(This blog was originally published at http://joinmeinthemadhouse.blogspot.com/2011/11/featured-author-in-madhouse-dana-marton.html and is replicated here.)
“THINGS THAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT, MUST NEVER BE AT THE MERCY OF THINGS THAT ARE LEAST IMPORTANT.” Goethe
I attended a great writers’ conference this past weekend, with a lot of workshops on craft and industry. I LOVED the one about how to use myth as a basis for a book. I sat through workshops about plot and characterization, and learned for two days non-stop. The energy of a couple of hundred writers in one place is amazing.
I feel like my batteries have been recharged. So much energy and creativity all around me! So, perhaps not surprisingly, I began thinking about possibly teaching a workshop at the next conference. But try as I might, I couldn’t think of topic that others haven’t covered already, and covered much better than I ever could. Which lead me to the question: WHAT MADE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IN MY WRITER’S CAREER SO FAR?
I’m nearing 30 published romantic suspense novels now, for sure I have discovered a secret or two to writerly success along the way, right? But the truth is, when I really thought about it, it didn’t come down to any brilliant talent or insight or discovered formula. The most important thing had little to do with me, in fact. What became quickly apparent as I thought about this is that it’s all about the readers.
It’s so easy to get distracted by craft and industry, workshops and how-to books, trends and submission guidelines; but here is the thing: Once you reach a certain level of competency and write enjoyable stories, it’s all about the readers.
I have the best readers in the world. I love my readers. They are caring, and funny and smart. I love keeping in touch with them. Readers are not some fickle faceless mass out there that certain marketing people would have you believe. Some of my readers have medical issues, and I keep in touch to see how they’re coming along. I know about their grandkids, what their grandkids got for Christmas. I’ve received mail from soldiers overseas, grandmothers thousands of miles from me, and even inmates from prison.
Readers care. They care about books as passionately as we authors do. They care about authors, too. Readers are forgiving. They will stick with you even if you have an off book. They’ll stick with you long after the publisher decided that your books are not marketable and you move to a small press or self-publish. They’ll email years after a series came out and ask what the characters are doing now. And to your readers, you can admit that, yes, Alex and Nicola are going on with their lives and raising their kids, because they are real in your head as well—a discussion you couldn’t have with your family, for example, without the risk of them having you committed.
Readers will have your back. I just released a new romantic suspense novella, WARRIOR AGENT. This is the time when I need to be on the Internet 24/7 to promote my new release. But we’re moving, and our cable guy never showed, so we had to reschedule, which means I won’t have Internet access for 2 weeks. At the absolute worse time. I posted about this on my Facebook, and my readers rallied. They’re Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging about the novella, generously giving me their time, lending a helping hand. I’m truly humbled by the outpouring love and support.
So instead of thinking about all the million things a writer should worry about, I think about my readers when I write. I think about what type of stories they like, how I can craft a hero to fall in love with, a heroine to like, and a plot to transport my readers to another world. I want to entertain them, share stories from my heart. I want to write the paragraph/scene/chapter that will make a reader dash of an email saying how it made them laugh or cry, how much fun they had.
Because when it comes to writing, readers are the most important element, bar none. I truly believe that.