Saturday, August 2, 2014

I Hear You and Understand, writers write for different reasons


Yesterday, I was a little bit rash. I posted a gut-response to a blog post over on The Passive Voice about why I write, just before I dashed out to lunch. I worried about my post as I ate lunch would people take it the wrong way? Fortunately, people were pretty much fine with what I wrote. But I worried nonetheless. My comment could be construed in lots of different ways, many of them bad. My fingers itched to type a response, I refrained.

This morning as I was reading the comment thread once more, I found myself again wanting to clarify my thoughts, so I sat down and started to type up a paragraph or two. Unfortunately, I was posting directly on the blog, and because of the way comment boxes scroll, it’s easy to miss how much you’re writing. Especially when the words just begin to flow.

By the end, I had a nice hefty blog post so I’m re-posting here.

Here are some of the reasons I write:

While in high school, a good friend of mine was ALWAYS writing down stories, she couldn't not do it. She gave me a couple of ARCs for stories that she'd written. To my shame, I never read them.  But she was like many of you, the words  came and she HAD to write them down.

She's a playwrite now, and is enjoying modest success.  :)

I'm saying that I'm different. Not in a monetary, mercenary way--which has been implied, [writing like a shill, chasing the latest fad/$$]--but I'm different in that I'm fine keeping my stories in my head. I do not feel the compulsion to write them down.

Perhaps if I shared where my journey as a writer began, you might understand. It was one year after my little sister died from cancer, I found myself at the B&N on 86th & Broadway, looking for a book. I was depressed from my sister's passing, I was tired--working a mind-numbing job that I really didn't like--and I'd just realized that I was never going to get ahead. That for the rest of my life, I would be on this rat-race treadmill. Always scurrying to catch up, but never getting ahead. I'd work until the day I died, more than likely living paycheck to paycheck. It was more than depressing. 

But hey, I was in NYC.  So I walked the streets taking photos, going to movies and free events in the parks, and then spending all of my disposable income on books. (I'm an escapist reader, a Fantasy & Romance junkie.) I walked out of bookstores--the B&N down at Lincoln Square and the Borders at Columbus Circle that are no longer there, and the B&N on the UWS next to Zabar's--with stacks of books on a regular basis.

So there I was at B&N, depressed, walking up and down the racks on the second floor, looking for the next book to read when I thought of one of my favorite authors. Mercedes Lackey, she's always coming out with something new. At the time, she had several rows of books on the shelves. So I meandered over to browse titles to see if there was anything I'd missed.

I don't remember how this realization hit me, but it did. Suddenly, instead of seeing titles and book series, I saw dollar signs.  Compounding, residual income. Each of those titles, labored over for a time and then set aside. Over the years making a tidy little income stream that would add up to make a nice living. Dean Wesley Smith would call it his magic bakery.

Things clicked together in my head, and I thought to myself, "I can do this."

Right away, I turned and walked over to the how-to section and pulled about eight writing books off the shelf and bought them.  A week later, I bought myself a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary. A short while after that I started writing. My first draft of my first book was done in a month. The first draft to the sequel (due to release this coming week or the next) was finished two months after that.

I scoured writing blogs, learning craft and style. I listened to Writing Excuses religiously for what became years. I wrote and re-wrote, and re-wrote, polishing what I knew in my heart was not a pile of crap--despite writing advice you find online about polishing crap and first books--but a great story.

I have to say that I've been surprised. My stories are better written down than they are in my head. It's been a delightful discovery. And I can say that I've begun to have that compulsion for writing stories down. But it is driven by realizing that I have a voice, a message, and a slant that I want to share with others and is coupled with the fact that as I write those stories and publish them that my audience will build and we'll have a mutually beneficial relationship. I'll write stories that we both like and in turn I am compensated financially when my readers buy those stories. My readers (the few that have sent me messages or posted reviews online) like my work, they want more. I'm happy to write more.

So yes, I write for the money. I'm busy, time is fleeting, I have many other things I could be doing. Like sleeping, or going out to dinner with friends, or going to the movies, or curling up with a good book, watching favorite tv shows, etc.  But instead I've chosen to sacrifice that time to write, and I've only done so because I'm looking at it as a career with a payoff somewhere in the distant future. Like saving money in a bank for retirement.

When I write, am I thinking about what will sell best? To be honest, sometimes I am. But only in the vein that I'm a romance junkie, I know the genre, I love the genre, and I have dozens of story ideas in that genre.

But I also love fantasy. And even though I have many other stories/trilogies partially written, I still come back to those first two books that I wrote when I was living in NYC. They're my darlings. (I know, I know, I'm supposed to kill them.)  But deep down, I know they are beautifully constructed, neatly ordered stacks of polished un-crap. So I'm leading with them, publishing them first, even though they won't sell as well as the contemporary or historical romances that I have dancing through my head.

So there you are. I hope you understand. I write for the money; it's the only reason I write. But it doesn't exclude me from finding joy, surprise, and delight in crafting a story. In fact, I find putting stories on paper to be extremely satisfying in a way different from other artistic endeavors I have tried. And believe me, I've tried quite a few.

I hope you understand now and won't judge me too harshly. But if not, that's okay. I'm content and happy with my plans for writing. And as Indies so often say, the only thing that matters is if your readers like what you're writing. So far, my readers do.

-Melissa


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