Monthly Archives: March 2014

What Writers Can Learn from the X Games

One of my favorite parts of this year’s Winter Olympics was the X Games sports — the crazy skiing and the snowboarding, with all the huge jumps and the flips and the Half Nelsons. Oh, wait. That’s wrestling. Well, okay, so I don’t know the terminology, but it was fun to watch.

I liked it for more than the stunts, though. In fact, one of the things I liked best about it was what happened after each athlete competed. In those sports more than any others, teammates seemed to cheer each other on and celebrate each other’s victories. Heck, even their biggest competitors from the other teams seemed genuinely stoked (ha!) whenever one of them would perform a particularly tough jump or finish a strong, clean run.

I loved seeing those world-class athletes, the top individuals in their sports, support each other and celebrate their successes. I would venture to guess that sense of excitement and camaraderie is one of the reasons those games have become so wildly popular in recent years.

If only the writing community would follow suit.

Too often, writers seem to feel the need to tear each other down — to label each other and even call on other (highly successful, mind you) authors to stop writing. This is nothing new. It’s been going on for years.

The worst part is, there’s no reason for it. Publishing is not a zero-sum game. There is no need to divide and conquer. Authors aren’t competing for the one-and-only gold medal. They’re competing for readers, and there are millions of them out there, all with different tastes. The more variety we have to offer, the better.

We should all be working together to develop each other as writers — to encourage each other to improve our craft and to find good homes for our work. By doing this, we will ultimately be helping to develop more readers. And readers are the one thing we cannot do without.

Now, lest this post leave anyone thinking authors are all a bunch of selfish jerks, I should point out that there are many, many folks out there who are incredibly supportive of their fellow writers. And I’d like to recognize a few of them here. Go check out these websites and blogs by these wonderful and very generous writers:

Brenda Drake
Erica Chapman
Dahlia Adler
Christi Corbett
Jessica Martinez
Sandy Green
Cassie Mae
Val Patterson
Noreen Wald

These are just a handful of people who have been supportive of me personally, who have taken time out of their busy lives to offer advice or cheer me on or provide moral support. There are many others out there who are doing the same and building up their colleagues. They know writing is not about winning and losing, it’s about perfecting the run and expanding the fan base.

Book Club Bingo

books_0I’m always slightly terrified when I find out someone I know is reading my book. How will they react? Will they like it? Hate it? Or worst case, feel nothing?

So when I found out that the Joy of Reading Book Club at my church had chosen THE FUNERAL SINGER as its March pick, I was torn. Part of me felt so grateful and humbled that they would take the time to read and discuss it. Part of me was psyched to have an opportunity to sit in a room full of book lovers and listen to them discuss the characters and scenes I’d spent five years writing and revising. And, yes, part of me was quite nervous.

Well, last night was The Big Night … and I haven’t quite come down from it yet. It was more fun and boosted my confidence as a writer more than I could have imagined.

Eight women braved the icy Northern Virginia roads to get together for almost two hours to talk about MY BOOK. Crazy, right? And so cool!

Everyone seemed to really like it–or if they didn’t, they were gracious enough to pick out the things they did like and talk about those. But I could tell, at least a few of the women loved it. Like, really, truly loved it. They talked about how close they felt to Mel, how various themes in the book spoke to them, and how they were recommending it to their family and friends. I couldn’t stop smiling. They GOT IT!

Now before I go all Sally Field on you, let me say: I tell you this not because I want to pat myself on the back (well, OK, maybe a little … I am forever telling writers to celebrate even the smallest victories in this tough, rejection-laden profession, and I need to remember to do that as well) but because I want to make a point about why writers write.

We write for the people who get it.

There will be people who don’t get it, and that’s OK. Not everyone likes every book. Any time I get a less-than-glowing review or a one- or two-star rating on Goodreads, I go look at the ratings for THE HUNGER GAMES. See, I LOVED that book. Loved the whole trilogy. Got all my friends to read it long before the movies came out. But at this moment, on Goodreads, THE HUNGER GAMES has 7,629 one-star ratings. Granted, this is less than 1 percent of its 2.3 million ratings, but still. More than 7,000 people hated it. THE HUNGER GAMES! Crazy but true. So not everyone is going to love my book, and I am learning to be OK with that.

But, there are people out there who do love it. Maybe even people I’ve never met and never will. And I’m writing for them.

As writers, we tend to measure success in sales. Well, the number of people who buy my book may never even reach the number of people who hated THE HUNGER GAMES, but you know what? That’s okay. If even one person loves my book, gets it, grows to care about my characters … what more can a writer ask for?

By the way, my favorite comment last night came from a woman who was talking about Mick–a character who actually is dead throughout the entire book and whose funeral kicks off the book. She talked about how she had developed some misconceptions about him but as she got to know him on the page throughout the course of the novel, she realized he was more than just a druggie rock star.

Her comment: “I said to myself, ‘You shouldn’t be so judgmental.’ It made me want to be a better person.”

It made her want to be a better person.

My book did that? Wow. That’s why I write.