Today we hear from Gary Schwartz, author of The King of Average, who recounts a time when he brought an old, abandoned project back to life—to massive success. If you’ve got some inspiring advice to share, please send it in!
Here’s the problem: I never thought of myself as a writer. I had a great story that I liked to tell—verbally. Everyone I told my story to said the same thing: “You should write this down! It’s a great story for kids with issues like yours.”
So I wrote, like, twenty pages and then fizzled out on the follow-through.
I liked to bitch about it: “I can’t write. I’d rather just tell you.” But that was an excuse. Writing was daunting. I didn’t have an ending, just a premise.
Flash forward two decades to Christmas dinner 2008. I regaled my hosts with the premise for what would be a good book. Applause. Great story. What a great idea, etc.
My host, a marketing guy, urged me to write it.
“I tried,” I said. “I get twenty pages in and then…lose interest.”
“I challenge you,” he said. “I bet you can write thirty pages in thirty days. That’s one page a day. Show me thirty pages in one month and I’ll buy you lunch.”
So I sat down to move past the twenty-page barrier. Lo and behold, in three months, I had 360 pages. I was elated.
“I wrote a book!” I shouted to everyone. I showed it to my friend and handed it all around.
I did not get the reaction I expected. Good for you. Nice.
“Did you like the book?” I asked. I got a lot of polite responses, but no one was jumping up and down like I was. Oh, well.
If I can go from terrible writer to well-reviewed writer in only two years, anyone can.
I sat down a few months after the rush of the first draft wore off, and I was horrified to see this was terrible writing. Even I couldn’t get through it!
I knew I wasn’t a writer. This proved it. In the drawer it went.
It bothered me that I spent all this time and had a lousy manuscript. So I decided to find out why it was terrible. I got a writing mentor. Found her online. She was an award winning author in the genre I wrote in and evaluated and mentored writers for money. I sent her my manuscript. I had to know.
I got my manuscript back, blood red with revisions and twenty-eight pages of notes. I made my way through each note and rewrote the book. It took a year. I took classes and read about the art of writing.
“Congratulations. You have a great book. Good luck!”
I sent it back to her.
Soon I got another email. Only eighteen pages of notes. I spent another year, finding and naming the theme, outlining, rewriting, cruelly editing. At one point I said to myself, If I keep on editing I can get this novel down to a haiku. But now I was deep into the project and could not turn back.
I sent it back for another revision. I got a note from her: “Congratulations. You have a great book. Good luck!”
Only two years, and I went from hack to real writer.
It only took me sixty rejections before I got a publisher.
It came out and has gotten a Kirkus Star and IndieReader Top Books of Spring. But then my publisher went out of business.
I can’t stop now, so I’m independently publishing and continuing on my writing journey. Success or not, the fun is in the doing.
Moral of the story: don’t let anything stop you. If I can go from terrible writer to well-reviewed writer in only two years, anyone can. It only takes persistence and the help of a willing mentor and the thrill you get each step of the way.
My next goal: make this book as famous and influential as was the inspirational children’s books that moved me to write the book in the first place.
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And be sure to visit Gary’s website, for his blog and more information about his book, The King of Average.