Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

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Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

No guts, no glory

My sister and I were talking about what it takes it get published these days. We talk about this alot, given the manuscripts we critique and the friends we try to advise.

Craft? Of course you need that. Although it's amazing how much folks think that isn't a given. (see previous post)

Perserverance? You betcha. (See Joe Konrath's blog for more on that)

Talent? Yes, I believe you need at least a dollup. Which is why some people, know matter how long or hard they try, will never get published. Sorry, but some of this is just in the genes, folks.

But Kelly and I also came to the conclusion that there is another ingredient -- courage. Which is not the same as perserverance. Some folks have great ideas but lack the courage to face the blank computer screen. Some start books but lack the guts to finish. And many -- oh, so many! -- lack the courage to then send their manuscript out into the world.

I try not to talk about rejection here too much. It can get depressing because no matter where you are on the publishing food chain, you face rejection. Looking for an agent brings you rejection. Then you get an agent and your book is rejected by editors. Then someone buys your book and the marketing department rejects it by deciding not to give it co-op support or a decent first printing. Then, Kirkus kicks you in the teeth. Then you sit at a card table at Borders surrounded by stacks of your book and no one stops. And finally, your book is in the stores but thousands of potential readers reject you and pick up the latest Patterson instead.

See what I mean? It never stops. Which is why you have to have courage. The courage to submit your book and get rejection letters. The courage to hand your book over to an editor and take criticism. The courage to soldier on in the face of astronomical odds, the courage to get back up when you've been knocked down by a bad review. The courage to be true to your style when you see the same old names on the bestseller lists. The courage to keep writing because it is what you do.

My sister loves to write song parodies. Here is her latest on Courage. Sing it to the tune of "If I Only Had a Heart." (From the Wizard of Oz). Maybe it can inspire you to keep going.

I could be a mystery writer,
If I only was a fighter
To get what I deserve.
I could write in any fashion
If I only had the passion
If I only had the nerve.

I could write a mystery story
It’ll be so good and gory
And better than Lehane.
It would be dark and scary
And very literary
If I only had a brain.

I'd write romance kind and gentle
And awful sentimental
With lots of sexy parts.
I could capture the devotion
And all the right emotion
If I only had a heart.

To write my book...to send it out and get a look
That is my dream...to see my work...on the big screen.

See, I have this great idea
About a mob-run pizzeria
It has lots of blood and gore.
But I’d sit at home all winter
And send it through my printer
And stick it in the drawer.

Yeah, it's good, but believe me, missy,
I was born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my talent easy
If I wasn’t quite so queasy
And I only had the nerve.

19 Comments:

Blogger Mark Terry said...

I hadn't really thought of it as courage, though perhaps it is. Certainly you have to be able to face your fears--that all you're doing is wasting time--and no matter at what level you're writing you'll face rejection and failure.

I wrote a short story in college where somebody went to hell and met the devil, and he called himself The Keeper of Regrets, and what you had to face after your death was all the woulda, coulda, shouldas in your life, all your regrets, all the things you said you'd do but never got around to doing. If I ever had a bit of "illumination" that was it.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous J. Carson Black said...

I love the lyrics!

I agree that it takes courage, every step of the way. It's like you're on a train and you keep sticking her head out the window and getting hit by the lightposts. So maybe we should add incorrigibility to the mix.

I also think it takes patience. And more patience, and when you're tired of being patient, even more patience.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

This is kind of spooky. Friday night at work, with no prompt, I started humming the tune to "If I Only Had A Heart," singing the "If I only had a brain" line, and early Saturday I clicked on to this post. Some sort of ESP thing going on?

Then, this morning, I read Erica Orloff's blog, and she also has a Wizard of Oz theme.

Spooky.

I think I have the courage to get my work out there. And I think I have the heart to write what I feel.

All I need is a brain and I'm good to go...

10:25 AM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...

Jude,

It's synchronicity, maybe?

Which I thought was just the title of a Police album but is actually something coined by Carl Jung to describe the "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events."

Or in real people talk: it is the experience of having two (or more) things happen coincidentally in a manner that is meaningful to the person experiencing them, where that meaning suggests an underlying pattern.

Deep. Going to get more caffeine now.

12:03 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

You can call the mob-run pizzaria book "Slice Guys."

It's a cheesy idea, but should make a lot of dough.

Don't get saucey with me...

2:49 PM  
Blogger Bryon Quertermous said...

Let's be honest. There a lot to be said for blind stubbornness in this field as well. Not that I would know anything about being stubborn...

10:00 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

It keeps getting spookier.

Before you mentioned it, Kris, I was thinking about Jung and how the characters in Wizard of Oz are archetypes, how they relate to the Jungian theory of the mandala and the collective consciousness.

Way too deep. Forget the caffeine, I'm going for something a little stronger...

BTW, I saw The Police in Cincinatti back in the early eighties, and they were AWESOME.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Joe: We won't be kneading any more of your half-baked plot lines.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Gee,
I want a cut of this action...

or maybe I should say, a slice of this pie.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous J. Carson Black said...

Yeah, but can you deliver?

3:13 PM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...

You guys are sick. Okay, so who are the characters in this mob-pizzaria caper?

The hero PI: Tom Ados
Sidekick: O. Reggie No.
The femme fatale: Anne Chovy
The bad guy: Motzie Rella

4:01 PM  
Anonymous J. Carson Black said...

In this business, you need to have a really thick crust.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Oh, damn!

Don't forget the girl-next-door:

Priscilla "Pepper" Roni

5:16 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

This story idea bites.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

This story sounds HOT!

Fresh and steamy.

In the subplot, Sal Ahd keeps everything moving along. His gal Liano is chased by the cool Bud Wyza, and his friend Vinny Garr gets mixed up with P. NaToyl.

In the end, May Locks saves the day.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Bryan D. Catherman said...

Courage? I thought it was more like stupidity. Not many people dive head first into a shallow pull stocked full of blood-thirsty sharks. Nope, that's not courage.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Courage? I thought it was stupidity. Not many people dive head first into a shallow pull....(pull? Did you mean pool?) Courage and stupidity are not related. It's not like you have one or the other. You can possess both at the same time. For instance, you have the courage to say your opinion here, even though you don't know what you're talking about. That's having both courage and stupidity.

If more people thought like you do, The Arts would not exist. Gifted artists pour out their heart and soul onto paper, on canvas, into the air waves, the dance floor, the stage. They share their feelings and emotions, not just their intellect. They are sensitive, creative and passionate.

Now my question is: What takes more courage, risking one's life or risking one's ego? I think it would be a toss-up. God bless you all.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Courage? I thought it was more like stupidity. Not many people dive head first into a shallow pull....(pull? Did you mean pool?) Courage and stupidity are not related. It's not like you have one or the other. You can possess both at the same time. For instance, you have the courage to say your opinion here even though you don't know what you're talking about. That's having both courage and stupidity.

If more people thought like you do, The Arts would not exist. Gifted artists pour out their heart and soul onto paper, on canvas, into the air waves, on the dance floor, the stage. They share their feelings and emotions, not just their intellect. They are sensitive, creative and passionate.

Now my question is: What takes more courage, risking one's life or risking one's ego? I think it would be a toss-up. God bless you all.

11:04 AM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...

Pat makes a good point about the role courage has in artistry. When I was a dance writer, I was talking to Edward Villella (ex NYCB principal and now director of the Miami City Ballet) about what intangible things went into making a great dancers. He said courage was a big factor, because he had seen so many hugely talented dancers who were splendid when dancing in front of a mirror in the rehearsal studio. But when it came time to bare their souls on stage, they couldn't do it.

I can see a parallel with writers, even within my own genre. There are those writers who just aren't willing to take chances, spill a little blood on the page. They are published, sure, but there is an arid quality to their books, as if they are always holding their readers at arm's length.

11:31 AM  

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