I read recently that out of 100 people who want to run a marathon, only 5% will actually do it. The other 95% will offer all kinds of reasons (or excuses?) why they can’t – not enough time to train because of day job, too many other commitments, injured knee/leg/foot, decided it was too far or that they ran too slowly, weather was too bad to train every day, house needed decorating, mother-in-law had a fall… etc etc etc.
The same applies to writers. How many people have you heard saying they would love to write a book? Some may openly admit they could never do it, but others will offer the reasons (or excuses?) why they can’t – not enough time, too many other commitments –even ‘I can’t spell’ or ‘I was never any good at English grammar’ or ‘It would take me far too long to write a whole book.’
So, once we exclude the 95% who, for whatever reason, never actually start writing, we’re left with 5% who do start. How many of those actually finish a first draft? Probably 95% of them have a half-written manuscript (or even several) stuffed at the back of a drawer, or, in this day and age, languishing in some never-looked at folder on their computers.
What of the 5% who do finish a first draft? How many of them work hard revising/editing/polishing their story? I’m reminded of someone who declared on FB that she had finished her first draft, and would spend the next day editing and formatting it before self-publishing it on the following day. I must admit I winced at thought of only one day editing, but I fear there are many others who don’t have critique partners/groups and/or beta readers, let alone submit their manuscript for professional editing.
Others, when finishing the first draft, may react in the opposite way. Instead of rushing to publish it, they receive a few negative critiques, decide the whole thing is a train wreck, and throw it away, never to write anything again. Or they submit it to a publisher and it’s rejected, and they assume no one will want it.
Let’s assume another 95% never see their manuscript published, which leaves us with the 5% who receive an acceptance and then work with their editor to improve the story, and with a cover artist, until eventually release day comes, with a fanfare of trumpets - or whatever!
Maybe that’s as far as most of us will get. The very talented or very lucky (or very hyped) 5% may reach the dizzy heights of Amazon’s or New York Times' Top Ten, and probably less than 5% of those may get a Hollywood film offer, or actually become zillionaires.
Meantime, what of the remaining 95%? We do our best to promote our books, we continue to write, hopefully improving with every book, and gradually build up a small band of faithful readers.
Sometimes we can become demoralised by our small sales, or our low rankings on Amazon – but what we always need to remember is that we are part of the 5% who have actually written a book (or several), unlike the 95% who only say they’d love to write a book but never get around to it, or the 95% who start but fall by the wayside. So take pride in being part of the 5%!