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Monday, May 24, 2010

File This Under: What Not To Do

My mid-grade writer friend called me up the other day with a fun story, I'm sharing with permission...

Ann: Hey, you remember my cousin, X?

Me:Yes. I'm pretty sure. The one who lives in [State] and keeps trying to bum money off of everyone?

Ann: That's the one. Guess what?

Me: She's has a new job?

Ann: Even better.

Me: She won the lotto and is going to buy me pizza?

Ann: Not even close. Cousin X is going to be a writer.



I sat back to think about Cousin X. I know she's only a few years older than me, but my mind has her set at 54, going gray, overweight, with a tendency to cry at cheap 80's romance novels and wish her husband sparkled just like Edward Cullen (although Edward at 50+, pudgy, and bald probably isn't so sparkly).

Me: Did you say writer? Like... a novel writer?

Ann (gleeful): Oh yes! Guess what she wants to write?

Me: For, like, the Harlequin pay-to-play novel scam? (Aren't I eloquent?)

Ann: No, she wants to write CHILDREN'S books.

*blink blink*

Me: Isn't this the cousin who hates kids?

Ann: YES!!!

Me: Does she read children's books?

Ann: She hates those too.

Me: Uh... then why does she want to write them?

Ann: Because she said they were easy, because they're short, and you can make easy money off of writing them. She wants to have some extra cash for her birthday next month.

Let's review all the things wrong with this idea.

1. Writing children's literature is easy - FALSE - Books and stories for children are shorter, but they are not something you can whip together in an afternoon.

2. Writing will make you rich, quickly - FALSE - Very few authors live off of their writing exclusively. Less than 1% live off the sale of their first piece exclusively (if any ever have), and publishing is never quick.

3. You can write in a genre you don't read - FALSE - If you don't read the genre, if you don't enjoy the genre, you aren't going to get published in the genre. Your lack of interest is going to show in your writing and editing. There are thousands of hopeful authors out there who are interested and are willing to invest the time to make their work great. If you aren't one of them, find another genre.

Don't go there people, just don't.


  1. LOL!!! Well, she's in for a rude awakening! Wish I could be a fly on the wall.

    Sadly, though, her submittals will take up precious, valuable time of editors...which explains the prevalence of the 'no response unless interested' policy. There are a lot of Cousin X's out there.

  2. Oh. wow. Keep us updated on how that goes for her.

  3. Oh. Dear. I really shouldn't have read this in the class I'm babysitting. *snort*

  4. *shudder*

    Since "coming out of the closet" with my own writing, I get this about once a month or so. A cousin, co-worker, or friend at church has divulged to me they want to be a writer, and they want to know the "secret to my success."

    "I wrote for ten years without getting a thing published or earning a penny, and I held down a real job in the mean time," I say. "I'm only quitting now because, after writing ten novels, I finally wrote one that worked."

    "Oh," they laugh. "I wouldn't want to do it that way. I'll just self-publish when I finish. It can't be that hard to earn money from it."

  5. Amy - Cousin X has to write the book first. My bet with Ann is she won't. But I may lose and buy Ann a milkshake.

    Jean - I will!

    Inky - Sorry, I'll put a warning up next time.

    Beth - Tell them you'll sell your secret for $20. The secret is: Work Hard. :o) It doesn't matter which publishing route you take, you need work to make it pay off.

  6. Writing in any genre is hard!

  7. Oh dear. This isn't going to end well. Let's just hope she doesn't spend too much time struggling with a genre she despises for an audience she can't empathize with before she understands.