What is Writing Without Readers?

I’ve been having a mini-crisis regarding my writing. And yes, this post is mostly to whine about the fact that I don’t have an audience. And I know some of that is my fault–probably most of it–I’m good at taking blame.

Sometimes I go back and look at old blog posts and flash fiction stories that seemed to get a lot of response and I wonder what appealed to the reader in this story? How can I recreate it? What do I do to get a bigger audience? Oh how wonderful it would be if the life of the writer was just to write.

When I was a kid I wrote because I loved it. Then I had a crisis of sorts, when I realized writing couldn’t pave my way to material success. I stopped writing altogether for a long time. But I knew something was missing. When I started writing again, I felt truly alive. But when I write and no one reads it’s like some sick desperation surges up inside of me. Like when you post something on Facebook hoping for 100 likes and only get 2. And it makes me wonder, do I write for attention? Is writing a form of self vindication for me? Am I really that self-absorbed that I expect people to be interested in the inner thoughts of my brain that come out in the form of stories? Or am I writing to share wisdom? Am I writing to share a story?

I’m reminded of John Kennedy Toole who killed himself when his novel A Confederacy of Dunces kept being rejected. Posthumously his book became published, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. How did he feel when he was constantly rejected? He knew he had a great piece of literature, but without an audience he felt worthless. Why do people only care about what authors write after they’ve died?

This industry is the suck. It’s all for the people living in New York who know someone or another or who can get in with an agent somehow. Or who hit the jackpot somehow getting pulled out of the heap. But then even when they hit the jackpot, they have to continue to write, sometimes in the same genre even if they don’t want to. But at least they had this one moment of wonder where someone saw something in their writing and made it happen for them. We can’t all be Stephen King or James Patterson.

There are so many parts of writing I find exhausting. Mostly they have nothing to do with the actual writing part. Marketing tops the list. And we all know marketing is a huge part of writing these days. Without it you’d be lucky to sell a book (if you ever finish one again). I think writers work harder than so many people for such little payout. I mean, look at the freelancing gigs available–$15 for an article? Who can make a working wage off of that? When did we decide writing was a side job and novels could be read for free or $1.99 on Kindle. You can check mine out here by the way. I get about $0.30 off each sale. And I know, I should have had it professionally edited. Sorry for the typos. If I want to get serious about this writing thing, I should probably pull that off Amazon and cut my losses. But I’m not that kind of person. Plus, there’s a lot worse crap out on Amazon that sells anyway. More effort does equal a better chance of success. I should have realized that back in 2015, but I’ve had three years and I’m still learning from my mistakes.

So here we go again. In order to be a successful writer you have to have wealth or money. The ability to have your novel professionally edited, then you have to jackpot land an agent, and hopefully that agent is with the Big Five (do 5 even actually exist anymore) and not a hybrid company that will close down and your book will disappear from existence. And then, even if you do get picked up by the Big Five you still have to market the hell out of your piece by driving your friends and family nuts on social media. Posting blog posts that you try to make look original and creative when really you’re just pulling at straws to get a few words down so you’ve met your quota for the month. And then you pray like heck your book sells so you can go through the creation and the pain all over again. This is, of course, after your book has been rejected approximately 1,753,289 times.

Or you go the self-pub route and make $0.30 off each book. There is a breakeven point. It’s somewhere close to Pluto.

Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have a day job or if I felt like people really wanted to read what I write. Or if I felt like anyone actually wanted to read at all anyway. I mean, I have a few little people in my household and they’re only enamored with technology. My kids only read for school. When did people cease to find reading fun, relaxing, entertaining?

And even fewer people are interested in literary fiction these days and then dark literary fiction to top it off. I mean, I’d rather write about vampires and step-brother lust too, but that’s just not what comes out of me when I squeeze my creative juices. For some reason I have no control over what I actually write. It’s like it travels through my brain and onto the paper, and sometimes I say, “Shit, that’s actually good,” and sometimes I say, “Crap. this is just crap.” And it’s usually the crap that people want to read–Lord knows why.

Who the hell knows? I’d like to have more readers, but I guess I’ll just keep writing for my audience of one. Because despite all the heartache involved with writing, I love it. And I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t a writer.

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Tidying Up

If you know me, you know I’ve always been a messy person. In college, my roommates shuddered when they looked in my closet. When I moved into a house with friends, some days you could barely walk through my room without stepping on something. Cleaning and tidying never came naturally to me, and I found it to be an unimportant task. When I did clean, I became obsessive and wanted to clean everything. I didn’t like the way it made me feel, well, sort of crazy.

But last weekend, I looked in my closet, and I couldn’t find anything. I’d pull out one thing, and other items would fall off their hangers. Stacks of clothes sat on the top of the closet. Clothes I hadn’t worn or hadn’t been able to find were jammed into my dresser drawers. And I decided I needed to change. My mom is so surprised. She’s the type of person who always cleans up and declutters, and my lack of organization has always driven her nuts.

I knew when I started to make a change that I needed to focus on decluttering. I simply have too much stuff. Too many clothes, too many books, too many toys are in my house. And so I did what everyone else in the world has done and I bought The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

This book. First of all, I think Kondo has OCD. And I’m not touting all her methods. But it is changing my life. Kondo has a method for cleaning up and decluttering in which you focus on categories fully decluttering one category and organizing those items before you move on to the next. So you start on clothes and you go through all your clothes. You focus on what items you will keep. You decide what you keep by what sparks joy when you touch it. I think this is amazing, because so many times when you’re decluttering you’re focusing on what you’re getting rid of. Kondo’s method doesn’t make you think of loss. It makes you think about what you’re gaining: clothes and items that bring you joy in a visually aesthetic and more usefully organized space.

I do think this book is hard to follow if you have tiny terrors children in your house. But I started going through their clothes too and weeding out the items they don’t wear or don’t need anymore. I’ve only finished Hailey’s closet and drawers, but nothing is stuffed in there anymore and every item has its own space. I think this is amazing, because it’s never been so. And of course, as a parent I’m going to have to help her keep it this way, but that’s not a big deal. Once you get rid of the extras it’s not as hard to keep what you have left in order.

Anyway, if you’re like me and a bit organizationally impaired, I highly recommend this book as a way to change. Just don’t think you have to do everything she does, because she wants things done in a certain order, within subcategories, and I really think that’s just because she’s OCD.

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Banned Books Week

This week is banned books week. Every year, hundreds of books are banned or challenged all over the world. I recently read Captain Underpants is one of the most frequently challenged books for offensive language. This made me laugh, but challenging and banning books is not a laughing matter. For banned books week we’re celebrating the freedom to read whatever the hell you want (<—offensive language).

As a writer, I think banning books is a travesty. It’s the ultimate censorship, and because of that it’s wrong. Sure, there are some books that are disturbing. There are books explicitly about sex, the wrongs of religion, race relations, and all sorts of subjects that may make the reader uncomfortable.

Books on diversity are the most frequently challenged. By diversity I’m talking more specifically about books with non-white characters, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ. Folks, this shows we have a societal problem. Diversity is under attack, and challenging and banning these books isn’t helping our kids, it’s hurting them. It’s showing them the way to deal with people who aren’t like them is to pretend they don’t exist. Who wants their children learning that lesson? I certainly don’t. I want my children to be accepting and embracing of everyone. I want my children to realize that difference does not equal threat.

A few years ago I decided to pick up Lolita. I knew the subject matter before I started reading, and it did make me hesitate to read the book. But Nabokov is able to show us the life of a sick person, Humbert Humbert, who is obsessed with nymphets and subsequently runs off with Lolita, a young girl. The book was disturbing, but so well done. Nabokov was an incredible writer. But the thing I loved most about this book was the afterword. Nabokov detailed in the afterword about his struggles of whether to write this story, but it kept haunting him. Finally his wife told him to write it, and she insisted he publish the book. Lolita subsequently became one of the most banned books, but it also earned Nabokov a lot of respect as a serious writer.

As a writer, I know that feeling. When I wrote The Devil Within, I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish it. The material was disturbing and I knew it would upset a lot of people. Not only the abuse in the book, but the religious aspects of the book too. Religion is not described in a fluffy feel-good light in The Devil Within. Instead, the downfall of distorting the Bible and religion to fit ones own needs is discussed along with the comfort we can receive from religion if it’s used wisely (this sounds familiar in today’s society, doesn’t it). I’m so happy I did publish the book, because it’s been well-received. But I can understand how Nabokov felt, on having written such a despicable character, but such a wonderful book.

So what banned books have you read? Probably more than you think. Check out American Library Association’s website for a list of wonderful books to choose from and get reading! These books have a lot to offer:

Banned Classics

Frequently Challenged Books 1990-1999

Frequently Challenged Books 2000-2009

Frequently Challenged Books

What’s your favorite banned book?

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Top Ten Books To Read

I love to read. It’s one of my favorite past-times, so I thought it’d be fun to share my ten favorite books with you! Maybe it will help you find your next good read. Fiction and non-fiction are included.

1. I finished Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott this week. I’ve added it to my list of favorite books. I love Lamott’s take on how writers need to write, maybe for an audience of only two people, but they should write what they love and know. Her humor kept me reading, and I felt like I related to her on so many levels.

Bird by Bird

2.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I find people either love or hate this coming-of-age novel about a boy named Theo Decker. Tartt evokes Dickens’ style in this epic novel as Theo struggles to find himself.

The Goldfinch

3. On Writing by Stephen King. Who wouldn’t want to read a book on writing by one of the most prolific writers of our time? King gives us insight on what writing has meant to him. He also gives tips to writers for writing, editing, and even publication. This was one of the most encouraging books I read when I finally decided writing was the life for me!

On Writing

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: I read The Grapes of Wrath in high school and hated it. I’m glad I gave Steinbeck another chance. A unique take on the Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel stories that describes the intertwined destinies of two families. Well worth the read.

East of Eden

5. Middlemarch by George Eliot: Can you tell I’m a fan of Classics? I loved this book so much, I read all 900 pages within two weeks. Dorothea Brooks and Will Ladislaw are such well thought out characters. They face some of the same challenges to their love that people face today, making this a book that is still pertinent to our times. Beautifully written and the work of genius, for sure.


6. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: This is actually on my to-read list again, because I haven’t read it since high school. Mr. Conway, my high school teacher, went through every detail of this book with me. The characters are so vivid, and I still remember the scene where Vardaman Bundren says, “My mother is a fish.” Quintessential Southern literature–all of Faulkner’s books should be included on this list.

As I Lay Dying

7. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut: Once again an author whose entire collection could be on this list, because I admire his writing so much. Vonnegut is a genius writer, and I love how he weaves his stories together. The story of Rabo Karabekian and his secret in the potato barn. This novel is a reflection of moralism in art, life, family and relationships.


8. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison: Keep your Bible handy for this one! The story of Milkman Dead, who spent his whole life trying to fly. A must-read.

Song of Solomon

9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Of course this had to make the list, because I’m a huge fan of Southern Fiction. Harper Lee’s book about childhood, race-relations in the South, and heroes. Scout has stuck with me my entire life! Such a wonderful book.

To Kill A Mockingbird

10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Who doesn’t like magical realism? Yet another book my English teacher, Mr. Conway, introduced me to. This one and Love in the Time of Cholera might be tied in my book. Marquez is an incredibly talented writer and this is a must read!

One Hundred Years

Now that you know my favorites, what are yours?

This is the last day to enter to win a copy of The Devil Within on Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Devil Within by Lauren Greene

The Devil Within

by Lauren Greene

Giveaway ends August 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Also, this is your last day to pick up a copy of No Turning Back on Kindle or Nook at Amazon or Barnes and Noble for $1.99!

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Writing, Editing, and Reading

I woke up super early today to write, edit, and possibly go for a run. I decided against the run, because my calves are hurting. I’m feeling a little bit like I should go, since it may be my only chance at exercise until Saturday. I’ll have to break out the exercise video tomorrow morning, and I hate those dreaded things.

I’m still rewriting Little Birdhouses, and I figure it will be awhile before it’s ready. I printed it off, and I’m reading it aloud and making commentary on the edges of the paper, figuring out what needs to be cut, what doesn’t make sense, etc. I’m working on Chapter Four and thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was writing in my sleep or smoking crack when I wrote this dribble. I’m also wondering how many times, “she stood” or “she nodded” needs to show up in my work. Lots of strike-throughs are littering my pages, but this is good thing because I’m making it better!


“Garden birds house” by CaliforniaCat0001

In Chapter Four, Lana (the protagonist) meets Gideon Peterson for the first time. I love this line, even though it needs a little work grammatically still, “Just like the birdhouses, I felt Gideon Peterson creep into the back of my mind and secure his place there ready to haunt me at any moment.”

Creepy huh? Romantic, maybe? Obsessive: yes. It’s funny when you’re editing and you feel like all you write is shit, and then all of a sudden there’s a redeeming sentence in the mist, and you, as the author think, “Oh yeah, maybe I really can write.”

And birds, they seem to be taking over my life despite my dislike for them. I’m reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott right now, and I’m wondering how I’ve come so far in my writing career without reading this book. It is hilarious and true. I’m not very far into the book yet, but I just read her chapter on perfectionism and I couldn’t agree more. This is a book every writer should read along with On Writing by Stephen King.

What are some books that have made a difference in your life?

There’s still time to enter the giveaway for my newest book, The Devil Within

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Devil Within by Lauren Greene

The Devil Within

by Lauren Greene

Giveaway ends August 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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