Sunday, April 17, 2011

Goals? Check Another One Off the List

by Leann

Old typewriter keys
When I began writing twenty (gulp--really?) years ago, I had a few things I wanted to do. The first, of course, was learn how to write. My belief is that many people have no idea just how hard it is to get the story in your head on to the page so that it at least resembles what you want it to be. The learning curve is long and steep. With ebooks finally taking off, readers may soon discover this for themselves as they begin to find work that is not rewritten or edited. Unrefined writing can be pretty ugly. You will have to search hard for the gems--but they will be there.

A person can write for all sorts of reasons. There is nothing wrong with writing for one's self or for friends and family. That's why I have never been one to look down my nose at self-published work. It could be someone's dream just to see their name in print or leave something behind of themselves. Who am I to judge their dream and dismiss it?

But I had a few goals from the minute I attempted my first story. I wanted to first see if I could finish something. That's why the initial course I took was a short story class. I finished, by golly, and it was truly dreadful. The nice thing about the learning curve is, however, that you do not know just how bad you are. I finished and I was oblivious. That was the day I became a writer. Only later would I learn exactly how difficult writing a good short story is, but I finished more and more of them. I thought they were wonderful. I submitted to Redbook and Woman's Day--do you recall they used to publish short stories? And was rejected over and over. Today, I cringe at the thought of what those editors thought, the ones who had the misfortune to read any of those stories. I pressed on, though. Still oblivious.

Once I determined that yes, this writing thing was for me, that I loved it, I set a few more goals. Get a few stories published. Write a mystery. Hone my craft. Get an agent. Get the novel published by a major publisher. Make sure the book is available in audio so everyone can "read" it. Be nominated for awards. I have accomplished all of those things, but the awards were won long ago in contests for unpublished writers.

I was paid more for winning contests than for getting short stories published, by the way. But there is something special that came out of writing those shorts--one story was read by the woman who is now my editor. She wanted more from me--and she bought my first novel Pick Your Poison because of a 2500 word story. A goal still not met is to be nominated for a major writing award. It might not ever happen, but it's still on the list.

That list also included making a bestseller list. I did that several times through the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's list, even had a stint at number one for The Cat, The Quilt and The Corpse. The crown jewel, however, came this week when I made the NY Times bestseller list.

Why is that important? I am not a narcissist. Far from it, I am insecure and never sure if what I have written is good enough. What it means is that my stories are reaching a bigger audience--that I can perhaps give to someone else what was given to me: the joy of a escaping into a book. Books saved me when I was a child--saved my sanity, made me strong and made me believe in dreams come true and happy endings. For all of you who have bought, read and enjoyed by books, I cannot thank you enough.