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Sunday, September 2, 2012

The first novel - it's not the end but just the beginning





            It’s a common misconception among emerging writers – sell that first novel and you’re there.  You’ve reached the end goal and you’ve arrived.  Like a large segment of the population, aspiring authors think that first book equals instant fame, publication, and renown.  Before rushing out to buy the quintessential author’s tweed jacket or trying to book an appearance on a favorite television talk show, take a long slow sip of reality.   That first novel sale isn’t the end but a beginning.

            By the end of the year I’ll have twenty –seven novels and novellas out in the world, at least four of those in paperback form.  I may be an old-fashioned purist but I tend to think of my briefer works as shorts or novellas rather than novels.   But either way I’ll have close to thirty pieces of fiction out in the hands of readers with my name on the cover. 

            Judging from that many aspiring authors figure I’ve found that pot of gold tucked away beneath a rainbow.  They figure that I can write at my leisure, count all my earnings, and enjoy fame’s spotlight.   But that’s not true.

            When my first novel, a little paranormal romance called Wolfe’s Lady debuted in 2010 I had no real clue what would happen or what to expect.   I’m enough of a realist that I didn’t figure the paparazzi would camp outside my front door (although so far two of the local television stations have done feature stories on my work) but I was clueless.  Now, almost two years later, my view is far clearer and I understand that my work as an author is just beginning.

            I also know all those long hours I spent writing for years were short compared to the schedule I keep these days.  I’m no longer in the dark about what is required to write, what edits are, and why promotion, promotion, promotion is as vital for a writer as location, location, location is in real estate.

            Getting published isn’t the end at all – it’s the start.   My life shifted in more ways than I can count since my debut effort.  Amazing things happen to me almost every day.   When readers tell me they enjoy my work, I’m thrilled.   If someone recognizes me out in the world, I’m surprised (but I’ve learned to wear something decent and slap on a little makeup) and I’ve earned the undisputable right to call myself author.

            I’m not rich, though.  The money trickles in, more than welcome but there are days when I want to cry looking over my family’s finances.  With prices soaring, three kids to feed, clothe, shoe, and entertain, I have moments when I think I must be crazy.  Maybe I should have kept on substitute teaching or maybe I should ask my friend down at the local restaurant for a job.   After all I waited tables and did restaurant work long before I had that first byline but then I wonder where in my busy, hectic writing schedule I could fit any of it in and shrug my shoulders.  I juggle the bills a little more and go back to work, nose to the keyboard and manage like everyone else does.

            Now I have my foot stuck in the door and I’m keeping it there.  With any luck at all and a lot of hard work I can not only keep that door open but push on through.   Unless something major changes, I’ll write stories and send them out into the world.  I made up stories before I could read, started scribbling in grade school, sold a few short stories in several places, and now people read my longer tales.
            If anyone wants my two cents – or with inflation, call it a dollar’s worth of advice about writing, all I have to say is never give up, work hard, understand that edits enhance and not destroy, and that a first novel isn’t a end but a beginning

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