|Photo credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr|
Today I’d like to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum—the myths that many of us, especially early in our writing careers, have probably fallen for or perhaps are even still tempted to believe. These myths are created by Hollywood, by too much news coverage of the exceptions, by well-intentioned hopes, overly-optimistic dreams and inexperience.
But these myths are just that—myths—and although they sound nice on paper, the sooner we accept that they aren’t real, the better.
The Writing Myths:
1. The overnight success story. Nathan Bransford wrote a really fantastic post covering this myth much more succinctly than I could, but the overnight success stories that you hear about all so very often are largely lies. Writing a book takes time—months, sometimes years—and chances are the first book that you publish won’t be the first book you ever write (more on that later). It takes time to hone your craft, to learn the ins and outs of writing, to develop your voice and learn how to write a solid plot and then learn the proper way to market it all when you’ve finished. J.K. Rowling spent years planning out and writing Harry Potter and received dozens of rejections before getting published. Amanda Hocking also spent years building her craft and receiving rejection letters before making it big in the self-publishing world. The list goes on, but in short, don’t believe the overnight success story.
2. Your debut novel = your first novel. No.
I mentioned this in first bullet, but nine out of ten times, your first novel will not be your debut novel. Debut is a tricky word, because it sounds like it’d be your first novel ever and when publishers announce an author’s “first” novel, it often sounds like it’s the first one the author has ever written but with few exceptions, that’s largely not the case. “Debut novel” means the first novel that you’ve ever gotten published. It’s your debut into the world of published writers—it’s usually not the first novel you’ve ever written. Chances are the first and second and maybe even third and fourth novels you’ve ever written are going to be sitting in a drawer somewhere when you get your “first” book published. It varies from writer to writer, but it usually takes more than a single manuscript to really hone your novel-writing skills.
3. All the author needs to do is write a book. That’s a nice thought—but not quite. Authors write books, then edit, then rewrite, then edit more, then they market their books—whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter or tumblr or book tours or YouTube—all the while working on the next book, and reading other books, and trying not to entirely disappear from the social media world while buried under a heap of editor notes.
And that’s not even getting into just how difficult it is to write a book in the first place.
4. Authors do everything alone. Rachelle Gardner wrote a fantastic post on the help that traditionally published authors receive, but in short, traditionally published or not, authors absolutely do not do everything alone. We get help from readers and editors and book designers and agents and marketing specialists and copyeditors because it takes a lot more than just one person to write a book and get it out there. Writers can’t do everything alone, and the great part is that we don’t need to. There are others out there willing and able to help—we just have to go out there and find them.
5. After publishing one book, money starts raining on the author. I think most of us know this isn’t true, but especially nowadays I think it’s important we accept this one.
Yes, there are always exceptions—we’ve all heard about the debut authors who start off with a bang and immediately jump into the New York Times Bestsellers list, with a very nice advance sitting in their bank account. It happens.
But by and large, it doesn’t happen. In today’s world, advances are shrinking and publishers are more careful. An author’s career (regardless of how successful they were with their debut) isn’t based on just one novel—it’s a combination of every novel they ever publish and for most of us, it’ll be a slow climb. There’s a reason so many authors have a second (and sometimes third) job, and it’s not just because they’re bored sitting at home.
Writing takes time. Publishing takes time. Making a living off of writing usually takes a lot of time.
So those are my five writing myths. What would you add to the list?