Editors Blog

10 Writing Myths

I began life as a voracious reader. As a kid, my teachers asked me to “please quit doing book reports.” I did at least three times as many reports as everyone else–and those were only of the books I felt were worthy. In the summers I’d ride my bike to the library and have a hard time getting all the books I checked out home on the bike. I made lists (still do!) of the books I’ve read with a colored check mark to reveal what I thought of them.

I read every “how to write” book I found, every writing magazine, every article on authors I could find. I loved hearing about how they did what they did. And still, I didn’t have a clue about how things worked in this business. Here are 10 myths about being a writer that I discovered once I became published:

GIVEAWAY: Lori is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: jdmstudios won.)

 

    

Guest column by New York Times Bestselling Author Lori Handeland,
who spent years waitressing, teaching and managing a photography
studio before selling her first novel in 1993. Since then she has written
many novels, novellas and short stories in several genres–historical,
contemporary, series, paranormal romance, urban fantasy and historical fantasy.
Her latest book is ZOMBIE ISLAND, A SHAKESPEARE UNDEAD NOVEL
(a retelling of THE TEMPEST, May 2012, St. Martins). Soon she will return
to her roots, writing western historical romance under the name Lori Austin.
For more information please go to her websites at www.lorihandeland.com
and www.loriaustin.net. You can also join Lori on Facebook at:

Lori Handeland or Lori Austin Books.

 

 

1. The books featured on the covers of the review magazines receive that exalted space because they are “the best.” (They’re paid for.)

2. Author quotes are completely unbiased. (They’re usually given by friends, or requested by an author’s editor or agent.)

3. Professional writers make so much money they can quit their day jobs and their night jobs too. (The majority of professional writers do not earn a living wage. They do this “on the side.”)

4. Once an author breaks into the publishing industry, they’re in for good. (Every book is judged for its own merit.)

(How NOT to start your story. Read advice from agents.)

5. Authors are instant celebrities. (There is no instant in publishing.)

6. Oprah will call. (She won’t. Stop waiting.)

7. The books on the displays at the front of the bookstore are “the best.” (This space is also paid for.)

8. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; that’s what an editor does. (If an editor receives a submission that is poorly written, she stops reading. She barely has the time to read it; she isn’t going to correct it too.)

9. Your checks will arrive on time. (Do checks ever arrive on time?)

10. Once you’re published, rejections are a thing of the past. (I received more rejections AFTER I was published than I ever did before.)

 

And here are 10 things about being a writer that make every busted myth irrelevant.

1. The call (I will always remember October 5, 1993 at 12:05. Always.)

2. When you see your cover for the first time. (This is actually cool EVERY SINGLE time no matter how many books you write.)

3. Gushing editors (This never gets old.)

4. Your book on a shelf in the bookstore. (I still take pictures.)

5. Reader letters (They make everything better.)

(Can your query be longer than one page?)

6. Writing Friends (I have very few friends who aren’t writer friends anymore. They understand without an explanation, and they never say: “I wish I had your problems.”)

7. Writing Conferences (PARTY!)

8. Making any money at all for something you’d do for free. (Don’t tell!)

9. Being able to say, “I’m a writer,” when asked what you “do.” (The expressions on people’s faces are priceless.)

10. The book, the book, the book. (Every book is different. With each one I learn something new. I can lose myself in the writing always.)

 

 

And speaking of myths, how about Shakespeare? Legends and rumors abound. Some say his impressive body of work is too impressive. No single human being could have written all those plays, that multitude of sonnets. Others insist the reality of the history plays, the pain of the tragedies, the joy of the comedies, the authenticity of characters are too much for one man. He’d have to be superhuman to produce such genius.

What if he was . . . ?

GIVEAWAY: Lori is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: jdmstudios won.)

 

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.12.53 PM

Do you have an idea for a great novel? Are you at a loss
for where to start? Look no further.
You Can Write a
Novel, 2nd Edition
, gives you
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techniques to get from idea
to manuscript to bookstore.

 

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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73 thoughts on “10 Writing Myths

  1. soulbird

    It’s always fun, and sometimes informative, to read an article on the myths of your profession. My favorite one on the second list was getting to tell people you’re an author and watch their reaction. I’m a fairly new writer and it took me until almost publication date to boldly tell others that I am a writer. It’s also good to hear that the excitement of seeing your cover never goes away with each new book. That was the biggest high I’ve ever gotten out of any personal acomplishment in my life to date. It’s encouraging to know I can experience that over and over again.

  2. writingitout

    I grew up reading like mad, as well. Every story took me on a different adventure, where no one could tell me “You can’t do that.” It still remains one of my biggest interests today, aside from writing. Although I have always written, I just recently started sharing my writing. So, my favourite aspect has to be the amount of compliments I received from it. I’ll never forget the first day after my very first piece that I shared on my site. I had people come up to me and tell me how great and well written it was. I was so flattered, I didn’t know what to say. Of course, I thanked them. I don’t think they realized how much they made my day. From that day forth, I will always remember them, the first few who helped to build my confidence as a writer. I think any writer will know how important that is, as sharing your work can be a scary endeavour.

  3. BorderTown

    Historical Western Romance? YES!! I’m down here on the border in the middle of a chaparral. Im excited for you and I can hardly wait. Working on my first supernatural. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. pmillhouse

    Ms. Handeland,

    I love the humor in this post. You take this “pretentious thing” we writers do and point out the worst of it, and the best of it as well.

    Thank you. You made my day,

    Paula Millhouse

  5. dwmillersf

    I enjoy hearing/reading about motivations and the process writers go through with a particular novel they finished. But I *really* appreciate the perspective of writers about the writing environment. Thank you so much for the insight.

    And now I have to go. I think Oprah is calling. I’m SURE she’s calling. It certainly can’t be my daughter asking for a ride home from dance class, could it? Nah…It’s Oprah…

  6. writer5512

    These actually make me feel better about myself and what little writing I’ve done. It encourages me that maybe I can get something out there.

  7. Agersomnia

    What would you think about writing in a language that is not your mother tongue?

    I know very well that it’s almost impossible to make a living from being a writer, but there is probably more truth to it when you’re in a country as Mexico, where most people are not used to read books. So I’m seriously considering to start writing, and getting published in English.

  8. SheriGraz

    Great article. Especially love #4 of second list – (Your book on a shelf in the bookstore. I still take pictures.). When my first short story came out in print I stopped to look at my story every time I passed a magazine rack to make sure it was real. Can’t wait to see my first book on a bookshelf some day.

  9. kattbee

    Thank you for the encouragement! Especially because it totally made up for crushing my dreams of ever having Stephen King endorse my novel just because he thought it was awesome.

  10. yata

    When can i call myself a writer? So many times I want to but then i say… and then they’ll ask – what did you write no actually they’ll ask – what book have you written and what they mean is what have you published? Oh well, will have to wait for now… but hope to get there soon if only my three year old twins and my two year old son would calm down a bit and let me write…

  11. deltasierra

    Great tips! I’ll share them with my writing group. :) It’s good to get some inside info every once in a while, to make us feel better about our potential (like, maybe someone might pay for MY book to be on a front shelf in a bookstore some day! :)).

    As for Shakespeare . . . I tend to think that if someone like Stephen King can crank out 300+ pages every few years, and have multiple best sellers under his belt for it, then Shakespeare could have written such a great number of popular plays and sonnets in his lifetime. :)

  12. BudRoy

    I’m still discovering the truth to the myths for myself. I wish I had known they were just myths 15 years ago, I probably would’ve tried a lot harder to get to the truth!

    As for Shakespeare, I enjoyed the movie Anonymous, though I have no formal opinion on whether or not he composed his great works himself, though. I’m sure the Shakespeare Undead series is a great way to explore his possible supernatural powers, and look forward to reading them!

  13. BudRoy

    I’m still discovering the truth to the myths for myself. I wish I had known they were just myths 15 years ago, I probably would’ve tried a lot harder to get to the truth!

    As for Shakespeare, I enjoyed the movie Anonymous, though I have no formal opinion on whether or not he composed his great works himself, though. I’m sure the Shakespeare Undead series is a great way to better understand his supernatural powers, and look forward to reading them!

  14. Alarcher999

    Great List! Another myth (close to “it’s easy to write a book”)…The more you write, the less you have to edit! I didn’t realize how wrong this was! The trick to great writing? Rewriting….and rewriting….and rewriting…

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    AA

  15. learn2teach

    These are the kind of short, quick tips that I love. They refresh me (especially the 2nd list) so that when the tunnel seems longest, I can see the end. Thanks.

  16. leonwatcher

    Excellent, Excellent points! Especially liked the second lists, which makes it all worthwhile.

    As for Shakespeare, I’ve never understood the whole “authorship controversy”, except as either base snobbery, or as gimmick to sell more books. True, Shakespeare’s accomplishments seem superhuman, but so do Leonardo’s or Michelangelo’s. True, those guys’ lives are better documented, but Shakespeare’s name and connection to his writings are referred with frequency in his lifetime. The First Folio, which came out less than a decade after his recorded death, is as close to a slam dunk in confirming the main (if not sole) author of the plays of William Shakespeare.

    My favorite argument of the Anti-Stratfordians is that Ben Jonson’s poem, which opens the First Folio (“To the memory of my beloved, The AUTHOR, Mr. William Shakespeare: And what he hath left us”), is merely another part of the conspiracy to disguise the true identity of that sublime poet and playwright. The idea that Ben Jonson, one of the most distinguished writers of his time, would stoop to sweating out seventy lines of his best verse, to perpetuate a nefarious fraud (and jeopardize his hard-won reputation) after the man was dead, is beyond convoluted.

    It’s just Will-envy.

  17. annabelle2024

    Loved both list. As for Shakespeare, they didn’t have TV or the internet in those days (which are major time drains, but we indulge in them anyway) so whose to say that he didn’t have the time to write all his works of literature. I, for one, am sticking on the ‘Shakespeare is a literary genious’ train.
    Love the title of your book. My kids would probably make me read it out loud to them since they are way into zombies at the moment, lol.

  18. SusanNeal

    Lori – Thanks for busting the myths and for sharing the good news too. I have to confess that if I read all of one author’s books, I am apt to buy a book by someone else if my favorite author has written a great quote about it.

    When I have my first novel published, I hope my publisher will get me some great quotes too! I just hope I will have earned them.

    I do look forward to seeing my book in the bookstores, but it will be awhile before it’s ready for that.

  19. Madison AD

    This was awesome; it’s great to see a published author who is just as excited about publishing her book as I am (about… someday maybe publishing a book, har har). This made me smile, and I am excited to go home after my day-job and work on what I love ;)

    Cheers!

    Madison

  20. Rainefish

    I loved your article, especially the 10 that make busuted myths irrelevant! =) As writers I think we’ve all been told to death how hard it is, how frustrating it will be, how little money we’ll make…but why else do it except for those 10 things and a few more! I love that I get to tell people I’m a writer and that I got to make a business card that says I’m a writer (for those writing conferences, er, parties!)

    Your book sounds very cool! I love zombies and re-telling Shakespeare witih zombies just sounds amazing. Good idea!

    ~ Emily

  21. gouldgit

    I have a friend who’s a magazine editor and she’s told me all about the sky-high prices charged for placing books and magazines in prominent spots in stores. She barely glances at displays anymore, and now I know why. On display = $$$, not quality.

    And zombie Shakespeare!? SWEET. The same friend once took us to a show called “William Shakespeare’s Haunted House” in NYC, which was tons of fun. I’ve been look for something similar ever since.

  22. Carolina

    Thank you for the list. I always feel so in the loop after reading things like this. I especially feel more motivated. I cannot wait until I see something written by me on a shelf in a bookstore. I will openly cry of happiness right in front of my book and regret nothing.

    As for Lori’s book…I just added it to my wish list! I’m a sucker for retellings and spin-offs.

  23. Jim Kelly

    I’m working on a wise-ass attorney who received his law degree from a correspondence school, lives in his mother’s basement with a mentally challenged cousin, and gets involved with the Florida Mafia, a Columbian drug lord, and a bimbo accused of killing her husband, all to the backdrop of the Sarasota Film Festival. Oprah would sprint in the opposite direction.

  24. Krimzonrain

    I loved reading this today. Your story of when you were younger sounds exactly like me. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was riding my bike home from the library once with so many books that I crashed my bike crossing a busy 4 way stop. I still remember a guy getting out of his car at the light and helping me stack all my books back up and sending me on my way.

    I have no idea that so many “spaces” are paid for an that comments were solicited so heavily. Really makes you rethink paying attention to those things.

  25. Richard Mabry

    Lori, Almost gave myself whiplash nodding at how right on you are with both the myths and the things that make writing worthwhile. Been there, done that, learned it all the hard way. And I’d do it again. Thanks for sharing.

  26. vatrask

    Awesome post, thank you. I literally get tingly feelings just THINKING about that day when I see my book on a store shelf. One day.

    In regards to Myth #4. How do agents play into the whole staying with the ‘in crowd’ of publishing? Does it help at all or is it all just based on the individual book?

  27. Pacato

    Liked the first list… loved the second. one!!! My name in the cover of my book standing in a bookstore shelter while I tell every living person I’m the writer of that book that’s a killing combo!!!

  28. Laura S.

    One day I will say “I am a published writer” and wait for that look on my friends faces! I really enjoyed your list of myths. I just got into some of the “myths” about shakespear. Some stories are similar to spanish authors stories some say. I think its a possiblility that he could be that creative.

    The other one day for me will be writing conferences. Its a goal of mine to attend.

  29. erifnosmirc

    Hm. I’m surprised yet feel like I shouldn’t be that books featured on magazine covers and the front of bookstore shelves are paid for. Publishing is a business, after all. There must be ways to finance it.

    As for what I like best about writing, I suppose it’s basically the ability to create something great out of nothing tangible. It’s like playing God in your own imaginative universe, not to sound blasphemous. I remember the end of Atonement explored that concept. I think we writers like the feel of having that kind of creative power.

  30. jefferymoulton

    Another myth: “It’s easy to write a book.”

    As for Shakespeare, my (admittedly uneducated, emotion-based because I want it to be that way), I think he was a single person that just happened to be a genius. I come to this conclusion because the “it’s too much for one man” argument just feels way too weak. Why limit our ability as humans? Why not believe we can achieve anything?

    Just my two cents.

    Oh, and Zombie Island sounds like a lot of fun!

  31. jdietzel-glair

    Authors have always been celebrities to me. One of the biggest perks of being a librarian is getting to actually meet authors. In person! In the same room with them! Sharing breathing air! (okay maybe that sounds a little creepy)

    But the coolest thing was one particular author that commented on how librarians are celebrities to her. Librarians read all these books. Librarians talk about these books. Librarians put the author’s book into somebody’s hands. I had never thought about the author/librarian mutual admiration society before that conversation.

    So….not a myth…but still something cool that I learned about authors.

  32. S_Lucero

    Lori, I knew, subliminally, that these were myths, but did you have to just come out and SAY it? I’ll have to make sure no-one in my family sees this. The only reason I’m able to take time out of my very busy schedule (taking care of them, lol) is because they think the myths might be true.

    Would love to read Zombie Island because I love modern spins on Shakespeare.

  33. Dale S. Rogers

    One of my favorite things about writing is being so inspired I can’t wait to jot it all down. Another is checking the clock after working on a novel and thinking, “How can it be this late?”

      1. JennY77

        Oh, that happens to me every time I write even just one page. You know I keep trying to end my book and stuff just keeps popping up to stop it from ending. Everytime I think I have written the last page some other detail in the story suddenly needs a resolution. Is this just me or does this happen to anyone else? These little side quests and adventures seem to come in no matter what I do and they always somehow seem to be relevant to the story. Also certain characters seem to do things that I didn’t intend on them doing. I’ve tried killing off a couple of my characters but they just won’t die they seem to evade death by some unknown twist of fate. Is it a bad thing for the book to be taking over my creative license like that?

  34. B.P.Elkins

    Number 6 actually made me-Lol. I just pictured someone staring at a land line phone muttering under their breath- “Oprah is gonna call, any second and we’ll be best friends and I will be on the O Network and we will ride horses with Gale.”

  35. Mel K.

    Hi Lori,
    I love reading but I hated doing book reports. Reading is such a great way to escape. Yesterday I got the e-mail about ZI. And later my 79 year old mother sent me the same e-mail. lol! I asked her how she got on the list but she hasn’t answered yet. I thought it was so cool! lol! @David.
    I am so excited abut ZI! I can’t wait to read it!! Have a great day, Lori. I’m forever staring at the moon. :-)

  36. lisavark

    Oh, wow. Shakespeare undead? Must. Read. Book.

    Wait, am I supposed to say something about the article? Great list. I love saying I’m a writer, and I do even though I haven’t published any books yet. Articles count. :)

    Want zombie Shakespeare book.

  37. Aikta Srivastava

    Wow. I never thought these were actually myths. And whenever I buy a book, I actually read other authors’ review. The points that are mentioned are worth going through. Thanks!

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