Saturday, February 6, 2016

LIfe's Too Short to Ignore Your Dreams


by Margaret Koch

I wanted to be writer--to call myself a pro, not just write memoirs for friends and family. I wanted to entertain people with fast-paced mysteries--tales of courage and humor, romance, intriguing puzzles and derring-do. My words would dance, leap and shine, sucking readers in until all they could do was turn the page and gasp, then pant for air and relax. They would sigh and smile when the book was done, satisfied. 

I was a psychologist, with a successful practice. I'd heard plenty about life's adventures, but I couldn't use those stories, nor did I want to write research-style--with lots of colons and multi-syllabic words documenting minutia. The joke about research writing is that many colons are needed because material is over-digested, then expelled. And much of it should be flushed. I would write no self-help books, either. I had no life-fixing thoughts I cared to share. So I had no experience with that glittering mix of excitement I wanted in my books. And I was overly mature. An unkind person might even say I was old. There I was, a fast-aging wannabe, totally ignorant of what I was getting into. 

Scary.

I hitched up my brain and dove headfirst into the buzzsaw of writing and publishing. No guts, no glory. During the next five years, as I wrote and published my mystery-thriller series novels, this is what I learned--in simple form, no colons.

1. The business is brutal, as are most businesses allied to the arts. If you want respect and due consideration, get over it. You're likely better at the gates, unacknowledged, Unless you are struck by lightning you'll be dismissed. It's a business. They don't trust wannabees, especially old ones writing a series. You might be spectacular, but the first lesson is "Get over yourself." Start young, if possible.

2. A single book traditionally published will take at least two years to get to a reader--too slow, if you've started late. Your life will slip away while publishing proceeds at a snail's pace. By the time you're offered a contract, your brain will have departed. You can't do a series of one, anyway.

3. There's another way. The e-book revolution arrived. The odds of success increase with each e-book you publish, if you turn out a quality product. And it's fast. But e-book publishing is like diving into a stormy maelstrom where many good writers perish unknown.
I'm selling enough to know that I'm valued to readers. People thank me. I like my reviews. I like royalty checks. I believe that I'm a good writer. That's heady.

4. Writing fiction requires courage. You're exposed. You cannot worry about what people will think. You'll be praised, ignored and critiqued. You'll be emotionally tossed from highs to lows. Do it anyway. Life's too short to ignore dreams.

(Excerpted from The Mystery Writers where you can read Margaret Koch's interview as well as that of 51 others. The 390-book is available in ebook, print and audio editions.

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