So you can read my books

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


John Green would tell you it is to find emotional truth ...

   Even if we’re not the same as the characters we read, they are all dealing with things:

   issues of who they are, who they should be, what they should and shouldn’t do

   that we all deal with, in their own ways.

Authors from John Steinbeck to Nicholas Sparks would say it is Perseverance.

Authors from Stephen King to Alyssa Rosenberg explaining that to be a successful writer

you to need to read everything and everyone on your subject.

If you’re a day late on an old idea, you’re not of any use.

If you want to get further depressed, listen to the poet, Ranier Maria Rilke tell you:

“Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody.”  

But that's poets for you.

Work ethic, knowledge, skill, perseverance -- 

none of them is as important as the one, single most important thing:


You don’t want to be told that, to some fairly consequential degree, your success, or lack thereof, is beyond your control.

But it’s good to keep in mind that if there were a sure formula for success, everyone would be successful —

and that if talent and hard work were the key to fame and fortune,

there wouldn’t be so many talented hacks with bestsellers.

So do you give up?

Of course not.

You just accept reality for what it is: mostly out of your control.

Since you cannot control luck --

You work on what you can control:

Work ethic, knowledge, skill, perseverance

There comes a point where no one is going to tell what you should read,

what you should write,

and moreover, no one is going to point this out for you.

Making time to write is not easy, but until we all win the Powerball,

we all need to carve out a few hours each week to focus on our writing.

Protect this time with your life.

One last thing:

 Pick an Idol & Act “As If”.

You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does.

When I’m working on a novel, and I’m stuck, I often think

“What would Roger Zelazny do here?”

Sometimes, Roger would have the exact right approach …

other times, it’s obvious that he’s no help.

Maybe it’s Fitzgerald. Maybe it’s O’Connor. Maybe it's Raymond Chandler.

Maybe it’s none of them.

But thinking about the writing as if I were (fill in the blank)

helps to make me see that there are multiple ways to approach a story,

multiple ways to make decisions, organize the manuscript.

I hope this helps in some small way.


  1. Great advice. 'Steady as she goes' is a good way to keep at it. I've been recording wc to keep me motivated.

    Tenacity helps too.

  2. D.G.:
    Tenacity helps a lot. One step at a time, one word at a time.

    I try to write at least one sentence a day. I usually write half a page to a page once I sit down to write that one sentence.

  3. I could only find two Butcher novels at the library, so checked out the one called Summer Knight, have you read that one?

  4. D.G.:
    Yes, I was tempted to suggest that one to you in the first place. It introduces many of the major characters who will be important to Harry's life and misadventures.

    I believe you will enjoy it. Let me know if you do. :-)

  5. It's a combination of all those things.

  6. If I won the Powerball it would be a miracle, I never play!

  7. What would Roger Zelanzy do indeed! That's fantastic advice right there. :) It's all about perseverance, you're absolutely right.

  8. I loved this post, Roland. I agree perseverance is important and that nobody can tell us what WE need to write. But luck is in there, too!

  9. Alex:
    Success is a stew made up of a lot of ingredients -- and we just have to keep on stirring! :-)

    But you save a lot of dollars not playing! Still someone could give you a ticket as a gift!

    Another Roger Zelazny fan! Great to meet another like mind. :-)

    But his ghost keeps reminding me that I can only be a second rate him but I have a chance to become a first rate ME! :-)

    Thanks! Yes, if we give up, we will never know if might have succeeded if only we had believed in our dream.

    Of course, Lady Luck plays her part. I hear Sinatra singing "Luck be a lady tonight!"

  10. I do think luck plays a part in our success to some degree. Hard work and determination encourages more luck, too. :)

  11. I hadn't thought about putting myself in the shoes/mindset of my writing mentors. That's helpful advice, Roland. And I appreciate your dose of reality: one can't be successful without A LOT of luck.

  12. A slew of great advice, Roland. What's interesting here is that despite the huge range of authors mentioned, not one suggests reading a how-to book. :) That's because, as you say, there are always multiple ways to approach a story.

    Writing is learned through reading—actual books, not how-tos—and writing, both activities enormously time consuming.

    VR Barkowski

  13. That is good advice. I actually do not think of one person. I think if I were a heroine in a book, what would I do? That is actually a theme line on my blog, just phrased slightly different.

    You know it also helps in real life problems, when you are overwhelmed, beat down or feel discouraged with anything life throws at you.

    I often to solve a regular ole problem, and boost my morale, say, if I were a heroine in a book, what would I do?

    I have been a voracious reader all my life. Reading has been my companion, my playmate and my escape. When I started learning about the writing craft this question started showing up in my everyday life for everyday problems. Did it always work? Not all the time, but normally it made me feel better for some reason to view life as a book.

    Enjoyed your post.
    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

  14. Hi, Roland!!! With all the nay sayers and what we, as writers, have to work against (HUGE competition out there), we cant' write because we want to become famous. We do it because we love it. Simple. But that's me. What do you think? Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  15. Chrys:
    The more polished our work, the more apt we are to make the most of luck when she smiles on us!

    I tried the shoes of Mark Twain, but his ghost was still using them! Yes, luck is a big factor in our making it. But we have to keep trying, right?

    Faulkner and King both stressed reading as much as we could while writing every day in some way.

    We learn by doing, correct? :-)

    I am so happy you enjoyed my post. I wish you the greatest luck and fun in your writing dreams.

    Fun. I think that is the key ingredient missing in many people's writings. They have lost the fun of spinning a tale.

    You took the words right off my keyboard. We write for the drive and fire in our blood to do so, right?

    I am so happy to see you here again. :-)