|Me in my book-filled Santa Barbara office.|
By Gayle Lynds. Years ago a brain surgeon whom I met at a party told me in all seriousness that when he retired he was going to be a novelist. My reply? “When I retire, I’m going to be a brain surgeon.” Oh, dear. Did I really say that?
As it turns out, I have a long-time friend who’s a brain surgeon and who also writes engrossing medical thrillers. When he finished his latest, he said to me, “I’d rather operate on brains. Writing books is too damn hard.” But still he does it. Why? He laughs: “I think I should have my head examined.”
With this blog, I begin the next series of Rogue Women posts – “Writing Tips.” You won’t want to miss these insightful stories. To get your personal subscription to our blog, just click here.
We’re a peculiar breed, we writers. We work alone. We dream day and night. We come to it in our youth — or perhaps not until our old age. Unlike NFL players, we can have careers that stop only when we die — and maybe not even then if we end up being a Robert Ludlum or a Tom Clancy.
There’s a joke in our trade: “If writing novels were easy, everyone would do it.” That’s how we remind ourselves that the work is not only a great deal of fun and challenging, it’s also relentless. If we’re to be good at it, we never stop teaching ourselves. But then, that’s part of the joy. My friend who is both a surgeon and a novelist has spent his life studying and working at both, switching back and forth between periods when he writes, and those in which he’s in the hospital operating.
I like to comfort beginning novelists with a couple of statistics: On the average, from the time a person commits himself or herself to becoming good enough to be traditionally published — figure ten years. On the average, a writer writes four full-length novels before one is finally good enough to be traditionally published. More brain surgeons in this country make a living than do novelists.
Are you depressed? Don’t be. As a beginner, I was relieved to know the hill was long and challenging. The reason was that as I was growing up, I’d believed the books and movies that told us that all you had to do was write a book and it’d automatically be published and you’d be rich, famous, and have a long career ahead of you. But then, we’re a highly literate society (thank goodness), and that sometimes makes us believe that if we can read books, we ought to be able to write them. The truth is, that’s mostly true — but it also takes a lot of talent and work.
If you’re thinking about writing, or perhaps you’ve already started to write stories, keep going. You don’t have to publish. You’re also entitled to the joy and satisfaction of writing simply for yourself or for your family and friends. If you write, you’re a writer.
But if you want to be published, here are two tips:
● Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten.
● Writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.
So go out there and sweat! And when you pause, please drop by my website and say hello!