I’ve been listening to old Story Grid podcasts, where Tim Grahl, a struggling writer, speaks about the writing process with Shawn Coyne, an editor with years of experience. It’s a great series. Any writer should listen to them, especially those who are just starting out.
They’re a road map, really, of the frustrations you will encounter in your career.
If you don’t feel like listening to the whole series, there’s two episodes which are pure gold, where author Steven Pressfield makes a guest appearance to talk about his book Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t.
Like with other podcasts in the series, you can listen to how Tim Grahl struggles with his writing. In the first part, he confesses his writing sucks, after comparing it into 11/22/63, by Stephen King.
I can relate. For me its authors like John Steinbeck. I don’t know how many times I’ve read The Grapes of Wrath and thought: Dear God, let me write like that! Please!
Let me have that kind of diction, that prose, a story a deeper meaning, a book where the reader will want to stay up all night to finish it.
Pressfield and Coyne try to ameliorate Tim’s feelings, but at some point they had to tell him some harsh truths.
First: you have to give up everything to become a successful writer.
Tim gets upset, say’s that’s BS, a standard response people give to budding writers. Why would somebody give up their house? A happy marriage, being a parent, and so on? This is first time, as I recall, Tim ever got frustrated with his mentors in the series.
Second: stop trying to be like Stephen King.
Shawn Coyne said it best: You have to give your dreams of being Stephen King. Stephen doesn’t dream of being Stephen King, cause Stephen King is a writer.
The chances your first novel being a best seller is slim to none. Nobody is going to read it. Don’t bother worrying about that. Just focus on honing your craft. That internal stuff you can control, like sitting down every day and writing.
But as writers, even more so for those who are just beginning, we want to bargain. We want that first novel to sell. We crave validation that our work wasn’t a waste of time. We don’t want to be a starving artist. We want to skip to the good stuff, the payoff.
You know, like what happened to Stephen King with his first published novel: Carrie.
We can envision that kind of success.
It’s hard, however, to imagine the sacrifices to even have chance of making success like that possible.
What must we do? What must we give up?