If I had a quarter for every time a friend, relative, or new acquaintance at a party told me that they've always wanted to write a book, I wouldn't have to write any books myself ? at least not for money! But does everyone
have a novel in them?
In my opinion, yes! At least, the raw materials are there: Any individual who has parents, siblings, ever attended school, shared a first kiss, learned to drive, gone to college, had a job, had coworkers, fell in love, got married, had in-laws, lived in an apartment, bought a home, had neighbors, had children, had pets, etc., has more than enough material to write hundreds of novels. And if that person has vices, hang-ups, dysfunctions, and general maladjustments or compulsions, then one could feasibly increase that number of potential novels to thousands!
But will everyone who has the potential to write a book follow-through? No. Novelists make up a very small percentage of the population. Why? Because most people have an erroneously romantic idea of what it means to be a novelist: long, languid days of lounging on a chaise in the shade, sipping beverages and channeling the muse to write longhand on a legal yellow pad. In reality, being a novelist means putting in a lot of think-time incubating a fresh, interesting, marketable story idea, honing your skills as a writer and storyteller, learning how to effectively use a word processing package (pounding out a manuscript on a manual typewriter is no longer an option; a writer must contractually submit a digital file), and ? this is the biggie ? putting in enough butt-time in front of the computer to execute a cohesive story over the course of 400 double-spaced manuscript pages. And if a writer does have the talent and discipline to complete a manuscript, then they have to be thick-skinned and savvy enough to find an editor who's willing to take a chance and publish it!
Whew! No wonder the failure rate among aspiring novelists is so high!
So, while I encourage anyone who feels inclined to write a novel to give it a try (life is all about trying, isn't it?), I always qualify my enthusiasm with some information about the challenges of the business because I don't want the person to reach a point in their writing where they begin to doubt their talent, or feel overwhelmed and simply quit because they believe that their experience is different from every other aspiring writer. While it's true that some writers fall into accidental deals and become overnight successes, most writers toil for many years before they sell their first manuscript, and then toil for many more years before they make enough money writing to live on (if ever). Writing is tough! And not for sissies.
And, unfortunately, writing doesn't get any easier the more you do it ? my Body Movers books mark 40+ writing projects for me, and although I love these characters more than any I've worked with, because I have so many books under my belt, I have to dig deeper and deeper for fresh ideas and plot twists. (It's good stress, I keep telling myself.)
But lest you aspiring novelists begin to feel overwhelmed by the daunting prospect of writing and selling a manuscript, remember: Every person who has published a novel has beat the odds. And if you decide that writing isn't for you, and you'd rather stay on the reading end of the bookselling transaction, I have only one question for you on behalf of the book industry: May I clone you a few million times?
Thanks so much for letting me blog to you this week ? it's been a pleasure. Happy reading, everyone! And don't forget to pass along your love of reading by remembering books at gift-giving time for friends and family (especially for kids)!