The Real Story Behind Any Overnight Success

If you’ve turned on the television, even by accident, in the last ten years you’ve seen The Voice, (Insert Country)’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc.

There are many reason people watch these shows. One reason is the rags to riches tale that encompasses the life of the winner. They were John Doe and now they are Sebastian Cool with a record deal and a million bucks.

They cue the music, show a misty eyed youth, tell about how ____ happened to them or their family and now they have just scored a record deal.

It’s a great story but only half of it.

My Poetic Tragedy

We get to see the story unfold in a matter of months or a thirty second backstory clip. What we don’t get to see is the back stage.

The back stage often goes forgotten. To the audience it appears as if they got up off the couch, decided singing would be fun, then won a Grammy.

I get it. The backstage has no pizzazz. It’s unflavored yogurt, not Greek, key lime awesomeness.

But because of these quick overnight success stories, we forget about the toil. The hours, days, and years singing/writing/painting alone.

No one shows us the gig attended by seven fans, the book signing with one person who asks us for a pen. But, these too are the stories that happen.

Stephen King threw his book Carrie in the trash. It went on to become an international best seller.

Van Gogh created over 900 paintings and over 1100 sketches but sold ONE in his lifetime. He is one of the most recognized artists in the world today.

Be consistent. Go for resilience. Build rhythmic practice in the shadows so when the light shines you can look like a pro.

Because at that point, you are.

Just remember the back stage, where you came from.

Why Art Needs Community

Art in community can create extraordinary things. Consider Tolkien’s and Lewis’ Inklings or Hemingway’s’ and Steins’ Stratford-on-Odeon. These are just a couple of writer communities that shaped fiction today.

The conference my writers group puts on twice a year – the Jot Writers Conference – is not earth shattering or genre changing but I’d like to share with you three separate conversations I had. If you were there and have something to share, please do so in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: BMW Guggenheim Lab via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: BMW Guggenheim Lab via Compfight cc

As we finished the sign in portion of the conference and the first speaker was about to begin, I met someone from a local publisher. They were a new establishment and wanted to reached out to our writers group to share the news. They even traveled down from Grand Rapids, where we are from, to connect. This is what conferences are all about. Making friends and connections. If you are in Michigan, connect with them here.

After I finished my presentation about blogging I answered questions and made my way to the back of the room. There I met a woman who said she heard about the conference from a local author who volunteered at the Council on Aging. She asked me what she needed to do to get a blog started.

I was thrilled that someone who is well into retirement was considering something new. If I reach that age, I hope to have that sort of gusto to try new things.

A few writers who attended the Jot Conference in Grand Rapids came to the event in Three Rivers. One of them found me after my talk and said she wanted to shout Amen! as I was speaking. I’m not a preacher but this brief comment meant a lot. Every writer and speaker needs encouragement. This helped boost my confidence for the next time I speak in a few weeks.

I took away many thoughts from Jot that I am still working through. Three of them that I think of now connect with the bite sized stories above. Writing in community can create connections, that it’s never to late to try anything, and that a little encouragement can be just what any writer needs.

I hope you thank those in your community often.

Nothing is built overnight and nothing is built alone.

Have you experienced the joy, encouragement, and comradery in your writers group? Please share below.

Part-Time Novel Turns 4!

I missed it. My blogiversary raced passed with little notice. The good news is I’m still blogging.

Through the last four years I’ve experienced the highest internal highs followed by the lowest internal lows. I knew I was going to have a writing career and I knew I was just not cut out for this life.

Photo Credit: Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Compfight cc

I’ve also stopped blogging and started again. I’ve help create a writers conference attended by hundreds of people, had coffee with agents, been rejected, and then asked by that very agent to speak at another conference. If you choose to pursue writing, it can be a wild ride.

Reflection gives you perspective and if there is anything I’ve learned it’s two fold. One, that writing, no matter how solitary, requires community. You’ll go crazy and give up without it. So seek out other writers. The other? Patience. It can be a slow life filled with blitzes and surprise requests. That’s the fun part.

So if you are about to give up don’t. Seek council or a trusted friend. Do what you can do today – 50 words, 100 words, and know that the weight of what we do is not contained to one day’s successes or failures. It’s a larger narrative built over years of hard work, discipline, and good friendships.

Here is an excerpt of what my blog was supposed to be about. I’m glad that this still rings true today.

The intention of this blog is to share what I have learned with those who work full time, have children, are otherwise engaged, but still have the wild dream of publishing a novel someday

Write well today and a sincere thanks to you for your encouragement over the years.

It’s meant more than you know.

A One Night Writer’s Conference

I recently attended a part of the Breathe Writer’s Conference. I was left with a taste for more. Meeting writers, gathering some encouragement, and coming to the realization that there are more than three people in the Grand Rapids community that are in pursuit of publication were grand things indeed.

Thus, my three brave comrades and I decided to throw a writers conference of our own: A one night writing conference. We have the venue selected (the soon to be new and improved Baker Book Store) and the date (Friday, February 8th 2013). There are a lot of things to be worked out. However, I can tell you that it will be a wonderful time. The schedule provides time for three brief presentations, discussion, insight into the writing life, as well as time to mingle and write. Also, the conference is free so you don’t have an excuse.

The topics of discussion are still up in the air but will most likely include:

  • Using Social Media
  • Flash Fiction
  • Encouragement (or swift kick in the writing pants)
  • Marketing
  • Writing in the cracks of life
  • What happens after your novel gets to the publisher

I will update you as those topics become more solid. Josh, Andy and I hope that the connections, instructions, and encouragement you receive will propel you toward your publication dreams, whatever they may be. For now, mark it down on your calendar that you already have plans on February 8th. You’ll be at a writer’s conference. Keep writing my friends.



My About Page

Recently I discovered I neglected something very important – the About Page on my blog. Anytime I whip up a funny little anecdote about my writing life or how I came to love books, I think Hey! This could be my about page. Then as time marches on and the responsibilities of life weigh on my mind, I forget.

So, I thought I would take a blog post and do this very thing. If you are a writer who has also been remiss about creating that all too important About Page, please take a moment and do so.

I stumbled upon the writing craft while very young. However, I did not start to write until roughly seven years ago. Since that time my love for writing has grown even through countless redrafts and a few rejections.

My love for the written word exploded in high school when I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I remember it was reading day (a Friday afternoon) and I could not find a book to read so I borrowed one from a friend. I thought, eh a large green monster, Igor and the like. I can stomach that until the period is over. When it opened aboard a ship, I was hooked. It was a pleasant and unforgettable surprise.

Just over a year ago I started this blog. I figured it was about time that I took some responsibility for my own writing and if there was any place that I could go to find encouragement and to be held accountable it is the web. Even if my writing friends moved, I could stay connected.

Thus, Part Time Novel was born (Writing between Living) targeting people who desired to write for a living but still had a day job, a family, and other joys of life. It is my desire to create a community of writers who are focused on encouraging one another on the treacherous road to publication.

If you are a writer who is honing the craft and need a bit of support please drop a line below. I would love to read your manuscript (for free) or do what I can to help you become a better writer and share what I have learned. Write well today and thanks for stopping by!