Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Only One Star?

Lots of people want to write a book, but how many want to write more than one?  I ask this because most aspiring writers I meet have a great idea, but when you question them on their novels following that, they usually just stare back at me with a dumbfounded look on their faces.

"What do you mean?" they'll ask, their eyes wrinkled.  "This book is going to reshape the world and make me famous."

When I, either because I'm concerned or callous, ask what happens if that book doesn't make it big, the person gets defensive and tells me I don't know what I'm talking about.

I've come to realize that most people who say they want to write have that one big idea they're putting all their hopes on.  As professional writers, we have to look beyond that.  Yes, it'd be great to have our first work break through, but even Dan Brown's first book didn't go much of anywhere.  Does that mean that if our pride and joy doesn't take off that we're failures?  Hardly.

A professional writer understands he or she will grow through the years as new mastery of the craft is attained.  We have to understand that there will be other "big ideas" that are out there.  We simply have to find them.

It's hard when others think what we've poured our heart and soul into isn't super important to them.  I've seen some writers cry and carry on that they'll never write another novel, that the well is dry, but that's loser talk.  We have to find another great idea and reject the premise that there's only one great book in us.  Much like Brown or John Grisham, it's important to keep in mind that we have to keep cranking out quality stuff, and once we catch on, loyal readers will follow us back to our backlist.  Think about it - if you're anything like me, once you discover a good writer, you seek out other works from that person.  That, among other things, is why we have to keep going, even if we think everybody is wrong for not appreciating our masterpiece.

Did Stephen King stop at Carrie?  No - he considered The Shining to be the book where he tried to really put out something special.  Brown went ahead with The Da Vinci Code even thought Digital Fortress was virtually unknown.  These outstanding authors knew that they had to have more than one Big Idea if they were to find success with a fickle public.

I put all of my heart into Salvation Day, but I know that if that doesn't take off, I need other books to have a career.  The public isn't always going to agree with me on what my best work is, and as much as I'd like that decision to rest with me, I know where the power in my potential career lies.  Without the public deciding which of my books they like, despite what I might think, I'll be writing for no one but myself and my wife.  Not that that would stop me, but it could make doing it full time a little low on the staying-fed side.  That's a lesson we should all remember, ego be damned.

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