Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Everyone Has a Book Inside

And, depending on where that book is located, it can be very painful and require surgical removal.

After getting a book deal one thing I hear (and my mom hears, and my dad hears, and anyone who knows me and tells anyone else about it) is this: "That's so cool! I should write a book." And my answer is always the same.

Yes, you should!

Absolutely you should. If you have an idea that you've always wanted to write, by all means, write it! Quit procrastinating. Writing is fun. It's challenging and entertaining, and that sense of satisfaction you get when you write the last word on your very first novel? Amazing. It really is an accomplishment. I recommend writing as a hobby to anyone.

But did you catch that? What I said, right there, right above this sentence? Let me reiterate: I recommend writing as a hobby to anyone. Because sometimes, these same people, after telling me they should write a book, get a sly look in their eyes and ask how much money I made.


I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you want to make money writing, look into freelancing. If you try and write a novel for money you will a) hate it and b) hate it and c) hate it. Cracking into publishing is




There's this myth out there. I call it the Stephenie Meyer myth. The myth goes as follows: You've never written a word in your life, but one morning you wake up after the most amazing dream. The book flows out of you like the waters of life itself, one month later you have a book deal worth moneymoneymoney, and voila! You're famous! You're rich! And it was ALL SO EASY!!

First of all, I guarantee you that it wasn't easy for Stephenie Meyer. I also assure you that her story didn't happen like that, and is still one in a million. In fact, the odds are probably even worse.

The other thing people ask me is how long it took to write Paranormalcy. Well, it took me three weeks.

Three weeks, plus two solid months of editing several revisions.

Three weeks, plus two solid months of editing several revisions, plus three previously written novels.

Three weeks, plus two solid months of editing several revisions, plus three previously written novels, plus four years of writing, plus a degree in English with an emphasis in editing, plus a whole lot of sleep-deprived nights and missed social outings, plus a lifetime of reading and paying attention while I was reading to figure out the mechanics of how this whole English Language thing works (and how it doesn't).

Because this is where writing switches from a hobby to a profession. As with any profession, you need the tools of the trade. And--I'm sorry to shatter any dreams out there--it takes work to learn this stuff. A lot of people say they could be a writer if they only had time. I'm a writer because I made time. Sure, I could have been a lawyer if I had taken the time. But I didn't. And thus, I am not a lawyer. (Thank goodness, too, because we have a lot in my family and the conversations get ridiculously boring.)

I'm not saying you must have a degree in English. Far from it. Becca Fitzpatrick, whose novel Hush, Hush debuted on the NYT bestseller list (and who is awesome), has a degree in Public Health. But you know what she did? She took classes. She found a critique group. She learned how to write. And anyone can do the same thing.

Do I believe everyone has a book in them? Of course I do.

Do I believe everyone has a publishable book in them? Not unless they're prepared to do a whole heck of a lot of work. I also believe that doing the work, learning the mechanics, is worth it regardless of whether or not you ever get published.

You're going to get tired of me saying this, but here it is again: Write because you love to write. If it never becomes more than a hobby, you still have a freaking awesome hobby. And if you want it to be more than a hobby, it's going to be one of the hardest--and most rewarding--things you'll ever pursue.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a picturebookectomy scheduled for later today. Can't get the dang thing out of my lower intestine.


DebraLSchubert said...

So you're saying writing is hard work? Yeah, it is! But, not many things are more satisfying than watching yourself improve book to book, sometimes even sentence to sentence.

How's laptop, btw?

Tamika: said...

Writing is the hardest thing I have ever done. But I love it!

You're right it takes work and anyone willing to invest should pony up and go for it.

It certainly is not for the faint of heart!

lora96 said...

I'm with you here! I just started the first writer's workshop of the year with my second graders and believe me, EVERYONE has a book in them. Some of them write about their families. Some of them write about supervillains with names like Clawflash, and some of them say, "Can I write about my BFF's?" and I groan and say, yeah if that's what your book's about then go for it! :)

jjdebenedictis said...

Awesome post. Thanks for writing this. It's tricky to be both realistic about writing and still positive and supportive, but you totally nailed it. :)

Kiersten White said...

Thanks, ladies.

And especially thanks, JJ. I was worried about that, because I really, truly don't want to discourage anyone. There are a lot of sacrifices you have to make if you really want to write, but it's so worth it!

Marybeth Poppins said...

Awesome post. It about covers ever aspect. I started writing due to The Stephanie Meyer theory and soon realized that um ... well that theory is a piece of old stale oatmeal raising cookie. (Aka Crap) But here I am well over a year later still pursuing my dreams and working on my second novel even though my first one (that although I love the story, it is lacking because...well because it was my first novel) is sitting on the shelf.

All writers should have a very realistic view of what they are in for. Because if they don't they are just setting themselves up for disappointment that doesn't need to happen if they just have a realistic view of what kind of work needs to be done!

Renee Collins said...

Well said, Kierst. Well said.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Hey, Kiersten: No book deal yet, but I have recently signed with an agent (yay!!), so some of those same conversations are coming my way.

People who know I left teaching in May (to pursue writing full-time) think everything has fallen into place quickly. In a lot of ways, it has. Most people don't know about or remember the eleven years of writing and 200+ rejections I've slogged through to make it to this point in the journey.

I love that you're several steps ahead of me. It's like motherhood, you know? Always good to have someone with an older child to come to when you need advice. :)

Marsha Sigman said...

When you told people you were writing, did you get the eye roll? I love that and then when you do get published, they say they should write.

Great post, thank you.

Andrea Cremer said...

Great post, Kiersten!

sraasch said...


Very, very true. The misconception that writing and publishing a book is "easy" has become the norm amongst non-writer folk. Which is kind of deflating when you go to tell your friends, all excited that you got an agent, and they respond "But that's, like, easy, right?" Um, yeah. I just spent most of my life honing my craft and researching the industry and writing novel after novel. But yeah, easy. Sure.

What's "easy" is brushing off that kind of response just to get on to a less-maddening subject. But the misconception won't die unless we take the time to explain what publishing is REALLY like. And posts like this are exactly what the non-writing world needs :)

Sarah Laurenson said...

I <3 you! Most sincerely.

Your writing is so awesome no matter what you're writing about.

Natalie Whipple said...

Ditto. Except I might have words flowing in my veins instead of blood. Too. Many. Books. In. Me.

Kiersten White said...

Caroline--GOOD LUCK!!!

Marybeth--I think we all start there : )

Marsha--I was actually very reticent to tell people about my writing for that exact reason.

Sara--But it was so EASY, right?

Sarah--I <3 you, too : )

Mariah Irvin said...

Maybe I should become a surgeon so I can get these stories out!

lotusgirl said...

It cracks me up sometimes that people seem to think all they have to do is write the book, and it would be a best seller. If that were true, we'd be drowning in books. Of course, most people don't even write the book. They can't be bothered.

Here's to the work you have done to get where you are! Congrats.

Kristan said...

UH-MAYZING post. I think I will bookmark this to email (anonymously of course) to anyone who says that to me. :)

Anita Saxena said...

I love how you dish out the truth =)

Lily Cate said...

I love finding people close to me who are really into writing.
What I can't stand are the people who want to write, but don't read!
And I'm constantly shocked by how many of them there are!
These usually end up being the folks who want to write about themselves, too.

I'd say I really meet more non-readers who think they can write than avid readers who do.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i appreciate this post. we all DO have a book inside, but for some, it's simply too painful or too hard to remove. for others, like me, it's therapeutic. :)

The Character Therapist

Bevie said...

People who don't write have no concept of how difficult (and exhausting) it is to write. To write a book requires so much of oneself.

But writing isn't a hobby just because one doesn't get paid. I do not get paid for my writing. Probably never will. And yet I still look at writing as my career. It's what I do. I just don't get paid very well (at all). [grin]

But even knowing there are probably no agents or contracts in my future I still write. All the time. Even without the money one works.

Kiersten White said...

Bevie, I certainly didn't mean to say that writing is a hobby unless you get paid! I think there are casual writers and serious writers. And you are DEFINITELY a serious writer : )

Valerie said...

This is such a great post! SO SO true. Especially the parts about being sleep-deprived and missed social outings.

I think this post works not just for encouraging people to write with realistic expectations, but also as an explanation to those who don't understand why writing takes up such a major part of my life and my time. It's not easy. It does take hard work and time. It's a lifestyle choice like any other. An occasionally soul-sucking life choice that makes me happier than almost anything else I've ever done.

Thanks for posting this! You always have such great posts!

pjd said...

Now if only people who don't already know this could actually hear it... well said, and terribly amusing to boot.

owlandsparrow said...

This is such an excellent post! I definitely agree with JJ's post way on up the line, about how you totally nailed the mix of realistic-meets-supportive. Thanks for your perspective!

Natalie said...

I agree. I think almost anyone can write a decent book if they want to put in a few hours a day for several (1-75) years of their life into making it happen.

JennyC said...

Writing from the other side:

Wow! Thank you Kiersten! It's nice to hear someone else put this into words. I often felt like the bad guy when I threw someone's manuscript on the discard pile.

Many years ago, when I first started my career reading query letters and manuscripts, I was appalled at the number that were put on the slush pile. These stories were so good! I was so moved! I read the personal stories and felt like I was throwing a piece of someone's life away! And then someone took me aside at the agency I was working at and told me the cold, hard truth: MOST WRITERS NEVER GET PUBLISHED!

It was as if someone had removed the sparkly, romanticized, world of publishing blinders from my eyes that had been in place since childhood…

Fast forward 6 years and over 5,000 manuscripts later and I understand.

Writing is a labor of love. If you write, you are a writer. But like any profession, you need to have the proper skill set. Just because you can cook does not mean you will have your own one-hour-special with Rachel Ray. Keep writing and if nothing else, keep those stories for yourself and for your progeny. If you truly want to be a published writer, work at it. Get the proper training, have people read and critique your work, and don’t do it for the money.

The most important tip I can leave here? Do not begin your query letter with: “When I tell this story, people tell me I should write a book and publish it. Here is my whole manuscript."

Nadine said...

Loved this post!!

It's so true - people always think it's overnight success but it really takes years.

When people say they have a story, I'm always telling them to write a book. It's such a great accomplishment, even if it never goes anywhere.

Tara said...

I work as a freelance writer to pay the bills. It's not as fun as creative writing, but I enjoy it. When my writing friends say they could never write the articles I write, I know that's why they have a different day job. But I'm with you. If you have a book to write, do it.

Katie said...

What a great post!!!!!!

CKHB said...

I think it was Sharon Stone who said it took her 15 years to become an overnight success. It's all about practice, and drive, PLUS a willingness to learn.

Peggy said...

Awesome post.

And picture book, really? Very cool. Nothing funner than being able to read a book to your kids that's right there on their level that YOU wrote. I bet they'll love it!

patdwhite said...

First of all let me just say this, and this is SO COOL, i am on a different computer and didnt have "Kiersten Writes" bookmarked and couldnt remember the URL, so i typed "Kiersten Writes" in Google search and BAM!!!!! Nothin but links to my baby girls blog!!!! SO COOL!!!!

Second, none of my friends are saying that they think they will write a book and get published. Instead they are all saying "Ask Kiersten to write a book for me and give me the MONEY!!!!"

My friends are indeed smarter than a 5th grader....

cindy said...

oh, let the publishing myths begin! a very encouraging post, kiersten! i'm always mildly suprised when agent bill says i'm getting paid. i'm not use to the random payments yet. haha!

Whirlochre said...

Discouragement is an armoured space marine brandishing a cyberbazooka in your face and yelling, 'duck, you sucker!'

Encouragement is KW of downtown Pukecloth moseying up to the mother (for these armoured space marines have kids too, donchaknow) and raising herself up to the full 59 inches to intone tell me about it...

Mel said...

Hi Kiersten! I just want to say hi and that I love your blog, and I can't wait for Paranormalcy!

Kiersten White said...

Thanks, Mel!

And JennyC, interesting perspective, thanks!

I am enjoying these comments, guys. And also, I love my dad. And his friends.

Liam said... IS hard work.
Now I hafta go do hard work.

ChelMo said...

I'm going to go ahead and assume that this post is directed at me, you're overly-enthusiastic, late-to-jump-on-the-writing-bandwagon friend who likely has delusions of grandeur about this whole writing thing.

Just to set the record straight, I love the writing, and would be embarrassed to have my children read it, let alone complete strangers. Stephenie Meyer, on the other hand... Maybe she can incorporate some of my awesome characters into Twilight 5: Noon-day Sun. Vampires as spies. I'm liking it already.

And thanks for the post! Spot on - especially that part about picturebookectomy. I'm glad you understand just how uncomfortable this "book inside me" thing is. Ugh.

Kiersten White said...

Oh, Chelmo, this was NOT about you. Trust me. I know you know that it's a lot of work : )

ChelMo said...

I know that you didn't REALLY direct it toward me. I'm still honing my eye-rolling + sarcasm on paper skills. Oops!

And we're looking forward to some Dojo time tomorrow! (NOT sarcasm or eye-rolling. Real excitement!)

Kiersten White said...

See, that should probably be sarcasm.

Kaela said...

Hey Kiersten - thanks for the comment! I definitely wasn't trying to imply you single-handedly squashed my dreams, don't think that! I use your blog as inspiration, and to find out more about the publishing process (plus I think it's charming and funny)! Your post was more of a reiteration of the thing I'm scared off - boiled down, that my dream will simply not come true. But I'm less than halfway through writing my first book, and I think all those doubts that I've been having are negatively affecting the writing and making it less fun. So I've decided I have to just block them out for now and concentrate on the fact that at least I'm taking a step in the "write" direction.

Erin said...

Thank you for putting this into words. You haven't discouraged me, you've inspired me. Because I *know* I'm a writer. I've known it since I was a kid, writing crazy-long stories about pioneers by hand at the age of 8. Sneaking a flashlight into bed with me so I could keep reading after the parents said lights out. Getting a degree in English, working as an entry-level editor, then moving up to become a custom publishing editor, only to realize that I'm still not doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

Kiersten White said...

Kaela--Whew! I felt bad.

Erin--YAY! I'm cheering for you : )

Bevie said...

Hi Kiersten. Thanks.

And I do not mean to imply I am at your level of writing. You have put in smarter work than I and have justly been rewarded for your effort.

As far as I am concerned, you are as high above me in writing as I am above you in height. [smiles]

Have a good day.

BOB BOYLE said...

Really well put!

I think that most of what you point out applies to any sort of endeavor.

Valerie Ipson said...

This is my first visit to your blog. I really enjoyed your post! Funny, yet insightful!

Suzette Saxton said...

This is an awesome post. Mind if I link to it in a blog post?

Vicki said...

Great post! It's my first visit to the blog as well.

I write because that's who I am. Yes, I want this to be my career and I'm doing all that is within my power to get there. But, the thing I know for sure is I'm a writer and will always be a writer no matter how long it takes to become a published author. :)

Daisy Whitney said...

Great post and a great reminder that WRITING IS WORK. It's the best work and getting paid to write is totally a dream come true. But it comes with battle scars. I wrote three unpublished novels before I got my book deal this summer -- equating to 300,000 plus words written, tweaked, tweezed and plucked that likely won't see the light of day. And that's fine! I enjoyed every second and if you want to write, you should write. And write and write and write and if you keep it up, you will find yourself with a finished book. Then perhaps an agent, then perhaps a book deal!!! And then you'll have to write a fab blog about the writing process and the path to publication

Dawning Colour said...

It's like you're in my head! (While you're in there, could you rouse the muses, please?)

I find it encouraging to read posts such as yours. I can relate to many of the feelings and opinions you voice, and to hear that you are finding success (congrats!) helps me to pin all those self-doubts back into a stranglehold. So many people do believe the Stephenie Meyer myth that it not only tends to belittle the successes, but also undermines the (long) process. I take comfort in the fact that writing is an escape, a place all my own, and there anything is possible--if I will continue to put in the work required to sharpen the tools of my trade.

Ty for your blog, and congrats again on your upcoming novel release!

Grace Lo said...

True . . . so, so true.

I love writing, I really do, but what I do remember is another author making a post about teenage writing being 'sucky.' For years after my fourth grade teacher complimented my writing, I was like, "I'll be a writer, no biggie." For the past few months, I've looked a lot more into how authors published and was kind of shot down with the amount of work and learning to write involved. Nevertheless, I'd probably still pursue my so far non-existent writing career even when I become a lawyer or something.