Tuesday, September 22, 2015

19 Writing Does Not Equal Publishing: Five Reasons You Write and How to Reclaim the Joy

I wrote about guilt last week, and I had several responses in the comments and in private messages and phone calls that were in line with what I'd been hearing from other authors. Many of those responses are heartbreaking. So I want to revisit this topic today.

Let's celebrate the fact that there are SO many people who have a burning need to write. For many, it's a form of escape from a life that's structured, stifling, and emotionally draining. Which is to say pretty much all modern life.

I don't mean to say that escape is bad. It isn't. Those of us who write were blessed to be born with imaginations, creative instincts, and the drive to make something beyond ourselves. And yes, that includes something beyond money and our children.

Those of us who write for the love of writing grew up as readers. We dove heart-first into worlds populated by hobbits and dragons, by princesses, witches, and vampires--sparkly or otherwise. We saw, and still see, romance and heartbreak, justice and injustice swirling all around us, and we want to do something about that. Firing up our imaginations isn't a hobby; it's an imperative.

Now here's the tricky part. We're entitled to write. We should write. We have to write.

We should't feel guilty about writing. Exercising our imaginations is just as critical as exercising our bodies.

1) It keeps us sane.
2) It keeps us (somewhat) emotionally engaged and balanced.
3) It keeps our brains active and alive and, medically, there's evidence that will keep them young.

Why then is writing so filled with angst and guilt?

Here's my theory. Eh hem. Somewhere in the last decade of Amazon, we all got the idea that writing equals publishing. That somehow, it's not valid to write UNLESS you publish. And these days, let's face it, that means that we're essentially saying that you can't write unless you want to spend money and time and energy to also market what you've written.

I call bullcrap. Isn't it time someone did?  You know who is making money off this model? Amazon, honestly. Not us. Not the vast majority of the authors who indie pub. Not the VAST majority of authors who publish traditionally. Not even the traditional publishers or the other booksellers. And the thing is, I'm not sure that all the effort really sells many books.

I've done a lot of marketing for my series, and I don't regret it. I could afford to do it, because I've been very lucky in publishing. But truly, that's the giant claw of luck picking me out of the pile, not because of anything that I've done specifically. That could have been anyone else just as easily once the manuscript got to a certain level.

I do cringe though when I hear the stories about how much time and heartache and money my friends are spending on the business of getting published. I get questions all the time about whether they should quit and give up. Where should they spend the marketing dollars? What events should they go to? Will they fall behind if they don't do a blog tour or a physical tour or getting into this or that? Bleh. I think marketing is great if writers WANT to be marketers. I think it sucks if someone who wants to write feel they have to be a full time marketing person in order to be a writer.

Writing does NOT equal publishing. There is joy, such marvelous, spinning, swirling, uplifting joy, in pouring words onto a page and writing to connect with the world. Of course, we fall in love with our characters and our worlds and our themes as we write. We want to share all that with others. We want our work acknowledged and appreciated.

But here's where we have to ask ourselves about the rest of it. If what we love is the writing, then shouldn't we find a way to reclaim the writing, the joy of writing? Wouldn't we be happier if we let go of any of the rest that doesn't bring us joy?

The answer to that isn't universal. It's going to be a different answer for everyone. But if you're struggling with whether to write, and you're struggling with the decision whether to indy pub or try for traditional publication, I'm going to suggest that you put the Amazon-factor aside for a moment and ask yourself a few questions.

Why are you writing? 

  • Is it because you love to write? Then write. Write the best damn book you can write. If you don't like revision or worrying about whether readers will love it, then write, finish, and go on to the next book. Think of this like painting. Or playing the violin. It's okay to do it because you love it.
  • Is it because you love revision and the process of making the book the best it can be? Then spend your money on taking workshops, classes, and getting the best critique group you can put together. Go the traditional publishing route, because getting an agent and an editor WILL make you better. Again, think of this as painting. How many great painters ever got to hang in galleries? A few were lucky to get to hang on the walls of people's homes, and that small success made it all worthwhile. It doesn't matter if your book deal is big or small. You shared your work with readers, and you grew as a writer.
  • Is it because you love connecting with readers and talking to them about your writing? You want to reach as many readers as you can without the publishing side of the equation? Take advantage of Wattpad or similar sites and put your words out there. Or join a fanfic site and build a following for your work. You can get the creative outlet and the joy of writing there combined with the reader connection, without the gatekeepers of traditional publishing or the expense of indie pubbing.
  • Is it because you want to control the process of publication and get a bigger risk for the reward of publishing? If you want to hire editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and spend time, energy, and money becoming a promoter and marketer because you love doing that, then indie pub. But know that at that point, you're an entrepreneur, not just a writer. It's a different thing. A grand thing, to be sure, but at that point, you're opening a small business. And most small businesses fail. There are greater reward for those who succeed, but that's the nature of the business. 
  • Is it because you want to make a ton of money writing? Seriously, the odds aren't in your favor. You'd be better off playing the lottery, and realistically, that's what this is. It's a lottery. Or a crap shoot. And the business of publishing is damn hard work. 

    Luckily, writing does NOT equal publishing.

    We have to be honest with ourselves about why we're writing. Writing doesn't have to cost much to do. It doesn't have to be something we give ourselves permission to do. It should be something we do for our mental health, not something we do that steals our mental health.

    Stand up, writers. Reclaim the joy of writing. Own it. Give yourself permission to take joy in pouring words on a page.

    This Week's Giveaway

    I'm thrilled and honored to be able to give a shout out to Kim Liggett, whose beautiful book comes out today. You want this one, guys. Truly you do!

    Blood and Salt
    by Kim Liggett
    G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
    Released 9/22/2015

    Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

    “When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

    These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

    Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

    As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

    Purchase Blood and Salt at Amazon
    Purchase Blood and Salt at IndieBound
    View Blood and Salt on Goodreads

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Your Turn

    What do you think? Are you writing? Thinking about writing? Thinking about quitting? Why do you want to write? What's your story?

    About the Author

    Martina Boone is the author of Compulsion and Persuasion, out now in the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island trilogy from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. Illusion, the final book, will be out in October of 2016. Martina is also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She's on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the CompulsionForReading.com program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.


    1. I love your post this week! I'm not really a writer, at least I never thought I was good enough to be one, but I really appreciated this post.

      1. Hi Kelsey, see--that's the thing that's driving me nuts about all this. Who ever picked up the violin and said, nah, I'm not good enough to learn how to play. If you want to write, write. And if anyone asks, tell them I gave you permission. And a hug. I'm sending you both! XO

    2. This article couldn't come at a better time. When asked what I do, I say I am a writer. Even though I have yet to be published. People like to give “helpful” advice of self-publishing. They act like it’s so easy and it’s only natural to want to go that route. It makes me feel like all my efforts are meaningless if I haven’t published, and why haven’t I published if Amazon makes it so easy? It’s a conversation you cannot have with someone who isn’t in the writer trenches with you.

      I have poured blood, sweat, tears, and almost ten years into one novel. I've queried and been rejected. I got interest, then rejection. I have been to a writers conference where I got face-to-face feedback from an agent. Her words lined up with what I had been thinking, time to put that project to rest and focus on something else. But it's so hard to just let it go. The characters and the world are so alive. I know I'll continue to write their story whether it ever sees a publisher or not. I may even share their stories on-line (wattpad is a good idea for this).

      I dream of having a book published. Of seeing it on the shelf and possibly in the homes of other people. Of hearing it talked about (good or bad). So I continue to write. I'm working on something else now, something that got some excitement at the conference. Even if this one doesn’t make it, I have other stories to tell.

      I make time to write because I feel driven to. I spent years wondering what I was supposed to do. Waiting for that spark that lets you know "this is it." When I sat down and started to write a tale in a world I had imagined, I knew I had found it. I found my drive. Taking the pressure off publication can help me focus on the pages, the words, the story. Even if it takes another ten years, I know this is what I want and need to do. Thanks for sharing your words. I needed to read them.

      1. I hear you! It can sound so trite to say that you book will stay with you forever, but it is true. You shouldn't ever feel as though you're going to lose it if you put it aside.

        One thing I've learned about this business -- and the learning curve after publication is STEEEEEEEP, let me tell you, is that you learn a lot about writing and yourself in the course of getting that first book out there. There's no rush, honestly, to get that self-pub book out there. You will never lose that option. And that first ten year book, that's not you writing a book taking ten years. That's you learning to write. A doctor goes to college, then medical school, then internships, and residency, before becoming a full-fledged doctor. We expect that, because now and then it happens, that every writer should be able to sit down and write a book and have it become the next-big-thing overnight. What we don't see is what happens behind the scenes with those books--the fact that those young writers to whom it happens have tapped into something that is on the pulse of the national psyche and that an agent and editor recognized that and was willing to shape it and mold it because to do so was going to be economically viable. For the rest of us, we have to get there on our own.

        If you have a project that people at the conference were excited about, ALLOW yourself to get excited about that. You can always come back to your first, beloved project and bring the perspective of all the interim projects back to that. You may find that you will have ways to make it more viable for traditional publication. Or you may find that self-publishing it would be reasonable at that point, and you'll have a stronger skill set for doing that. But you may also find that putting anything but your best work out there isn't going to be the thing that you want to do for the long-term success of your career, and that by the time you add in the editorial and professional support for the self-pub route that you'd be looking at, it's better to shelve the first project a while longer. Nothing is ever lost. That book will still be there when you have four books under your belt. And you will have four books under your belt. You have the passion--I can hear it!

        Give yourself time and room and the confidence to tell those other stories!

        Hugs and good luck!

    3. Great post, Martina, thanks. So what if we're someone who is a little bit of all 5 things you mention in your list of why we write? A little bit multiple personality disorder? LOL. I think writers often wear all hats at one time or another and a great deal is expected of writers these days that wasn't 20-30 years ago. In just a decade the writing and publishing world has turned upside down. A lot of it is crazy-making but a lot of it is good, too, with so many possibilities for success. But it's also true that the clamoring world raging all around us can make it hard to stay focused and to stay in love with the writing itself - which is where most writers began in the beginning. Several years ago Jane Yolen (author of about 300 books!) wrote a book called TAKE JOY on this very topic. I should pull it out again from my bookshelf . . .

      1. That's the beauty of this -- it's all an individual journey, and everyone feels emotionally, financially, and mentally prepared for a different level of immersion in all the various aspects of this. You happen to be great at all of them, as I know from experience doing it side by side with you. But we, writers in general, need to stop buying into the idea that we HAVE to do what we see everyone else doing. What we need to do is focus on writing the crap out of our books. First and foremost. Anything that takes away from that is ultimately doing us all--writers and readers--a disservice. I need to find that Jane Yolen book. I love her!

      2. Well, thanks, darlin', for the kind words, although I look to you as the master of promotion. You seem to be tireless! xo

    4. Thanks for this post. Very thought provoking. And a wee bit scary too...Carol

      1. The whole process is daunting, but I truly think that Amazon is making it that way. I look up to Linda as a shining example of how things should be done. : )

    5. I am not a writer but a very avid reader and I deeply respect authors and all the hard work they put into their books!

    6. nice post; not a writer

    7. I needed this so very bad right now. Thank you for posting. :)

    8. When I started writing, it was immensely fun and rewarding. Now I'm on the 3,000th revision of my YA novel, and I hate it. I hate looking at it, I hate the revision process, I hate that I chose something with medical aspects (so far out of my realm of "Write what you know") I hate that this MS has sucked the joy out of writing, and I hate that my agent is so damn enthusiastic, because if it were up to me, I'd shelve this thing and go back to writing something fresh. Truth is, I don't want this to be my debut, and it makes me sad, because underneath all the hate I had this novel that I adored, and it's morphed into something that is now trying too hard to fit into some YA romance/ thriller mold.

    9. Recently, I have been thinking about writing, but due to the lack of time, among lots of other things, I think it will have to be placed on hold for a while.

    10. I have wanted to be a writer for a long time. It's been a while since I have written anything but book reviews, and even those take massive amounts of effort. I'm hoping to get back into it, maybe do NANOWRIMO.

    11. What a super post. Way to cut to the chase, my friend. I write to be lost in the story, whether it's the first or tenth draft, it's still a blast. One I will never give up.

    12. I'm always planning a story line, but most of the time it never makes it to paper.


    Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)