Thursday, January 11, 2018

Literary Journeys from Humble Beginnings

Writing projects often follow similar journeys. They begin with a concept and travel through studies and/or interviews, news reports, outlines, character sketches, multiple drafts, self-edits, rewrites, more self-edits, professional edits, more rewrites, intense proofreadings, corrections, interior layout, cover design, and the list goes on. After publication the work continues—it's called marketing. Even big publishing houses may require authors to do a portion of if not all their own sales work.

Let's explore those "humble beginnings." How does humility play into writing a book? All sorts of people from myriad backgrounds want to become authors. They have a story to tell, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, perhaps even poetry—and all must start in the same humble place, pen and paper in hand, at the keyboard, dictating to a secretary or recording device, or employing a ghost writer.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it takes a team to write and publish a good book. This is not a solo trip. "Humble beginnings" acknowledges our need to rely on a variety of professionals and resources: historical material, research done by others, editors, interior and cover designers, printers and/or publishers, and marketers. Networking with a variety of writers and industry professionals also helps us understand we are not a self-supporting island. Valuable lessons can be gleaned from those who've been there, done that; so it makes good business sense to listen and learn. We can always modify those lessons to fit our circumstances, but no need to think we must re-create the wheel.

Another aspect of humility travels throughout our careers. For example, stories abound regarding celebrities who come across onscreen (or on television) as friendly, down-to-earth people, yet in person they are jerks to the fans who made them popular and contributed significantly to their enormous paychecks. What's the lesson here?

Writers, too, have fans—our readers. We connect with them through our characters and our stories. Walk in the shoes of a reader for a moment. How often have you been touched by a character or a situation in a book? Suppose you wrote the book. How would you respond to those who may approach you via your website or at a book signing? 

Many authors are introverts who thrive in the solitude of their writing spaces. Yet readers may have questions or comments they want to share. We need those readers to buy our books and recommend them to friends, especially if we hope to make writing our career. How can we accomplish this within reasonable proximity to our comfort zones?

Other ways to begin a connection with readers include personal letters to them at the beginning (or end) of your story and questions for book clubs. Even if your reader doesn't belong to a book club, thought provoking questions help cement the story and characters in the mind and heart and may even inspire a second read or a recommendation of the book to a another reader.

Blogs such as Blood Red Pencil are great ways to create two-way conversations. In fact, writers often include blogs on their websites. The beauty of a blog is that it's in written form—the form most comfortable for many writers—and it doesn't require face-to-face encounters. Blogs also allow us to reach out to others who want to begin their own writing journeys. We can encourage them, share pointers, and suggest resources, all the while maintaining a degree of the privacy in which we function best.

How do you feel about your fan base? Have you ever been contacted by a reader? Do you interact with those who read your books? What has been your literary journey from humble beginnings?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing. She also helps new and not-so-new authors improve their literary skills through posts on Blood Red Pencil and private mentoring. You can contact her through her website,


  1. Wonderful post, Linda. I agree that blogs are a good way to interact with readers, but I still like the personal interaction of letters and/or face-to-face. I remember the first feedback I received for a book. It was my first nonfiction book, Coping With Cults, and for another book in that series I hosted high school students at my home for a round table discussion of the topic - school violence. One of the teens told me that she had read the book on cults and found it very helpful for a paper she was writing.

    When anyone tells me that they not only enjoyed a book I've written, but found it helpful in some aspect of their life, that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

    1. Our stories are, on some level, a sharing of ourselves, which makes positive responses from readers especially appreciated. I, too, like the personal touch of letters (typically electronic these days) and small groups like book clubs. Round table discussions are also fun and informative.

  2. I have had a few "fan" emails over the years from folks, but mostly from people I know. What I really enjoy is the very occasional response from a total stranger, one who probably picked a book at random. That's a special acknowledgement.

  3. Great post, Linda. I'm always thrilled and surprised when a reader tells me they liked/loved a certain book of mine. Those of us who don't get to many conferences do live in a kind of vacuum. Readers, or fans, if you will, who make themselves known are precious commodities. I treasure mine and love hearing from them. BRP is the only blog I do regularly. I love it.

    1. I totally agree, Polly. My opportunities to interact with readers are limited; feedback from them is both rewarding and invaluable.


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