Reality Check

I’ve thought about various titles for this post. One was Truth or Dare. Another was Truth or Consequences, but its the same thing as Truth or Dare. Sometimes, coming up with a good title is harder than finding something interesting to write about. And sometimes, good titles are easier than finding good subjects.

By the number of my posts that no one reads, not even followers, one can see how tough this gig is.

Just a decade or more back, blogging was the gateway to success in writing. But there are too many bloggers now and not enough interest in reading blogs.

The same thing applied to Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media. All were considered gateways to success for writers, musicians, film makers, restaurants,  et cetera. But there’s  just too much information out there.

Experts claim information increases twenty times every year. It used to be impressive when it doubled every year, and then when it quadrupled every year. What will it be like when it increases a hundred times every year? And then five hundred times? And then, a thousand times? Where will it end?

For instance, just last year, biologists discovered more than sixteen thousand new animal and plant species, including a new spider species called The Sorting Hat Spider (named, obviously, after the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter series) and a species of caterpillar that swims. Just a few years back, scientists bemoaned the lack new species to discover. Finding four or five new species a year was big back then. Consider what a quantum leap sixteen thousand species are!

Likewise, what about E-books? Ten years ago, there were just a few E-books out there. Now, every year there’s literally hundreds of thousands of E-books published. And it’s estimated that by the year 2020, there’ll be millions of E-books published ever year. Where will it all end? With some solar flare that destroys the Internet and The Cloud?

Maybe.

Everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to make money as a writer. Essentially, we live in an age where EVERYONE wants to be a rock star. This includes not just musicians, or film makers, or writers, or politicians and bankers, but even teachers and professors and criminals.

The problem is, everyone wants to be an instant success. Look how even street gangs and murderers post their crimes on YouTube. It’s their gateway to fame. But writing, like investing your money, is a long-term affair.

No one wants to read the hyperbole associated with advertising. For instance, “This will be the last book you’ll ever read!” Did a serial killer write that comment? Sure sounds like it.

Or, “You’ll never read a book as great as this.” Bullshit. There are lots of great books out there. Finding them, amid all the crap, is the challenge.

Just because you can put two words together to make a sentence, (See Dick. See Jane. See Spot. See Crap.) doesn’t make you a great writer, or even a good writer. Turning out four or eight or twelve books a year, or even forty or fifty, doesn’t make you a good writer, or even prolific, it means you’ve got literary diarrhea. And maybe even physical diarrhea.

And we all know what kind of excrement diarrhea is, don’t we? The nastiest kind.

New writers talk all the time about throwing out all the rules of writing. Well, the rules are there to protect and guide you. To keep you from making mistakes and guide you towards success. Throwing the rules away in writing is as bad an idea as throwing away the rules and regulations for building houses.

A builder wouldn’t just throw down some plywood for a floor, nail some 2X4s to the floor, run 2X4s across the top for a ceiling, toss some dry wall on the walls inside and plywood on the outside and across the top as a roof, and then cut holes in for windows and doors and call it a house and sell it. The first big wind or first bad rain storm would flatten that house and everyone in it. If people died, the builder would go to prison!

Designing blue prints (so called because they were put on blue paper, or sometimes on regular paper with blue chalk), framing your house, planning where windows and doors and electrical outlets go, connecting the walls and ceilings with braces and trusts, all these things are part of the regulations required for building houses.

Likewise, grammar and editing and punctuation and rewriting are absolutely necessary for a good read and respect from your readers.

What about advertising, you ask? All the advertising in the world isn’t as good as a solid base of readers, a solid audience. It takes time to develop that and while advertising can help, you have to write good books. You have to edit and rewrite. You have to offer your audience a good product.

And sometimes, you have to fail. From failure, you learn how to become successful. You learn how to write better stories, how to avoid overly emotional scenes, how to create good, solid characters, characters your audience can relate to and want to read about. And it takes time.

Not just to create good stories, not just write them dow, but for your loyal audience to build up.

Let’s look at author Tom Clancy. He wrote “The Hunt for Red October” in the 1980s. His first publisher, who printed out a few thousand hard back copies, lost money on it. But when he sold his paper back rights to a difference company, and after several years of the hard back books literally floating around, and after word of mouth, the best advertiser of all, readers (lots and lots of readers) began to take notice of him. The rest is history.

Writing requires patience. And courage. The courage to hang yourself over that fence or off that ledge for people to see you there. With every story you’re putting out there, you’re taking a chance. Not just with trolls, but with sincere readers as well.

It takes time to write a good book. It also takes time to build up an audience. And it takes patience, dedication, and courage for writing. Just as it does for dancing or singing or acting or playing music.

Success goes to those who are patient, dedicated, and courageous.

See you out there.

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