This past week, I launched my fifth novel, Chance Harbor, provoking a friend to exclaim, “Wow, you’re popping out books like Tic Tacs, aren’t you?”
She has a point. Six years ago, I hadn’t even published one book. It took me a quarter century to land a traditional publishing deal, so nobody could be more surprised—or thrilled—than I am to see my books be born.
These days, I’m often approached by aspiring writers who want to know how I beat the odds. I’m always happy to chat with anyone about writing and publishing, but sometimes I hear writers say things that make me cringe. Here are some of the worst things writers have said to me lately:
1. “I have the best idea for a book. Too bad I don’t have time to write it!” Many writers love to talk about what they’re “thinking about writing.” But here’s the thing: if you never actually start writing, you will never have written a book. Or anything else.
2. “I’m trying to decide whether it’s better to make a living writing fiction or nonfiction.” Honey, stop right there. Creating novels, essays, poems and short stories takes passion and dedication. Selling them takes the stubbornness of a mule chewing through a steel fence. If you want to be a writer, fan the fire burning in your gut. If there’s no fire, do something else.
3. “Will you read my novel and tell me what you think of it? It’s handwritten and about 700 pages.” Uh, no. Just no.
4. “I got this really great rejection letter from a great agent who says she’d love my book if I just change the point of view and cut it down. But I can’t do that. That’s not my vision!” Wrong. That may be your vision, but it’s their marketplace. Unless you win a Booker prize or the Nobel, or sell like John Grisham, you’d better expect to make compromises along the way. Remember Harper Lee and what she did to sell To Kill a Mockingbird?
5. “I quit my job, because I’m writing a best seller!”
Michelle James says
Haha! I love the 5th one. #4 is just plain stupid – does anyone really think they can “bully” the publishing industry. #3 Said yes once, but nevermore. #2 and #1 Maybe they should just get off the pot.
Holly Robinson says
Thanks, Michelle! Yes, it’s really unbelievable, the things writers say–I have heard #5 twice now in the past few months!
Elizabeth d'Anjou says
Read your post on HuffPo about copy editors being the unsung heroes. So lovely and generous, as well as well written! I’d like to use a quote from it in the online notes for the copy editing course I teach—would you email me?
Thanks so very much.
Holly Robinson says
My apologies for the delay in answering this–I’ll email you, but yes, of course you can use it. Many thanks!