Friday, November 27, 2009

Why do You Write?

The hoopla with Harlequin's new self-publishing venture got me thinking about two really important subjects.
  1. Writing is a creative effort; publishing is a business effort. 
  2. My desire to write is totally independent of my desire to be published.
I'm one of those people who began writing when I was a kid:  I recall creating a story in grade school about a frog named Throckmorton.  Puberty contributed greatly to the death of a number of trees and reams of maudlin poetry.  I completed my first romantic suspense novel in the late eighties:  St. Martin's Press loved it but said it was too formulaic.  The editor suggested I send it to Silhouette.  Silhouette loved it and said it was too mainstream.  Sigh.  It's sitting in a box with my next four novels.

When divorce, remarriage, and several other signifiant life events seriously curtailed my fiction writing, I spent years writing in trade.  No, insurance magazine articles are not my favorite things to write--neither is a business column in a newspaper.  Since I'm one of those people who writes because I have to write, that's what I did.  When life once again permitted me the time and freedom to pursue writing fiction, I did so with a vengeance:  hence the completion of Second Time Around.

Publication, now, that is an altogether different thing.  It involves ego.  It involves validation.  It involves knowledge of the publishing indistry.  It also involves a great deal of business savvy--either one's own or the kind one can hire in the form of an agent.  Preferably both.  Since I have a healthy ego, a competitive nature, and a desire for approval, seeking publication has always been the next step after I complete an article, short story, or novel.  It will always be the next step.

I may never publish another novel.  If that becomes an unfortunate reality, it will not stop me from writing.  Heck, I kept at it for twenty years, I can do it another twenty!

Writing is a pursuit unto itself.  Which is why I do it.

Publishing is a business.  It's a choice.

I believe that many writers who've written for years without achieving publishing success do not fall into the category of being lousy writers.  My opinion is shared by a  prominant published writer (I'm pretty sure it's Lawrence Block, but don't quote me here) who said in his writing-advice book that he believes more mediocre writers with excellent business marketing skills get published than do excellent writers with mediocre business marketing skills.

Choosing the route of self-publishing because you've been rejected numerous times is NOT the way to go.  If you can't get the attention of a NY agent or publisher, try a small press before you pay someone to publish your book.  If you've been writing for years and have never joined a professional writer's organization, I've got a hint for you:  JOIN ONE OR THREE!!!  The members and resources of professional writer's organizations provided me with more information and insight into the publishing industry, both the creative and business ends of it, than the sum of all other resources combined.

You might also want to seriously consider why you write.  If it's because you have to, pursuing the goal of publication should be the icing on the cake,

Yeah, being published is sweet.  No doubt about that.  But if you're like me, the meat and potatoes of writing keep my belly full, not the icing on the cake.

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