Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Truth About Improving Your Wordcount

Blogging can be a responsibility. I believe that if my words carry any weight, it's because I've chosen to write the truth. Many bloggers take different approaches. Some offer helpful advice and expert opinion. You can spot those blogs because most of the titles will read something like "Five Ways to Improve Your Wordcount." Sure enough, in the post, you'll find five ways to improve your wordcount, delineated by a pithy intro and subheads for each pointer. And the phrase "improve your wordcount" will be mentioned about ten times in the course of the post.

This isn't that kind of blog. A few of you already know that.

I tell it like I experience it. And writing for a living is not an easy road.

First, let me divulge the truth. I don't make enough money to "live" off of my writing. Very few writers (who write fiction) do. Here is my educated guess on how many writers in my creative, artistic community of 80K do: seven. Seven writers who write full-time and have sold enough books to dedicate their lives to writing other books. This, compared to the 200 to 250 fiction/non-fiction writers (or more) in my community. I'm ballparking these figures because there are no reliable stats. The majority of us struggle to finish/edit/sell a manuscript. Most of us, if not retired, have other jobs. Even though I write for magazines, I still don't make enough money to support my family as a writer.

If you don't feel a little down-hearted now, good for you. You know what you are in for. If you are feeling down, that's normal. Writing is a difficult road to success, recognition, credibility. The last one will come before the other two. I say this because if you stay serious enough about your writing, you will be considered a good resource for other writers seeking guidance. But credibility doesn't pay for buttered toast. I like buttered toast. I like coffee. I like to go on the occasional road trip. But a few years ago (after the publication of my first book) I abandoned the idea that this is the road to making a "living." It's a road to a lifestyle, and in many ways, this must be enough.

You will meet intriguing people. You will read and hear some fine and not-so-fine writing of others. You will write some fine and not-so-fine writing about many topics you thought you wouldn't write about. You will experience moments of ecstasy, for a passage or a project, and it will make you so high that nothing will seem impossible. Success will seem possible. Big success. And then, you'll crash. You'll feel the rough bottom many times. Experience the kind of self-doubt that most ordinary people with ordinary jobs don't understand. You'll have friends who understand, friends who will ask politely but not understand, friends who never ask you a whit about your work. It will become your "work."

You won't write. For months, maybe years at a stretch. This will release you from the burden of having to produce but also shadow you with a tinge of melancholy.

And you'll get fan mail. From that one perfect person who "got" you. You'll love
Solenne Poltier, my perfect fan.
them and wish for more like them. Or, maybe you'll never publish. And you'll come to terms with feeling satisfied that at least you wrote a book, something most people in the world will never say they've done.

In other words, your wordcount will suck and soar.

I wish I had some pithy ending for this post. A silver lining. Another cliche to throw out at you to make it all better. That your journey will be worth it and satisfying by the time you finally put away your pen or laptop for good. But, I'm not there yet. I'm still on the road.