There are contradictions in writing. For instance, writing is hard, it’s challenging, it’s difficult. And yet, it’s also easy. When you’re inspired, when you’re at one with your muse or the universe, or in my case, the Divine Spirit who is the Creator of all things, the words come easy. Inspiration is wonderful.
(By the way, I’m a believer, but you don’t have to be. I’m not offended if you don’t believe in God and I hope you’re not offend if I do believe in God. Everyone’s path is unique, sacred, and private.)
So, inspiration. It comes with a cost. When you’re on fire, when the words fly off the keys onto the monitor, the screen, or the paper, when flames fly from your fingers as you write, when inspiration burns in your very being, when you’re at one with the writing, at one with the Islamic poet Rumi’s words: “I was raw, I cooked, I burned,” then all is well with the universe.
But then comes the cost, the next day, when you have to edit, when you have to slow down and make sense of what you previously wrote. So what if the words flew off the key board or pad yesterday? You’re not the android Data from Star Trek, you’re not Clark Kent, writing for the Daily Planet, or The Flash, or Dr. Strange, or any Science Fiction or Comic Superhero. You’re you. And as you, you have to work hard to make your words make sense to others.
It takes hard work to be a writer. Even if you’re the greatest writer who ever lived, even if you’re the smartest genius ever, your words have to make sense to your audience, your readers, anyone you want to reach. You’re not dumbing things down for them, you’re trying to lift them up.
See, all writers want to make a difference. That’s why anyone and everyone writes. Oh, yes, you want to be rich, you want to be famous, you want glory and power and money and respect , but there’s one little catch: the audience, not you, decides whether you’re worth it or not. And if you don’t give a damn about your audience, your audience won’t give a damn about you.
There’s always lots of writers, young and old alike, who think rules don’t matter, that an audience will believe anything, accept anything, read anything and everything put before them. Well, that might be true of movies or TV, or of non-fiction books,such as political Tell-All books and biographies, maybe, though I doubt it, but it’s not true of fiction. That’s because fiction readers are intelligent and choosy, and extremely selective. They are a rare breed. And there’s not that many of them. Only seventeen to maybe twenty-four percent of the population reads fiction.
How many is that? Let’s say it’s an even twenty percent of the population. What’s twenty percent of three hundred and twenty million Americans? Sixty-four million readers. So, that’s a lot, right ? Nope. Because they’re selective in what they read. Some like Romances only. Some like Westerns only. Some like Science Fiction, or Fantasy, or Action Adventure, or Mysteries. Or Horror. And some read a bit of one and a bit of another.
You’ll be lucky if ten million readers read what you write. Well, that’s doable, isn’t it?
Maybe. And maybe not. Every year, in paper publishing and self-publishing on the Internet through Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and others, hundreds of thousands of novels are being published. The competition is fierce. And there’s a lot of garbage out there. So how do you push it aside so your potential audience can find you?
Well, some think that advertising is the key. And they might be right. But the trouble with advertising is the tremendous overuse of Hyperbole (you know, exaggeration.) When you tell potential readers your book is “the best every written,” or “the best book you’ll ever read,” Or a “page turner”, a “shocker”, “thrilling”, “you won’t be able to put it down” those potential readers and buyers put all those phrases and more into the same category as political adds and think: BULL SHIT.
And who wants to by BS?
Readers want Honesty, not Spin. They want good writing. They want writers who respect them, care for them. They want characters they can relate to, stories that are somewhat realistic, conflict and pain that will be over come. They want good story-telling with good endings. They don’t have to be happy endings, but they do have to be satisfying.
And that’s why ever story you write has to be the best it can be. Your words have to matter. And you have to respect your audience, no matter what its size may be, because small audiences have the capacity to become big audiences.
Too many writers today, especially on the internet, when they finish with the first draft of a story, upload it right away. Then readers have to wade through the mess. Words are misspelled, sentences are choppy, grammar sucks, whole sections are missing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Agents for paper publishers will look at such work and throw it out.
Be your best. What’s the old US Army motto was: “Be All You Can Be!” Well, why not? Turn in your best stuff. Try hard. Work hard. Give it your “blood, sweat, and tears!”
Make your words make sense. Respect your audience and give them what they want to read. Give them what they want, and though it might take some time, eventually they’ll give you what you want.
See you out there.