All it Takes is the Right Story (Oh, and a Ton of Hard Work)


I’ve been told on several occasions that all it takes to “hit it big” is to tell the right story.

“All you need is the right story and you’ll be famous,” they tell me.

“All you need is the right story and they’ll make it into a movie,” they said. “Then you’ll be rich and famous.”

As if it’s just that easy. Bang out the “right” story and you’re golden. No, literally. You could have a gold statue of yourself made because you’re rolling in book and movie money.

That has me wondering: what is the “right” story? I mean, I’ve published several novels and no one has offered me butt loads of money or a movie deal, so does that mean I’m writing the wrong stories? Does that mean my stories aren’t good? My characters are weak? My themes are rotten?

You know what? It’s beginning to sound like this writing thing has a bit more to it than just telling the “right” story. It sounds a bit like it takes time and effort to carefully craft brilliant characters, a perfect story line, suspense, action, adventure, romance, danger. And, in the end, you may only end up selling ten copies. It’s perfectly plausible that you may write the “right” story and still end up on your ass with no money.

In fact, sometimes–and I really do mean sometimes–it seems like you will inevitably end up on your ass with no money, no matter how hard you worked on that book.

Before I became a writer, I would read a book and have no idea how much work went into it. How many months–sometimes years–went into the writing, editing, revision, publishing, and marketing process. I just read the words, enjoyed the book, or not, and went on my way. Granted, I’d done my fair share of writing. But I’d never completed a book, nor had I looked into what sort of process it took to create a finished product and distribute it to the masses. As far as I knew, the author just hammered it out, gave it a once over, and off it went to the world.

I was one of those people who believed you just wrote it, and if it was good you were set for life. I understand where people are coming from when they think all it takes is the “right” story to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. And yet that still doesn’t make it any easier when people say it to me now. Maybe it’s just the human condition to get aggravated when someone makes light of the writing process–of my dream career–or maybe it makes perfect sense. Whatever the reason, I understand that it takes really getting into the craft of something to fully understand how it works, and the complexity of every part of it.

People are so quick to generalize something or write it off because people are successful at it. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world. When in reality it takes much more hard work than people think, and even after all that hard work it seems as if luck plays the biggest role out of all of it. Sometimes it takes the right person seeing it, the right cover, or the right description. But I believe that “right” stories are written all the time. Just as “right” covers, descriptions, and people play roles in the book process and even then sometimes nothing, or very little, may come of it. But it’s become clear over the years that writers don’t write for the fame or the money, they write because they have to. Because they don’t want to stop, no matter how many terrible reviews they get or how famous it makes them. Writing is fun. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It makes me want to scream. But I love looking at my bookshelf and seeing my name in print next to so many others, and it just further reminds me why I keep at it.

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3 thoughts on “All it Takes is the Right Story (Oh, and a Ton of Hard Work)

  1. Reblogged this on Tea Talks and commented:
    It’s like he drilled into my brain and has been walking around in it , in a good way, not a creepy Leather Face or Buffalo Bill kind of way. I’m sure we are not the only ones out there who feel this way…….are we?

  2. It’s incredibly frustrating, isn’t it? I’ve only been published since January with another due out in November and luckily read some excellent books about self-publishing that helped keep my expectations firmly grounded, yet like you I find myself flinching when somebody tells me my book would make a great film. Writing a book is incredibly hard work but also incredibly rewarding. For every dark moment of self-doubt you have the joy of a good review or a warm comment. The best advice I had was to write for yourself because then it doesn’t matter how many books you sell. Much easier advice to acknowledge than live by, but I’m trying my best.

  3. At the end of the day, great success in writing (however you define that) comes with a good dollop of luck. Somehow, your book(s) has to be discovered by just the right first reader (or hopefully lots of them) who will on-recommend it to fellow keen readers, etc, etc… A great book could easily go invisible to the masses, simply because the stars didn’t align for it. All you can do is keep pumping out those words. The more “shelf space” (virtual or otherwise) you take up, the more likely someone will read you…

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