Everyone who does anything for a living owes it to himself to take advantage of learning opportunities. Even after one has attained journeyman’s status, to rest on one’s laurels is to invite disaster.
Last week, I had the honor and pleasure of attending SleuthFest in Orlando, Florida. I taught a class on pacing, and sat on three panels. And I hung out at the bar, of course, because that’s where all business is conducted, irrespective of chosen discipline. I met a lot of talented writers I’d never met—Heather Graham and Charlaine Harris among them—and hung out with old friends. And, of course, there are our own Kathleen Pickering and Nancy Cohen, whom I finally met in person—Nancy in a meeting room, and Kathleen in the bar. A lot in the bar. I’m just sayin’ . . .
For me, the big learning moment—the a-ha moment—came during Charlaine’s luncheon keynote, and it reinforced something I’ve known and admired about Jeff Deaver for years (Jeff and Charlaine were guests of honor, along with Chris Grabenstein). If I did my math correctly, the first book of Charlaine’s True Blood series—the one that launched her into the authorial stratosphere—was her twentieth book. Give or take a couple of books, that was the same number of novels that Deaver had published before he became a household name with the Lincoln Rhyme series. As Charlaine put it, she’d spent many years with $4,000 advances, pursuing what her husband had come to think of as a “well-subsidized hobby.”
I am currently pounding away at my tenth novel (fourteenth, if you count the ones that no one wanted). I’m proud of them all, but the recent ones are so way better than the older ones. And the ones that were never published? Well, thank God they weren’t.
At SleuthFest, I learned (again) what I’ve long known to be the truth: writing is a business, and the only way to succeed—and success to me means hundreds of thousands of copies sold—is to keep writing and playing by the rules. Agents are more important than they’ve ever been, and brutal, professional editing is what makes the difference between passable and entertaining.
Even in these days of new media and instant gratification, the bottom line is the bottom line: There are no shortcuts to success.
All comments welcome . . .