It’s Gonna Be OK

by | Jun 28, 2007 | The Writing Life | 9 comments

Today’s post will be short — I am soon going to be spending several hours packing up my entire office because they’re putting in new carpeting and painting the walls over the weekend. Huzzah! No one will be able to defeat me in my freshly appointed fortress.

My invitation to vent yesterday certainly elicited a strong response, and I hope people found it therapeutic and cathartic rather than a dandy opportunity to fall off the wagon. Trust me, I really do empathize with the difficulties of an up and coming writer, and whenever I think about all the time and energy and blood, sweat, and tears that go into all of the novels behind the 6,000-7,000 queries I pass on each year it kills me.

I was having dinner last night with a great friend who is an editor at a big publishing company in New York, and some other friends from outside the publishing industry. The non-publishing friends were really curious about the economics of publishing and how publishers and authors make money. Inevitably, once we explained how few authors make big money and how the blockbusters go a long ways toward supporting the smaller books, they were shocked. There are better ways of making money. But then they started thinking up book ideas anyway.

People love writing books no matter how many copies they sell — and that has to be the thing that keeps you going. Not how much success you will or won’t find. I described the “If only” game in a previous post, and it’s really true. Happiness isn’t always just around the corner for a writer, and despite all of the frustrations inherent in the process people still write books, right? There’s gotta be something there that makes it meaningful, and lord knows it isn’t waiting five months for an agent to write you back.


  1. original bran fan

    A good friend just received her first fan letter. She was so touched!

    Books have been so meaningful to me, providing everything from entertainment to solace. At the end of a hard day, curling up with a good book has been a blessing. If I can share that, give that to another person, then I will have done good.

  2. Tom Burchfield

    But what it is that keeps me going at it, I don’t really know. Even if if I sell this one for just beer money, I already have plans for the next one.

    . . . oh, as for the venting, I don’t have much fury to expend at the moment (knock on treated wood). My current book has gone pretty well throughout, except it has taken somewhat longer than expected.

  3. Anonymous

    Focus on creating something beautiful and true (although most every novel is a great fabrication) and the money will follow.

  4. Heidi the Hick

    Thanks for this reminder. I admit that I ultimately want to make a living at this writing thing but I am well aware that it won’t be keeping me in a gated mansion. I’m totally okay with that. I hate gated mansions.

    I have to write though. I just have to. And, I enjoy it enough to keep me going through all the difficulties.

    As for the If Only game…I’ve spent the last few years defining what it means to me to be happy. There are no If Onlies. (If Only’s? If Onlys?) We have to find it ourselves and no book deal, fan mail, award, or piece of land is going to do it. Helps, sure, but isn’t the answer.

  5. Dan Leo

    Musicians like making music. That’s why after a gig they’ll go over to somebody’s pad and jam, even though they’re not getting paid to do it.

    Writers like to write. And that’s one reason why we’re writing these comments. Keep rockin’ Nathan; I tell all my homies, you’re the nicest agent on the internets, and that’s no suck-up.

  6. joycemocha

    Why do I write? Because I want to tell stories, hopefully stories that other people want to read.

    Why do I write fiction? Because, a year ago, I was so dang burned out after spending a spring doing nothing but writing Individual Education Plans for Special Ed kids(I was buried that spring), that I looked at a Present Level of Performance page and growled “I want to write fiction again instead of this damned technical writing stuff!”

    What got me actually typing up the stories? A friend that I’d once been in a writer’s group with winning a Hugo award last year, and discovering a new technique to complete a novel during NaNoWriMo.

    End result: One novel at an editor, one novel complete in rough draft ready for rewrites, another novel almost finished in rough draft, and a fourth just starting.

    Geez. Sounds like there was a bit of a mental jamup there. Hope I can keep up the pace–one of those stories should be saleable!

  7. Jordyn

    What keeps me writing?

    Basically I just love creating characters too much to give it up. It’s hard to explain except to say that I have to; it sounds cliche, but it really is as ingrained (sp) in me as breathing.

  8. Ryan

    I write because I want to. Sure, getting published would be nice, but even if I ever do get published there’ll be so much I’ve written that I’ll never want to have published. I write for me.

    Besides, if I didn’t write, I’d be getting into God knows what with God knows who, which is never a good thing.

  9. Eliza

    It’s how I deal with issues. In my first novel I dealt with a friend’s death, even though the circumstances were very different. Second novel was about trying to be a strong but kind woman. In my last short story I decided to write about what scared me the most.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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