Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Welcome back, Dear Readers.

Last week I shared a blog post from an online writer friend on my Facebook page. To my surprise, it was met with a negative reaction, but I still think what she had to say has merit.

Michelle, who has previously published her novels online and recently signed with a traditional small publisher, has learned that landing a book deal doesn’t make you happy. Is it a happy occasion? Yes, but if you aren’t generally content with your life already, you could be disappointed by how little changes when that fabled publishing contract comes your way.

This post rang true because I admit that I’ve often felt my life will be perfect when I’m a published author and can finally write full-time. I can see how that mindset would (and does) set writers up for a fall. Yes, you often make more money for your writing. You sometimes gain more respect as an author. You can finally show off that shiny new volume to family and friends. But once the initial rush is over, what are you left with? Just you, and your work. Exactly like before.

I’m not ready to go after the brass ring with Dragonfly Summer just yet, but I went through something similar when I signed with my first agent. When she initially told me she wanted to represent my work, I was euphoric. Finally, actual proof that I was “good enough”! This was a woman who’d worked in the publishing industry for years, and she was based in New York–the toughest literary nut to crack. She must be an authority on what was publishable material, right?

Of course I knew that she might not be able to sell my book, but I believed all the hype I was told about million dollar deals and instant fame and was sure that wouldn’t happen to me. Well, guess what? It did. And because I was so positive that this agent was my one chance at publishing success, it took me years to admit what should have been patently obvious from the beginning…that this woman’s heart wasn’t in being an agent, and that we weren’t a good fit.

One quote that I have always loved is Take pleasure in the journey, not just the destination. It is sometimes difficult to take any joy in the rejections and uncertainty that are part and parcel of being an unpublished writer, but at this stage, your work is your own. No one tells you what to write or how to write it. There are no expectations from fans or publishers. Don’t feel like rewriting that book again? Then don’t. Write something else. The freedom of being unpublished is something I never appreciated until I had an agent telling me to rewrite the same book over and over again.

Do I believe Michelle that some parts of being published will be less than glamorous? Less than fun? Even depressing, stressful, and frustrating? Yes, I do. But is it still worth it? Yes, of course!

What do you think of Michelle’s post? Can you identify with it? Have you ever experienced something similar? The first FOUR people to post an insightful comment in response (doesn’t matter if you agree with her or not) will win two free passes to the new IMAX theatre at the Polo Park Cineplex in Winnipeg. The passes are good until September 31. Obviously, the winners will have to be in Winnipeg or the surrounding area.

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  1. Mystic_Mom

    I write because I love to write. I wouldn’t know what to do with all the words, stories, poems and rants if I didn’t write. I’d be mad!

    I self published because I a) knew I could do it and b)didn’t want to wait in line for someone to say I was worthy. I knew I was.

    Write! Write! I’m always surprised, and pleased, when I get a comment on a post or an email back from someone who has read a chapter or 10 in my book in progress. It feels good to be ‘heard’. It feels good to have a voice that is audible to more than you and your pets.

    It is not why we write though. It is not why painters paint, singers sing or dancers move. Birds don’t sing for an audience, they sing because they have a song.

    I think the comments by your readers were pretty good Holli, and as I didn’t have much to add I, in a rare moment, stayed silent! (making up for it here though!)

    Having been in print media and writing a good part of my life I’ve been around people who write to see their byline, to see their authorship noted and reviewed. I’ve seen them lash out when ignored or treated less then their own scale measures them at. They are looking for happiness and reward outside of the actual craft. Outside of their actual craft.

    The dream is in the words, the words are our stories and our voice. The best way to become a writer is to write, the best way to fulfill your goals as a writer is to pursue them. They are connected but neither does one cancel out the other.

    Many good people write well for their job and don’t think of it after the -30- is typed and the article sent. Many others have scraps, pages, books, binders and hard drives of words, they have tapes of them speaking words. They don’t miss savoring a well crafted phrase and shudder at ‘text talk’. Both write – one writes for work, one writes for the sake of writing. Both can be as successful as they choose in whatever field they write in.

    Personally, as I work on my second book of poetry and am talking to a publisher about printing some of my blog posts into a book (posts being edited of course!) would rather have my words have an impact, be significant in a small audience than be measured ‘successful’ in areas which don’t mean as much to me. That is just me 🙂

    Polish your craft, keep writing and don’t stop enjoying each step of the journey – there are more stories to be told in each step than those to be found at some mythical destination unseen ahead.

  2. BionicPerry

    Well said Holli! A friend of mine who was recently published said something great at her launch (I’m paraphrasing): when she was finally published (traditionally with a publisher), did she think she reached the end of her journey? Heck no. It was just a milestone on her road to being a writer. You said something very similar here, and I echo that sentiment! But I still think Michelle’s post was a bit…shall we say…emotionally charged? 😉

  3. Story Teller

    Well said, MM and Perry! Thanks for commenting. You have both won a pair of IMAX tickets! MM, please send me a Facebook message with your address. Perry, I’ll drop off your tickets to you at work.

    @ MM – Sometimes it’s really hard to enjoy every step of the journey, especially when those brass rings seem a million miles away. I get that, and that’s why it’s so important for writers to talk about these things and support one another. It sounds like you have a great attitude that is going to always serve you well. Congrats on the book deal for your blog posts! That’s fabulous!

    @ Perry – Maybe the problem is that too many writers don’t think beyond getting that publishing deal. If we knew what our next goals were beyond that milestone, we’d still have something to shoot for, and “success” wouldn’t feel as empty.

    I get Michelle’s emotion, because she was going through a rough time when she wrote that post and was clearly feeling quite passionate about what she was experiencing. Even though some people won’t like it, thank goodness for the complete honesty and disclosure of the bloggers! I take Michelle’s post as a very timely warning. I wish someone had told me the same about getting an agent, although undoubtedly I wouldn’t have wanted to hear it.

  4. Julius T. Csotonyi

    No tickets for me, as I am not even remotely in the Winnipeg area, but that’s real generous of you for your fans!

    I think the attitude of enjoying the journey instead of the destination is absolutely essential for writers and artists, who, as you and Michelle point out, are not likely to score big with a single piece. I find this philosophy to be something of a natural outlook for a true writer or artist, for we have always done what we do largely out of joy (not that it isn’t nice to be well rewarded monetarily for our efforts, which often are indeed considerable, but we were doing some writing or painting as a hobby even before we were paid for it). I know that even though I am often under pressure to complete illustrations for clients, I still really enjoy doing it. It’s the lack of time and the requirement of administrative duties that cause the stress, not the work itself. I can see myself completely happy with a small studio on a remote island painting all the time, even if I don’t ever make it really big. I know that with that kind of attitude, I can use the work itself to alleviate some of the stress caused by the clingy duties that attach themselves to the work.

  5. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment, Julius…insightful as always! And I should mention that Cineplex donated these passes for me to distribute, so all the generosity is theirs. I love IMAX, so I was happy to oblige!

    I, too, would be happy writing away on a little island. When you’re doing what you love, it’s amazing how many “trappings of success” you simply no longer need. I find that a lot of what we spend our money on is used to cheer us up/entertain us during our moments away from jobs that don’t completely fulfill us.

    I think artists, and human beings in general, need to accept the fact that nothing is ever perfect, including the publishing industry. I long to write full-time from home, but know full well that I will miss a lot of my co-workers and the social stimulation that comes from working with like-minded people.

  6. Claudine

    Interesting discussion. I had a somewhat similar talk about this with another editor recently. She said she hated crushing people’s dreams when they call and ask her about writing for her publication. Another friend joked that some dreams deserved to be crushed. But it’s true for any occupation: there’s both good times and bad, rewards and sacrifices. It’s still work, and work is just one part of life. It’s like people who think the the only thing between them and happiness is losing 20 pounds. I think you’re right, Holli, it’s best when you can enjoy the journey.

  7. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment, Claudine! I agree with you. People who are truly happy with themselves will weather disappointments much better than those who aren’t.

    You have won a pair of free tickets to IMAX, care of the fine folks at Cineplex. Please Facebook me your mailing address.

  8. Michelle Davidson Argyle

    As far as being “emotionally charged” – I sure hope so! I’d certainly hate to write about something so incredibly close to my heart and keep it dispassionate and emotionless. It’s true that the post might seem bitter on the outside, but for as many emails and comments I’ve received from published authors who have had similar feelings and not felt like they could say anything publicly, I’m very happy I wrote the post the way I did. Also, I think the post is more positive than anything, especially at the end because it shows that I’m learning a lot on this journey, and I like to record how I’m feeling and share some of those feelings with my readers.

    This very reaction – the fact that some readers will think you’re too passionate and bitter sounding while others email you a response to thank you from the bottom of their heart for writing the post – is why it’s difficult to be an author, and why it’s difficult to put anything out there that is honest and true to ourselves.

    At the same time that it’s difficult, it’s also amazing and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. I wrote up a follow-up post the next day that I hope people read, as well. http://theinnocentflower.blogspot.com/2011/06/following-up-on-publishing-lie.html

    Thank you, Holli, for writing this post and giving us your thoughts. It means a lot to me that you shared my post and that others have voiced their opinions, good and bad. I think you have an interesting take on this side of things since you’ve faced winning that dream head-on. It doesn’t matter how much we get or how far we go, it will never ever last. No outside factors do. What WILL last is our attitude and how we feel about ourselves and our art. That is what will carry us through everything. You seem to have a deep understanding of that, and it will take you far. 🙂

  9. Story Teller

    Thanks so much for weighing in, Michelle! I am honored to welcome you back to the blog.

    It takes bravery to start a blog and continue to be so honest and expressive about one’s thoughts and experiences. By doing so, we are opening ourselves up to occasional attack, and that’s never fun. However, I don’t think we should ever feel bad about providing another opinion and putting it out there–that’s what blogs are for, for the large part. If people don’t like what you have to say, they don’t have to keep reading, but I for one value reading about your experiences (and I’d say your positive responses FAR outweigh the critical ones, should that mean anything).

    Thanks for the kind compliment. My level of understanding tends to vary depending on what place I’m in. It’s easy to be wise from a distance, but once I’m back in the thick of things again, I’m sure parts of the process will frustate and crush me. That’s how it goes when you’re chasing the brass ring–plenty of ups AND downs.

    Best of luck on your writing journey!


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