Like many of you, when I began writing I started a couple of novels but soon discovered that there was a lot more to writing than I had anticipated. I got a few chapters into each of them and had to stop for one reason only: I didn’t know what to write next.
Over the next six or seven years I began to study writing earnestly, but I only practiced on rare occasions. Everything had to be just right in order for me to work. The house had to be empty. I had to be in the mood. Of course I could only write when I had the energy.
On those rare occasions when the stars aligned, I would crank away at the typewriter.
But one day a realization came to me. As a new writer, someone who was unpublished, no one gave a hoot if I ever wrote another word. My parents kept hoping that I would study medicine or business. I had no wife, girlfriend, or writing group to spur me on. So if I failed to write, no one noticed.
Many of you are in that same position. You may have something to say to the world. You may hope for acclaim. You might only wish to tell stories.
But if you don’t write, the world will never know what you might have done.
I realized back then that I had to take complete responsibility for my writing.
I had to set up times to write. I needed to make sure that I stayed on task.
I hoped that someday I would get fan mail from readers who would be eager for my next book, and maybe that would help inspire me, but I knew that that day would never come unless I practiced my craft, all alone, with no audience but me.
Over the past few years, that realization has grown. And you don’t have to just write the novels, you have to sell them.
Your publisher cares whether you sell, of course, but not nearly as much as you do. It’s like horse racing, where you’ve only got one little horse. The publisher might be backing you, but he’s got dozens of horses all in the same race.
His chances of winning are excellent.
So we have to take responsibility for our writing—not just for writing our own novels, but for editing them, writing the blurbs that sell them, getting cover quotes, and marketing them both in person and on the web.
Yes, agents and editors may help, but ultimately we must be responsible. Writing a book is only part of the job. It may take a couple of months. But promoting a book well can require years.