Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Remedy For Self Pity

Truth time. I started writing Suspicious Circumstances about 5.5 years ago. We then went through some hard times, and I was working so much it would be more than 2 years before I finished the book. And another 2.5 years before it was published…

And guess what? That’s fast for the publishing world.

Have I broken even on my investment in website costs, publishers marketplace subscription, the organization memberships, the traveling expenses, cost of the diploma program I took, the seminars I’ve attended, mailing out query packages, producing and mailing out review copies? No.

Sure, some authors do make big bucks right out of the gate. Maybe one in twenty thousand. But most are working a second job to pay the bills.

Simple reality.

And as much as we are allowed to have the odd bit of frustration, for me, it was put in perspective before I got back on track with the plan to write, about four years ago. After getting sucked back in the work world I wasn’t sure I’d ever take another shot at a writing career. You see, SC wasn’t even the first book I tried to write. In all honesty, not by a long shot. But it was the first book I finished.

Oh, I came close with one. It was 1996. I was living on Vancouver Island, working at a job serving ice cream and hot dogs at the farmer’s market while I tried to complete studies in business communications and communication theory. I spent an hour or two every morning working on The book that shall remain unnamed. See, it had a name, but I don’t want to go there. Truth is, I looked at it recently, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought…

It just probably would shock people to know I was working on a children's fantasy book.

And I was probably about 10 pages short of finishing it when I quit. Because I had no idea how to end it, or what to do with it.

The easy excuse is, it’s impossible to get published. In fact, it’s such an easy excuse I bought a writer’s market book and didn’t do anything else.

Believe me, it’s hard to get published when you don’t even try. You will not be serving tables one day and have an editor at one of your tables who’s so taken with how you talk he decides you’d be a brilliant writer…

What got me back on track was a good smack upside the head. And I got it from Deric Ruttan. Oh, he didn’t know he was nudging me at the time, but he was.

He shamed me.

Deric had what most Ruttans have – the music bug. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of us Ruttans have been to Nashville than Disneyland. Anyway, part way through college, Deric got a gig playing with a band, and that was it. He was determined to make it.

He’d always had the talent. In high school he used to do a lot of CCR and always performed. His hair was about as long as mine, and just as thick and curly, and he had rock star persona all over him. I'd post a photo, but I do value my life...

Somehow, he got the country bug.

Turns out, a lot of that had to do with story songs. He was turned on to the works of Steve Earle, and others, and when the dust settled, he was in Nashville.

The next decade would be tough. Working odd jobs to get by. Sometimes not having enough money for food and electricity, so it was eating in the dark. Sometimes, not enough gas to get to songwriting sessions.

But after ten hard years, he had a record deal and an album out. More good news. He was picking up songwriting awards for What Was I Thinkin’? a party tune recorded by Dierks Bentley that went to #1.

And they continue to collaborate on hits.

Yeah, it only took ten years.

And you know what? It’s been four years since Deric’s debut album, and the second one is just coming out now. One thing Deric said was that he’d seen a lot of people come and go, but if you had a dream you had to believe and stick it out.

Oh, and did I mention his SO and the five kids?

But I learned more than just to persevere. Deric can tell a story that will break your heart. You’d probably have to get the album to hear Tom and Annie but it’s a heart-wrenching song to rival the best noir stories out there.

No, I'm not living on easy street, and yes, I know what it is to have to scrimp pennies to put something in the mail. But when I get discouraged I just think about ten long years, eating in the dark, and I realize I don’t have it so bad.


Brian said...

Is it wrong that my knee-jerk reaction to this post is.....I want to read the YA fantasy.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh God.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Be thankful you started early and still have plenty of time to get where you're going. And the knees to carry you there.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well Patti, I have confidence in you!

But for the record, someone cut me off at the knees just last week...

Brian said...

I'm sorry, I'll try not to let it happen again :)

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Brian, you do make me smile.

You know... I did let a mutual friend of ours see some of the YA novel, but with a bit of rewrite on it, for something else. Can't show that without permission, though.

Graham Powell said...

Hopefully my wife will never read this, but to do what Deric did you need someone who believes in you. My wife would never be willing to make the sacrifices that would be required.

I love her dearly and want to be with her always, but she simply doesn't believe I will ever make money writing.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, Deric was single when he went. I think about his parents a lot. They never once judged him, despite the fact he wasn't finishing an education, getting a career job, working on a pension.

But the thing is, as aspiring authors, we're actually lucky. You pretty well have to be in Nashville to make it in the country music business, or in Hollywood to get your acting break. There are exceptions, but even talking to people who want to write screenplays, they're hindered if they don't live in LA.

I can live in cheaper Nowhereville, Alberta, and it really isn't a great hinderance. I've never been to NYC and yet, that's where my editor is. Really, truly, we have to count our blessings, because we don't need to pack it all in and live somewhere specific.

Kris said...

You're not alone, Graham. While my girlfriend has never come out and said it, I think she has always viewed my writing as a hobby, a distraction that should come second to the 'realer' things in life.

I guess it's tough for non-writers to understand the level of emotional investment that goes into the job, not to mention the hours that need to be devoted to the clerical side of things if one is to have any hope of success.

Graham Powell said...

Kris, I'm glad to hear someone else is in the same situation I am. I was afraid the general reaction would be, "How can you stay with someone who...?"

Life's full of choices, and I would rather stick with my wife and write part-time than try to make it without her.

Daniel Hatadi said...

And now the really, horrific secrets come out. YA fantasy!

(just kidding)

Actually, with all the material you have on your blog, it could easily be shaped into a memoir. Now all you have to do is kill someone and get acquitted.