The Truth About Writers



I used to dream of writing a novel everyone would love (I still do), having it sell enough copies to give up my day job and buy a big house in the woods where I could sit and write more novels between dips in my Olympic-sized swimming pool or furnishing a huge, open living area where the whole family could gather for holidays. As a successful author, I would make a small fortune while avoiding people aside from those special times of the year.

    While I’ve had many people say, “When you sell that book and have lots of money…” the truth about being an author is much different. Having spent time at conferences with quite a few published authors and started on the path to being published myself, I’ve learned a well-kept secret. The truth about writers is that we don’t make a lot of money from selling books.

     Unless an author sells as many books as Rawlings or Patterson, book royalties are unlikely to provide a full-time living and cover the costs of getting published. Building the webpage and adding all the features for hosting, security, newsletter add-ons, and spam protection wiped out my clothing budget for a year. Hiring a professional editor to make sure the book was the best it could be gobbled up our summer vacation funds. Hiring cover design experts will probably use up my annual chocolate fund, and you do not want to be around me during a chocolate fast.

     I will have to sell a lot of books to recoup the cost of getting the first one published. So much for my big house in the woods.

     So why do I write?

     First, genuine writers can’t help themselves. We see a story in every conversation and need to write it down, embellish it, and share it with anyone who will listen. Writers have to write or feel silenced. I tremble at the thought of turning up at a social event where the stories start to flow, and I don’t have a small notebook and pen to capture them.

     Second, I have a story to tell. As I was going through the days of watching older parents develop dementia while discovering that the effects of growing older were stalking me at every corner, I wanted to connect with people who were on a similar path in life. I wanted to help people understand and reflect on this journey, the good and the bad. I wanted to make people laugh and cry at the same time. I guess the teacher/entertainer in me will never go away.

    I’ve also found that writing connects me to people far and wide and on a deeper level than I knew before. I’m not really a people person. I like solitude. Quiet. (And you became a teacher?!) However, when I get responses to newsletters, or FaceBook comments, or have long-distance Zoom meetings with other writers and readers, my introverted little heart dances in delight. I’m not alone in my passions, purposes, and struggles. People get a tiny glimpse of the closed-off little person I am, and I get to see inside their hearts and minds – and grow to care about them in the process.

     Finally, writing for me has become a faith-building experience. It is one of the ways I connect with my Creator. When I first wrote The Wandering Place, I realized that I just sat at the computer, and God put words at my fingertips. The story came with little effort, all the pieces weaving together and coming to a clear conclusion. A similar thing happens when I sit down to write newsletter and website articles. I have to do the research and revise and edit over and over. My fingertips get it wrong. But writing time is time spent in relationship with the One who placed the creative fire in my brain in the first place.

     I still want to see my book on the shelves of the local grocery store or in little airport bookstores. I still hope to sell enough books to make a profit on my investments. But should those never come to pass, writing hasn’t been a waste of time. If nothing else, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy conversations with many of you, and that has been a great blessing.

     Side notes- I still have the day job, but only for another year. Time took care of that dream without a bestselling novel to my credit.

     When will that book be finished? The Wandering Place is written and revised, and professionally edited to the max. I can’t think of a single thing to improve on it, though I’m sure publishing editors will find needed revisions. I am now working on finding potential agents or publishers who will take the book to publication. This step is the hardest. Writing the book was easy. Writing an attention-grabbing, stand-out-from-the-stack query letter is hard.

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