You read an awful lot these days about the good writers who never get published. You read how the system is structured to make it very difficult to break in. And what you read is true.
There’s another reason good writers often don’t get published. That’s because they never really try to break in. They become discouraged and give up. That query letter is just too intimidating, or researching the markets just seems hopeless. “I can’t do it.”
I understand that mentality completely. I’m one of those writers.
I discovered a love of writing in junior high. Long before I bought my first typewriter, I was writing short stories with a pencil. I just loved to create adventures in my head and write them down. When I got to high school, four of my English teachers (which means…ALL of them) were astounded at my natural gift (I didn’t even know I had one, I just thought it was fun), and expected great things of me. So I began to believe in myself.
Then I ran into the world of reality. People I knew – friends of the family, people at church – they smirked. They laughed. “You want to be a writer? Who are you? What makes you special?”
It was pretty discouraging. And it took me many years to figure out what was going on. A certain mindset out there seems to think the great artists (Hemingway, Steinbeck, Clancy, Grisham, etc.) were all hatched in a sealed laboratory and nurtured in test tubes until they were published. This mindset never considers that such famous people actually grew up among ordinary, unfamous people. This mindset looks at a budding talent with the attitude: “I know you. I don’t know any famous people, but I know you. Therefore, you will never succeed with this stupid dream of yours.”
What that mindset is really saying is, “I am a loser. Everyone I know are losers. I know you. Ergo, you are also a loser. Just – like – me!”
Do you know anyone like that? I’ll bet you do. If you share your dream with them, they will snicker at you, taunt you, ridicule you. Maybe not openly, but you’ll see the disdain in their eyes. And if you let them get to you, your dream will never be realized.
There is another group that can also discourage you. These are not losers, they just have no capacity to understand a dream. It may not be their fault. People who grew up in hard times and had to scratch out a living may find it difficult to understand someone whose head is in the stars. That’s how they think of it – foolishness. They never stop to consider that the world is filled with art and literature, and all of it was the result of someone’s dream. It just doesn’t occur to them. If they happen to be your parents, you have a difficult hill to climb.
Don’t Give Up
Lots of people have a desire to write. Not everyone has the talent. Many who have limited talent can achieve the dream through hard work, but some simply aren’t equipped. If you have the dream, find out for sure if you have what it takes. Don’t depend on your parents, your spouse, or your best friend. Get an unbiased opinion. Join a workshop. A few months there should give you some idea if you have any writing potential at all. If you don’t, find something else to do.
But if you do, work hard. Take criticism. Good books (and stories, articles, even columns) are not written, they are rewritten. If you can’t take the criticism (and yes, it sometimes hurts), you’ll never make the grade.
Hang out with other writers (the Internet now makes that easier than ever); learn from them. Learn all you can about writing, and write. Write. Write. WRITE!. You’ll never improve if you don’t WRITE!
Then, when you have something to sell, learn all you can about marketing. Do the research, learn to query, and be persistent.
In the meantime, stay away from losers. Jesus is quoted as saying, “A prophet is not without honor but in his own country” † (my emphasis). People who’ve known you all your life may have a hard time believing that you are the next Danielle Steele, so don’t share you dream with them until you can show them your published work. Why invite ridicule from ignorant fools? To quote the Bible one last time: “… neither cast ye your pearls before swine”†.
That’s enough from me. Hit that keyboard. Get writing!
† King James Version
John Bowers is a very prolific science fiction author. His first published science fiction novel, A Vow to Sophia, became a 5-story series called The Fighter Queen Saga. He then published the 3-book Nick Walker, UF Marshal series followed by the 5-part Starport series.
He’s also published a mid-grade book, Joseph Lexxus and the Drug Runners of Altair.
All of his works are available on Amazon.com