Can someone who considers himself a non-writer write a successful selling book in 2017?
In 2006, like this year, I have been asking myself this and similar questions. Back then, I had no real writing experience except some papers I completed for my master’s degree in psychology. My longest writing assignment at that point was 25 pages of 300 words per page. That’s only 7,500 words, which to me is nothing at all anymore, but back then I saw it as a monumental task and accomplishment. Today I can write that in one day if it’s about a topic I know well.
I have always enjoyed writing, but I was writing only for myself. I loved writing lists of things to do. I love being witty as I wrote, but nobody had ever seen what I had written. I didn’t have any objective idea, no feedback from anybody, that would tell me I was a good writer.
I sporadically read books since leaving high school, I remember reading Lie Down With Lions by Ken Follett when I was still in the Air Force in 1985 I think it was. Then I got onto Tom Clancy’s Fiction novels, and I must have every one of those. I remember I started writing a book at that time just because I loved Tom Clancy’s writing so much and I thought maybe I could emulate it. I wrote about 15 pages and I can’t even remember the subject matter but I thought it was pretty good. I very briefly thought of writing an entire book, but ‘life’ intervened.
I had never paid attention in school in my English classes and I always hated the idea of following strict grammar. So much so that I would often just go against it as I wrote my assignments. As I was further into college, I was forced to pay attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all of the things that writers typically care about. I still hated it but at least I was learning something for later use.
Since 2006 I have written over 40 books. Some of them I still have up at Amazon, and others I have taken off the market because I think they’re just so horrible. I would say I was definitely not a writer to start but I had a good vocabulary and once I got writing I really began to enjoy it. From 2006 until 2008 I wrote over 3 million words. I know that because I added it up the words written in every book and the blog posts that I did on over a dozen websites during that time. I didn’t even count all of the emails that I sent or other writing that I did which was not for books or for websites.
I think this period of massive content production really helped my writing immensely. I noticed that the stories I enjoyed reading after my writing got better were stories in which the focus, and the emphasis was on the meaning of words and the placemnt of words in the story, not the technical vocabulary. Today I couldn’t read a Tom Clancy novel if I tried, I find them filled with too much technical jargon which I find detracts from the real story. My favorite writer at the moment is Cormac McCarthy. The Road, is possibly my favorite book ever.
In 2017, I have two fiction novels that are currently for sale at Amazon.com. My first has received sixty-nine reviews and I have a 3.x-star average. My second novel has twenty-five reviews and a 4.5-star rating out of five. I credit my editor a great deal!
One of my meditation books was selling 600 to 900 copies every month for over a year. That has been my greatest success as a writer up to this point. I have sold some of the websites that I created and wrote content for thousands of dollars, but to me my real success and satisfaction (pride?) has been in writing and selling books.
I am not sure if anybody can simply write 3 million words over the course of three years and learn enough about writing in order to become a published writer at Amazon. I think many people can, but you must start with a base of some sort. As I said, for me it was a good vocabulary which helped to enable me to write to a high degree over time.
I get so many emails from people who ask me if they should begin to write their own book. My answer is always, YES. A person can write a book for themselves or for others, and sometimes like in my case, for both. I really enjoyed writing the couple novels that I did, and I was going to write them whether I thought they would sell at Amazon, or not. That seems to be one commonality among writers is that they have this emotional need to write the book and get it out of their head and digitized or on to paper. If you have that same feeling I think there is nothing for you to do except to write the book. Don’t let anyone stop you. Don’t ask anyone if you should. Write it!
The value of a good editor cannot be overstated. Very few of us can write a perfect book. There are so many things to consider, and a writer just cannot be competent at catching every mistake or bad line. An editor can be the difference between an author who can publish at all and one who cannot. I learned this with my first book – and I will never forget it!
As you might be able to tell here, my grammar is not perfect. Some of my sentences may be a bit hard to figure out. I’m not a perfect writer. However, I’m a writer who has had millions and millions of people read what I’ve written at my websites. I’m a writer who has sold thousands of books on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other retailers.
I didn’t start out as a writer, and if you’re in the same boat – row that boat and get writing my friend. You too can probably make some extra money with stories or non-fiction books you produce on your computer. Forego watching television or playing video games, and write your own book. Produce something that is all yours – and experience this feeling for yourself. It’s an incredibly satisfying accomplishment to write a whole book! Or, even a short story!
Here are three short stories I’ve written that will help you see that you need not write 90,000 words… two of these are 5,000 words and “Going Down” is 12,000. try it for yourself and see what happens. You may be an incredible story teller and you just need to practice writing to get really good at it in 2017
BEST OF LUCK in 2017!
Vern (I write as Mike Fook)
(Top image: By Attribution CC image by Sacha Chua at flickr.com/photos/sachac/)