Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What made me decide to write a book?

I recently informed my parents that my first book had been published and that the second one was being wrapped up.  That prompted two questions:

  • why am I using a pen name?
  • what made me decide to write a book?
books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

I've covered that first topic fairly well on the parents page.  The second's a lengthier topic and lead to this post.

My first published book was not my first book written.  But it's the first one out, so let's discuss why I wrote that book:  Derrick the Dog, a children's book.  Afterwards, we can discuss why I decided to write a book in the first place.  I noticed a disturbing trend in the books my children were asking me to read to them.  I'll not name names, so don't ask.  The books varied rather significantly from the books of my own childhood, which is to be expected.  Time marches ever forward, after all.  However, some of the changes I didn't care for.

  1. I noticed the usage of poor grammar in some of them for no apparent reason other than to use grammar incorrectly.  Or perhaps they were just poorly edited.  I frequently see and hear examples of deliberate or ignorant misuse of the English language (e.g. "what up with that?" and "They is...").  We owe it to our children to not teach them poor language habits if we're able to avoid it.  Those children who we are still able to draw their attention away from other sources of entertainment deserve literature that's not going to teach them bad habits that they carry forth into the classroom and later into the business world.
  2. Some of the stories were just insane or asinine.  They were painful for me to read.  If you can actually get a parent and child together to take the time to read, it shouldn't be a horrible experience for either party, as their lack of enjoyment is sure to show through and could be construed as displeasure with something other than the story, such as the company or the time spent together.
  3. Some of the stories, in addition to combining the first two elements, would also throw in words and phrases in a foreign language.  I'm not sure what the expected outcome is.  Perhaps it's an attempt to broaden the primary language reader's horizons.  Maybe it's an attempt to draw in readers who are fluent in the secondary language.  The actual effect is that it causes confusion for the child and muddies the plot when they don't know what's being expressed.  That's not a good thing.  That's more likely to send a reader away unhappy.  Enough experiences like that and the young reader may begin to shy away from books.
  4. I'm hesitant to bring this up.  Illustrators come in at all levels of skill.  Some books are going to be better illustrated than others.  I don't have a problem with that.  What I have a problem with are those with what appear to be hastily constructed cgi that's been slapped together without apparent care.  A book is forever.  It deserves illustrations that have been made with care and love.  They're not all going to look great, but we should at least try our best.

So, I saw these shortcomings and wanted to create a book of a higher quality, one that I would enjoy reading with my children and sharing that precious time with them.  I don't think I hit the bulls-eye, but I think I at least hit the target, and I think I avoided those trends mentioned above.  I think the next one is even better, and the one after that will be better still.  I sincerely hope that others who read my children’s books with their own kids enjoy the experience and time spent together.

Now, why did I decide to write a book in the first place?  I started writing my first book before there was the Kindle and the current self-publishing movement.  I wrote it because I had a story that I loved and that I wanted to see on paper.  I didn't know if it would ever be published, but I'd seen some books that had been that I thought were rather poor.  I felt confident that I could write something at least that bad.  So I started writing it.  However, life happened, and it got shelved.  Then, the Kindle and independent publishing took off, and I thought I should really finish that story.  Now, I didn't have all those potential roadblocks in my way.  I could write my story and let people read it and decide for themselves if it was worthy of their time.  Knowing that you can do your best and there's nothing standing between you and potential readers is a powerful motivator to get off your duff and finish.  And having somebody dig your art is pretty dang cool.

Besides the art, there's also the financial aspect.  I don't expect to get rich, move into a mansion, and quit my day job to spend all day making art.  It's sort of like when I play the lottery.  I don't expect to win, but it's fun to dream, and it's cheap entertainment.  Writing entertains me, and I enjoy it.  If it didn't, I wouldn't do it.  And it's fairly cheap entertainment, too.  About the only expenses I have are editing and cover design and a little for my website.  What's interesting to me, from a financial aspect though, is the possibility of passive income.  In my day job, I work for an hour, and I get paid for that hour.  I'll never get paid again for that hour's worth of work, and if I want to keep getting paid, I have to work more hours.  This is how most jobs work:  we trade hours for dollars.  But this is an entirely different kind of business.  I can write a book once and be paid for it forever.  Every time somebody decides to purchase that book, I get paid for that time I spent writing it again.  That seems very cool to me that you can put in that hour's worth of work and be paid on it over and over again.  Of course, it's possible that I won't find readers and I'll wind up not making any income.  But that's ok to me.  As long as I'm only putting out my best work and I'm happy with it, then that's enough for me.  My day job treats me well, and it pays all my needs and some of my wants.  Anything I make off my art is just icing on the cake.

So in a nutshell, that's why I decided to write a book: to make art, to share it with others, and maybe to make some extra income.  What do think of my motivation?  If you're a fellow writer, why did you decide to write a book?

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