts, any writing is better than no writing. And hey, that first book is the book of your heart so keep plugging at it. Someday it will be what you want it to be.

Linda -- Persistence is the key no matter what the passion. We all strive to be good at something. However, I hope to aspire to greatness.

Shelley Sly said...

This is such a great post! I wrote for fun as a kid and teen. Then I started writing New Adult romance novels (before NA was that clearly defined) in 2008 before switching to Middle Grade in 2010. I didn't publish my first MG novel until 2014 (and by then, it was the 9th book I'd written, not even my first MG.)

I'm not an overnight success. I've still got a long journey ahead, but I'm sticking to this writing thing. I really do love it.

DL Hammons said...

Here's to the "uptick" continuing! I haven't published my first book yet...but its going to happen...soon!

It's so good to converse with you again. It feels like its been forever! :(