Tag Archives: success

How I didn’t make it big….And you could too!

I once thought juggling would take me to the Big Time….

We all know the odds of hitting the lottery jackpot are small, but we don’t care about the size of the odds, just the size of the cash prize. It’s the same for authors, for the most part. We all start to write because we have the story there, the characters marching around inside our heads, making us laugh, or cry or forget to put the dinner on. But what we’re all hoping for, our guilty secret, is that this is the story that will be THE BIG ONE.

You know what that means, right? That this story will be our Harry Potter, or Catcher in the Rye. Well, maybe not Catcher in the Rye, poor guy never published another thing, did he? Hmm, wait a moment…J.K.Rowling. J.D.Salinger. J.D.Robb…. Maybe all I need for success is TWO initials before my surname! And one of them has to be a J!

Oh. Yes, I still need a cracking story. Damn, thought I was on to something there.

Anyway, they key thing here is that as authors we dream of getting that letter (or email/carrier pigeon/ text/ singing telegram) telling us our book is number one and we can send out for gold-plated egg rolls and book a compartment on the Gravy Train. No, we don’t write for the MONEY, we write because we HAVE to, but the money would be really, really, nice. Mainly because it would mean we never had to do anything but write ever again. If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t go back into work to greet people (Sorry boss…) but I would keep writing. Even though I wouldn’t ever need to sell another play to feed my tiny weasels, I would still write. If people asked me what I did, I wouldn’t say “I’m a millionaire, I don’t do anything!”, I’d tell them I was a playwright. I might also hint that I was vastly wealthy, but that’s just ego.

Today’s secret is that the big hit is not only unlikely, it’s not necessary. Yes, things would be great if you made the bestseller list on your first go, but there are other ways to achieve success.

There was a man called Mark Robson. He was a pilot, and spent a lot of his downtime writing the novel that he thought about as he flew. After numerous rejections (well, actually, not many, but we know how disheartening a rejection can be, don’t we?) he gave up on being published. Until his Mum presented him with a printed, bound copy of his novel for his birthday. Seeing how cool his book looked all, you know, real, and everything, Mark shelled out for self-publishing. This was before the days of Amazon and e-books, so he filled his house with 1500 copies of his book and went to work. While still, as it were, going to work. Despite his heavy piloting schedule, he sold all those books, getting onto the bestseller list in his local bookshop. That made the national chain interested and they took on his book. Then people asked about the sequel because he had put “First in the trilogy” on the cover. (You should really think these things through, folks…) But he produced a sequel and worked just as hard on the sales. The last I heard of him, he’d finished the third book, a major publisher had taken him on and he was earning as much from writing as from flying.

Once upon a time, I had written only three short plays. I had won awards and had the plays produced, but I was not rich. How could this be? I found a better way to get the plays to the audiences, joining forces with friends (TLC Creative) and finding a new, forward looking publisher: Lazy Bee Scripts .  It’s been years since those first three plays, but now I earn more from writing than I do from my part time day job. I’m a long way from the gold-plated egg-rolls, but each day gets me closer. Tell yourself you’re in this for the long haul, that writing these books/plays/greetings cards is keeping you sane, not bankrolling your old age, and you can relax a little about it. Concentrate on building your author profile by using your blog, Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll find that when you do present your product, there will be a ready market.


Use your computer with caution

I didn't have a relevent photo for this one.....

That was a title that made me laugh, then I realised it would have no significance for 90% of the people who stumble across this blog. Never mind, I’m not explaining.

I’ve noticed that my blog entries over the past month have fractured into two distinct streams – the real life commentaries, talking about the riveting renovations and my lack of progress in taking the writing world by storm, and the more Meta pieces about issues that I think might be of interest to folks who don’t know me. When I found myself sitting down to write an entry solely because I thought it might turn up on google searches, I had to stop and think about why I was writing in the first place.

 Yes, I check my readership stats obsessively and I’m unreasonably jealous of those lucky bloggers who make the front page of Freshly Pressed and get thousands of hits but there should be a more pressing reason to blog than getting the big numbers, right? I call myself a writer, and that’s because when I need to express something, or explore an idea, I reach for a pen or a keyboard, not a camera or a paintbrush. This is who I am, it’s what I do.

I’ve been involved in some discussions over on LinkedIn, the business networking site, with colleagues from “PWAC” about the importance of Social Networking and using it to boost your business. That’s why I moved my posts over here to WordPress, as you’ll know if you’ve read them all. I used to have a blog on Yahoo 360, which moved to another place (Multiply) when 360 closed. Let me go off on a tangent for a minute here…I’ll get back to Linked In, I promise.

360 was an online community thing, a bit like Facebook. I had a group of virtual friends, we all blogged and commented and had online talks.  Some of my friends I only knew through their avatars.

Bowzer, for example, will always be a small dog to me, because that’s how he presented himself and he never broke character.

 Kate was a real person, and although she preferred to use Gil Elvegren pictures for her avatar, she appeared in person a couple of times, so I knew what she looked like. This was back in the days when there were fewer weasels and I was just beginning on my great writing adventure. I had more time to waste in front of the PC and these people filled that time and probably a gap in my life too – I had moved far from home and missed having friends to talk to. The important thing for this entry was that my blog back then was a personal joke. I wrote what I wanted to write, I wrote things that were deliberately silly, took joy in including photos that made me laugh and had no relevence to the subject. I was not motivated by anything but the urge to write. Yes, I wanted my friends to read and comment, but their approval and laughter was the only goal I had, not increased business success.

Back to Linked In. Someone posed the question “Why do we have a Linked In group?”  and I used it to whine about my lack of success through social networking – not enough people have bought my book, I’m not getting calls from agents etc etc. I got a gentle slap down from others in the group pointing out how I should be doing the social network thing. It comes down to using social networking as a business tool, and that’s when I pull up short. There are days when I’m out walking the dog and a dialogue is running in my head. I would get rid of it by writing it down, but I can’t use it in my blog because that’s not the wisest business course. I worry about who’s going to read it and what they’ll think. I’m self-censoring. That’s a good thing if I’m whining again, but does that mean I should be running two blogs, one for me and one for business? What happens if more people read the fun one than the business one? What happens if no one reads either one?

Mrs Dim says the posts I put up are interesting enough but too pedestrian and I guess I agree with that. This one certainly is, but unless I’m laying the ideas out, I can’t get my head around them. I intended to talk about the blogs that I follow, the ones that I read on a daily/weekly basis, but I guess that can wait until next time. Meanwhile, in the spirit of capitalising on the power of Social Networking: BUY MY BOOK! (www.tiny.cc/ghfo9) VISIT MY WEBSITE: www.tlc-creative.co.uk  Follow me on Twitter! Send me MONEY!

Why didn’t someone tell me?

This is NOT me

A character called "The Author" in "Work in Progress"

Writing magazines are an important source of comfort and inspiration for the emerging author. Sometimes, however, I wonder about the focus they place on success.

When I became serious about being a writer, about a decade ago, I naturally turned to writing magazines to help me achieve my goals. I wanted good, solid advice on the path I was going to take. What I found, along with helpful articles on the nuts and bolts of story, was that there are only two types of writers that are featured in writing magazines.

Type 1: The Established Author. We hear a lot about Type 1 authors. We are invited to read about their typical writing day (“Get up, walk dog, drink coffee, retire to study, write 5,000 words, have lunch, walk on the beach, write another 5,000 words….”), or get a glimpse of their writing area. We’re asked to marvel at the details of their latest book deal, or commiserate with them that their brilliant novel has been savaged by Hollywood and turned into a dreadful (but lucrative) movie version.

Type 2: The Rising Star. These authors appear regularly too: the first deal neophytes, who break the big time with their first novel (“Cynthia Mulligan scored a $100,000 three-book deal after ***** bought her first novel ‘The housewife with a wooden leg’…”) Whether or not we’ll ever hear about Cynthia ever again is anyone’s guess. The important thing is that she penned an instant hit, and therefore YOU COULD TOO!

The problem I found with constantly being assailed with these two author types was not sour grapes (though you’d be forgiven for thinking so.) I know those at the top of the profession, those type 1’s,  had either a massive stroke of luck or clawed their way up by sheer effort. It takes tenacity and dedication to get a manuscript finished, let alone send it away again and again until it gets accepted. Even if you make it that far, odds are someone’s going to ask you to write another one… The same is true of the Type 2’s. No one is minding the kids and doing the housework for them while they retire to their writing area. They have to fit in the work around the work, as it were.

No, the problem is that this gives new writers the idea that these are the only two career paths for writers – successful superstars, or ‘Just made the big time’ authors. I wish – oh, how I wish! – that back then someone had told me you could be a jobbing writer.

Type 3: The jobbing writer. The jobbing writer still lives in the real world. They don’t attend big book signing events. They don’t sell film rights and buy a yacht. They probably don’t even call themselves “Writers” because they’ve found something specific, some niche that pays a steady wage and still allows them to stretch their creative muscles. They may be Columnists for newspapers or magazines, local paper reporters, speciality magazine editors or contributors, serial letter-writers, or, like me, playwrights. All of these people are Writers, all need the same skillsets as the Type 1’s and 2’s, they need to write in an engaging manner, keep tracking down and eliminating adjectives, spellchecking, fact checking, rewriting… But they don’t get interviewed for the Writing magazines, they don’t get the kudos for doing what they do. Yes, I’m sure you could find exceptions, famous columnists or playwrights, but I would argue that they have not become famous for that – Tom Stoppard may have been a famous playwright, but he became better known for writing the screenplay for “Shakespeare in Love”. “Bridget Jones’ Diary” was a popular column, but Helen Fielding didn’t hit the big time until it became a novel and then a movie.

In the last ten years I have beavered away, writing and working and waiting for the big break. It wasn’t until around five years ago that I realised I was actually earning a reasonable sum – say the equivalent of a part-time job. Not from one big score, but from the accumulation of lots of small pieces selling well. I had diversified, adding Script Reader to my Playwright title. Now I could review new scripts for my publisher. Then we launched a Script Appraisal service, where new writers could get to read the script reports I wrote, as well as having their script proof-read and marked up for errors.

Of course I’m still dreaming of the day when I find myself being interviewed as a Type 1. I’m still working on my screenplay and occasionally I dust off a manuscript and begin yet another re-write. But I know that by plugging away at my niche I’ve built a reliable income and been able to write the things I wanted to write – still do, in fact. If I’m only a little further on ten years from now, I’m sure Mrs Dim will be disappointed (She wants to go to the Hollywood parties…) but I think I will be content. As long as I don’t read too many Type 1 articles.