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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , Writing   

    10 Books to Read Before Writing Your Novel 

    Writing a novel is an awesome undertaking, requiring time, skill, and oodles of imagination. A lot of people give lip service to the idea of writing a novel, usually confidently citing the amazing ideas they have along with a deep disdain for the novels that are getting published without their involvement, but not everyone has what it takes to write a novel—much less a good one that others will want to read. If you’re thinking of writing a book, whether in a fevered NaNoWiMo dash or a more stately approach, here are ten books you should read in order to prepare yourself. They won’t necessarily make writing a novel easier, but they will certainly clarify for you what it takes to go from 0 to 60,000 words.

    I Should be Writing, by Mur Lafferty
    The Six Wakes author has also been hosting the I Should be Writing podcast for years now, and the essence of that essential listening has been distilled into this phenomenal book. It’s billed as “A Writer’s Workshop,” and that’s exactly what it is, complete with exercises, examples, and stimulating and encouraging lessons. If you’ve never tried to write a novel before, this is the book that will help you get over the hump whether you work in the speculative genres like Lafferty or not.

    On Writing, by Stephen King
    This is the ultimate writing memoir from one of the most prolific writers of all time. King is in his 70s now and going as strong as ever, publishing some of the most highly regarded books of his career. If you’ve never tried your hand at writing and need to wrap your head around how it’s done, this is probably the perfect book. The combination of King’s homey style, experience and talent, and eagerness to get into the specifics of his craft and process make this a must-read for every aspiring novelist.

    Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s essay collection isn’t so much for craft and business stuff—instead, it takes a more philosophical approach to writing in general and writing novels specifically. Bradbury was a True Believer, someone for whom books were sacred, and stories a religion. If you’ve tried writing before and found yourself losing the thread over and over again, your excitement ebbing away as the difficulty mounted, Bradbury’s collected wisdom will keep your inspiration levels high.

    Words are My Matter, by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Le Guin was more than just a great writer. She was a great thinker and a passionate advocate for authors and writing in general. The essays in this book run the gamut from thoughtful craft-oriented think pieces to intelligent assessments of other writers’ work, showing exactly how smart, critical reading can inform your own writing. There’s no better glimpse of what it takes, mentally, to write well over the course of decades, and if you’re contemplating a life of the keyboard you need to read it. Le Guin pulled no punches on her opinions, and you may not agree with everything she writes—but you’ll be better off for having read it.

    The Kick-Ass Writer, by Chuck Wendig
    Wendig’s muscular style of writing advice is ideal for the 21st-century gig economy world we find ourselves in. He’s funny, honest, and successful—and he frames his advice on writing craft and getting published in a funny, fast-paced writing style that’s as fun as it is educational. That latter part is important; a lot of writing books are happy to help you write a novel, but few offer a ton of clear advice on getting that book published. If that’s your goal—and it isn’t everyone’s—then Wendig’s eminently readable book is a key step to laying your plans for literary world domination.

    Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
    At some point every writer is advised to read Lamott’s classic reflection on the process of writing, and that advice is and always will be good advice. Beginning with the central anecdote about her brother, struggling to write a book report on birds, being advised to just take it “bird by bird,” the book is filled with practical and inspiring advice that demystifies the mechanics of the creative process. Even better, Lamott stresses that writing is in itself a reward, and pushes you to write for the satisfaction of having created something rather than the material rewards of publishing, which is by far the healthiest way to approach writing a novel even if publication is your ultimate goal.

    Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
    One of the main things stopping people from writing novels is a lack of faith in their own ideas and creativity. Kleon’s new classic is a primer on how to harness your creativity and trust your instincts—as well as a necessary corrective to the idea that your ideas have to be rigidly, perfectly “original.” Kleon lays it out clearly—every artist steals, and every creative endeavor is built on the work that came before it. If you’re hesitating about your novel writing ambitions because you’re worried your ideas aren’t original enough, read this book.

    The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby
    You’ve probably heard different theories on story and plot, from the Hero’s Journey to the Three-Act Structure and everything in between. The necessity and usefulness of these concepts varies from writer to writer, but knowing something about them is probably a good idea. While you can read plenty of books about plenty of theories on story, Truby’s is an excellent combination of modern thinking in terms of organic story generation combined with specific steps and plot points. His book will get you thinking about the shape of your story before you start writing, and that will make for a tighter novel that gets written faster.

    Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster
    Forster, author of classic novels such as A Passage to India and Howard’s End, was also a lecturer at Trinity College. His series of lectures on the novel at that school in 1927 are collected in this book, and remain powerful explorations of the different aspects of the novel. Using classic works as examples, Forster brings his remarkable intelligence to bear on the question of what makes a novel, and how to apply those lessons in your own writing—where he uses examples from his own not-too-shabby writing career.

    Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, by Lawrence Block
    Block, one of the most successful mystery writers of all time, wrote a lot of articles for Writer’s Digest back in the day in which he offered brass tacks writing advice and a glimpse into what the business was like for a successful published author. Those essays are collected here, and offer a still-applicable set of lessons on everything from getting past writer’s block to simply starting—which might be precisely what you need to read before you make your first, or five hundredth, attempt to write your own novel.

    The post 10 Books to Read Before Writing Your Novel appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2016/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Writing   

    10 Tips to Finish NaNoWriMo Strong 

    Well, we’ve made it almost all the way through the month of November—past the election cycle, the pumpkin spice fever, and yes, we’re almost through with Movember, so your friends’ silly mustaches will soon be gone so you’re not embarrassed to associate with them at parties. But November is also National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), and if you’re participating like me, there seems to be no end in sight.

    The goal of NaNo is simple: write a novel (or at least 50,000 words of one) in just 4 weeks. The first 2 weeks of NaNo are focused on setting the groundwork for your story: introducing characters, setting, and conflict. But now you’re solidly in the meat of your story, which is often the most difficult part of a book—and the part where a lot of NaNos give up. But with less than 2 days until the finish line, you’ve got to resist the urge! Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to help you finally hit that 50K.

    1. The early mornings are your best friend (and productivity gold).

    Seriously, trying to block out time at night to write is kind of like gambling: maybe you’ll win big and be so inspired after a long work day to sit at the computer and write—but more likely, you’ll be exhausted and hungry and can’t turn your work brain off. Instead, set your alarm clock for an hour earlier than usual and take advantage of the morning, when the only thing you have to think about is you, and your book.

    1. Vary your word count and timing goals.

    So, you have 3 hours to write. That’s great! Instead of sitting down with the (probably unrealistic) goal of writing for 3 straight hours without stopping, schedule your time into sprints and free writing, with a break in between. I like to do 30 minute “sprints” of writing where I’m not allowed to self-edit or even question word choice; it all goes down on the page in what feels like a single breath. Because the goal of NaNoWriMo is based on word count and not quality, think less about how good the words are and more about whether they advance your character’s journey.

    1. Pre-write, if possible.

    I’m a pantser, which means I like to write the story as the ideas come to me. Others are plotters, who have full-scale outlines detailing every plot point down to the most minute character beat. Even if you’re a pantser like me, though, it’s always helpful to take some time (before bed, on your lunch break, on the subway…) and jot down what your goals are for the scene you’re about to write. This can be anything from the starting and ending point of the scene, a line of dialogue you want a character to say, or what the fallout is from an action taken in that scene.

    1. Misery loves company.

    Yes, writers have a reputation of being solitary creatures, holed up in their libraries with whiskey and cigarettes and somber songs playing on an old gramophone—but we live in the modern age, and between social media (and your actual social life) there’s a ton of support out there for this amazing thing you’re trying to accomplish! Search the #NaNoWriMo2016 hashtag to chat about the wins and woes of trying to write 50,000 words in 4 weeks…but even better, join a meet-up or ask a friend to get together for some structured writing time. I went on a weekend writer’s retreat with 4 other writers and by the end of our 2.5 days, we felt so productive (and full of wine and ice cream, which also probably helped.)

    1. Read, read, read. (Even if it means you don’t write.)

    During these next two weeks, you will hit a slump. Your entire story will fall apart. You’ll lose faith. This is the time when you need to read. Here’s the logic: you only need an average 1,667 words a day to make the goal of 50K. So, you can skip a day or two and still make up those words on the weekend, or spread out throughout the week. (This week, for example, I had an extra 1668 words I needed to write in addition to my weekend goal, so I divided them up between Saturday and Sunday to make it more manageable.) Use the time you skip to read—something in the genre you’re writing, or just something GOOD, whether it’s a book you’ve never heard of or one you’ve read a thousand times before. (Pro-tip: you can also sometimes listen to an audiobook at work!) Reading will do a few things: inspire you, distract you, and remind you that once upon a time, the words in that book lived only in someone’s head. Until they were brave enough to try to bring it to life.

    1. Thanksgiving is the enemy to NaNoWriMo. (Refer back to tip #1.)

    Yes, it is a cruel trick that the last weekend of NaNo is also one of our most social (and socially awkward) holidays. Be realistic: you’re not going to write when you’re on the couch in a food coma, or when you’re throwing around a football, or while the house is filled with puppies and babies and yes, more food. Create a strategy: refer back to tip #1 and utilize the quiet mornings Thursday through Sunday, before people get up and start asking you why you’re even writing a novel anyway. Take your dessert into another room with the goal of writing 500 words before the goodbyes begin. Treat yourself to a jolt of caffeine and do some late night writing sessions once the guests are gone. And this year in particular: NO WATCHING THE GILMORE GIRLS REVIVAL UNTIL YOU’VE WRITTEN 1,000 words! (That last one is mostly for me.)

     

    1. When in doubt, throw a curveball to your character.

    I like to think of NaNoWriMo as the bare bones of the story, because the truth is you’re not going to write the perfect, beautiful book you’ve always dreamed of in 4 weeks. But even writing the bare bones can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. When you hit a snag in the story, don’t think: throw a seemingly insurmountable obstacle at your character. Conflicts, obstacles and tension are what make the story sizzle. Your main character could lose their job, suffer a loss, or discover a terrible secret that changes their goal completely. You can always re-write later, if it doesn’t work!

    1. Keep it sexy.

    This advice applies not only to romance writers, but even “serious” ones. (I used air-quotes there because there’s no reason romance writers shouldn’t be taken seriously, but that’s another article.) While you envision yourself writing the next War and Peace, there’s no reason to spend ten thousand words waxing philosophical on the nature of life and death, or draw out the description of a flower for more than a sentence. Keep the story sexy means more than just keeping the romance hot—it means keep the pace up, the tension high, and the descriptions visceral. Show, don’t tell. Utilize all five senses in the descriptions, and try to give your character physiological responses to their experiences, not just emotional ones. (The difference between “I felt angry” and “My chest flushed red with anger as my palms curled involuntarily into fists” is quite vast.) Keeping the story sexy will also have the added benefit of keeping you, the writer, engaged. Seduce yourself, basically, is what I’m saying.

     

    1. Immerse yourself in your story, even when you’re not writing.

    If you haven’t already, this is a great—and quick—activity that can easily breathe some life back into your creative process. Start a Pinterest board with photos that inspire your setting, characters, and world. If you’re writing a historical novel, create a board of images from the time period including objects, fashion trends, architecture, and art. Listen to the music your character would; if you’re writing a YA about two best friends navigating high school romance, there should be lots of Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Selena Gomez on that playlist. If your main character is a swimmer, watch Youtube videos of swimmers. If your villain is fond of poisons, well…just hope your google history will never be held under scrutiny.

    1. You win just by trying.

    Yes, it can seem like the odds are against you: for the millions of books that are published every year, there are probably twice as many that will never see the light of day. Yes, it can seem futile: there are better writers, more successful writers, and even terrible writers that seem to have something that you don’t. But the truth is: the odds ARE in your favor, and art is never futile. You can never finish a book if you don’t start. So even if you don’t get to 50,000 words this year, you’ll still be closer at the end of this month than you were where you started, so go for it: you truly have nothing to lose.

    via GIPHY

    The post 10 Tips to Finish NaNoWriMo Strong appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Melissa Albert 2:30 pm on 2016/07/27 Permalink
    Tags: ava miles, , , , , Writing   

    Writing the Books That Change Your Life: An Interview with Ava Miles 

    To celebrate our awesome community of NOOK authors, as well as the recent launch of the NOOK Press print platform, we’re talking each month with authors whose books are making a splash with NOOK readers.

    Novelist Ava Miles kicked off her career with Nora Roberts Land, about a woman determined to live out her own Nora Roberts–inspired small-town love story, in order to both show up her romance-deficient ex and get an article out of the quest. Since then, her bestselling books have included The Chocolate Garden, a botany-powered romance in the Dare River series, and recent release The Gate to Everything, which kicks off new series Once Upon a Dare. We talked to her about giving up a big career to pursue her writing dream, writing a debut that traditional publishing houses didn’t know how to handle, and what it’s like to connect with readers around the globe.

    Tell us a bit about your writing background.
    First, thanks to much for having me on the awesome B&N Blog. I love you guys! My first big swell of readers started at B&N, and I’m so grateful.

    So, a little about me. I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a writer. Three years ago I did what most people thought was both brave and unthinkable: I walked away from a successful six-figure career rebuilding war zones in D.C. to launch myself as an author. My first book was one you might have heard of—a #1 bestseller on B&N and a USA Today bestseller—Nora Roberts Land. Now I have three bestselling series, which include Dare Valley, Dare River, and Once Upon A Dare. My books have been translated into seven languages so far, and more readers around the world are finding my books every day. I LOVE what I do, and it’s the greatest blessing to be living my dream and inspiring so many others to do the same.

    What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?
    I’m self-published in the U.S., but traditionally published overseas. Honestly, I found myself becoming an independent publisher because the traditional publishing folks in New York didn’t know what to do with Nora Roberts Land. Everyone thought it was a unique book, with Nora’s blessing involved, but Nora’s publisher thought it was a conflict of interest for them although they loved my voice. Other publishers didn’t publish Nora, so they weren’t sure how to handle that internally. In the end, my agent and I knew readers would love the book, so I decided to put it out there. I released the first five books in the Dare Valley series every six weeks from July to December. It was a marvelous, incredibly life-changing time. I hit the bestseller charts in January and haven’t slowed down since. I just released my twenty-fourth title this month. It has been a remarkable journey so far.

    Did you work with other professionals—editors, cover designers, etc.—on your path to publication?
    When you essentially run your own business, yes, you need to hire everyone who supports your work. My editor, originally from Bantam, has been with me for every book, and she’s my best partner. I look for the best people to support me. Happily, there are lots of talented people out there, and they want to work with me. It’s awesome.

    How did it feel to hit publish on that first book, sending it out into the world?
    I chose my publication date for the July 4 weekend and termed it my own Independence weekend. So many people have regrets about not following their dreams. I’m not one of them.

    Can you describe how it felt when you saw your first self-published book finding a readership?
    It was terrific. Like I said, my first huge readership started at B&N and then grew from there. Now I’m pretty much read across platforms. My books are in libraries and bookstores here and there, both in the U.S. and overseas. I’m not a household name yet, but we’re going that way. It’s incredible!

    I love having this beautiful book family, who I connect with on social media and in personal messages. I used to help a lot of people in my old career in war-affected areas, but now I’m able to talk about important issues in my writing such as PTSD, domestic violence, the power of love and forgiveness, and finding yourself again after divorce. I have the best job in the world and am touching people all around the world like I used to, but in a different way.

    What does it mean to you to have achieved success and connected with an audience outside of the usual publishing avenues?
    It pretty much means the world. Tons of people first tell you that you can’t get a literary agent, least of all be a successful author if you’re able to get published. The odds against you are like a million to one, just to give readers a sense. Most agents receive up to 30,000 manuscripts to read every year and maybe decide to take one or two. Then the publishers have to buy it, and after spending sometimes years on your book, the best offer for a new writer is maybe $1,500. If you’re lucky you might get a little more.

    As an independent author, you don’t have an advance or the publicity department of a major publisher behind you. There are barriers to having your books in print, in stores. Regardless of how you’re published, no one can predict whether readers will buy your books. Do you see what we’re talking about here? It takes a lot of courage and grit to be successful, but when you believe in yourself and tell fabulous stories, miracles happen. They happened to me and continue to happen every day. I don’t take it for granted, and I continue to do what’s required to keep it all expanding.

    How do you determine when your books are ready for publication?
    With every book, there’s a sweet spot. You know when it has reached its highest version, when it has all the magic you can put into it. The balance is having a schedule and allowing the magic to swirl. It’s doable, but takes intention.

    I have a writing schedule like most writers, with agreed-upon publication dates I set myself. My editor knows when she’s going to receive the story. It’s a process, and to be successful, it’s important to be consistent.

    How do you handle publicity around your work?
    I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as having a personal newsletter for my readers. But my best “publicity” is word of mouth. My readers are my biggest publicists. They tell their family and friends. I love hearing a daughter tell me how she bought her elderly mother a device and downloaded my book so she could enjoy my story, too. It’s the finest compliment I could receive. And interestingly enough, my cookbook companion to Country Heaven has spread the word through food. People have made those recipes and taken them to work functions or a neighborhood potluck, and when someone asks about the recipe, people hear about me and my books. My other favorite is the massive swell of interest in chocolate plants because of my book The Chocolate Garden. I had readers walking into nurseries all around the world asking for these plants, and it prompted more sharing of my stories. It’s pretty terrific and totally unplanned. I love spontaneous abundance like that.

    How do you interact with your readers?
    I do tons on Facebook because it’s rather like sitting down on the front porch with someone and chatting a spell. I share a lot about what I’m cooking or growing in the garden as well as inspirational posts about how I followed my dreams or experienced PTSD like my hero in The Promise of Rainbows. Readers tell me all the time how much they appreciate me being myself and asking them to tell me their stories too around various topics. Readers have stories too, and I love hearing them.

    I also answer the awesome slew of messages from readers, which always touch me. I have tons of readers around the world sending me pictures of rainbows because of my book. It’s wonderful. Did I mention I have the best job in the world?

    How has being a self-published author changed your life?
    I decided to change my life and live a happy one doing what I love. That was becoming a writer and being myself. When you decide to do that, everything changes.

    Tell us a little bit about your most recent book.
    Speaking of everything, I am known for having unique titles, and my recent book is called The Gate to Everything. I love to write about families, especially since I am the oldest of six children. This is a special book about two people taking a second chance at love and discovering love and family are the gate to everything.

    What are some of the books and authors that have inspired you?
    No surprise, I pretty much gorged on Nora Roberts’ books in college, but I also love the old Iris Johansen historicals like The Tiger Prince. She had a unique way of telling a story in the past in unusual locations. I love stories that stand apart from the crowd and say something different. I also love ones about families that feel real to life. Add in a bighearted, strong man and an independent woman in touch with herself and what she wants, and I’m there.

     
  • Jeff Somers 1:00 pm on 2016/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Writing   

    Calling all Self-Published Authors: Publish Your Book in Print with NOOK Press 

    Any author who has self-published a book understands both the difficulty and the allure of getting your book off of a device and into readers’ hands. Printing books on your own is expensive and offers logistical challenges, and distributing those books can be even more difficult. For years there have been a very limited number of options for getting “print on demand” (POD) book sales set up, and the options that do exist often lock authors into one sales platform.

    No more. Barnes & Noble is excited to announce the launch of our new NOOK Press print platform. It allows all NOOK Press authors to offer their books in print as well as digital formats through the nation’s largest book retailer—Barnes & Noble! Not only will indie authors be able to sell their books in print on BN.com, but they’ll benefit from the promotional muscle of B&N and its retail stores—all while earning competitive royalty rates.

    Author First
    We firmly believes authors should profit from their creativity, which is why we’ll be offering some of the highest royalties on print books sold through B&N channels. The new print program will be seamless and intuitive for authors taking the first-time plunge into print, because B&N wants authors spending more time writing new books and less time dealing with the technical side of sharing their books with the world.

    Not only does this represent an excellent alternative for indie writers seeking print book distribution, it will also come with opportunities for authors to promote their books. With in-store opportunities including showrooming in B&N stores, indie authors finally have a way of cutting through the noise and reaching across the divide into physical stores. Combined with our high royalty rate, the new NOOK Press print program is designed to become the default choice for self-published authors seeking to kick off or expand their print sales.

    Hardcovers at Last
    Unlike other print platforms, NOOK Press will offer you and your readers the opportunity to order your books in hardcover, complete with dust jacket. Now readers will be able to experience your book in any format they prefer—onscreen, in paperback, or in hardcover.

    A Partnership
    One of the huge (huge!) advantages of this new program is the partnership with B&N retail stores. Barnes & Noble is in the business of bookselling, and we want qualifying authors to take full advantage of our immense resources—including our more than 600 brick-and-mortar stores nationwide.

    The Bonus Situation
    We’re kicking this off with a gift to our authors: we’re giving a $25 gift card to every author who signs up with the new print platform and publishes a book to BN.com within the first month. While selling your print books through B&N means access to the sales platform of the largest bookseller in the country, an additional sales channel for your books, and an easy system for publishing both eBooks and print books, we’d still like to say “welcome!” to our newly minted authors in print.

    As any DIY author knows, you can never have too many opportunities to get your books in front of potential readers, and you can never have too many revenue streams. B&N intends for its print platform to be the gold standard in the industry, offering peerless support and assistance, great royalties, and high-quality print books that will stand the test of time. This is pretty exciting stuff—so sign up, publish your first print book with us, and claim your gift card!

     
  • Jeff Somers 9:00 pm on 2016/05/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Writing   

    6 Authors who Turned Uninspiring Careers into Grist for Their Stories 

    Anyone who has tried to make a living as a writer knows it’s hardly an easy road, and one piece of advice has held true since “working on that novel” became a thing: don’t quit your day job—even if you hate it. In addition to keeping you housed and fed, that day job hate can actually be a good thing—some famous novelists’ disastrous pre-fame careers directly informed their best work. Does this mean all aspiring novelists should seek out the worst jobs they can? Actually, maybe. As these six stories demonstrate, there’s gold to be mined from misery.

    Franz Kafka
    Job:
    Insurance clerk
    Book: The Trial
    Franz Kafka was clearly not the world’s happiest person, and it’s easy to imagine part of that unhappiness had to do with his need to earn money, generally through a litany of depressing, uninspiring jobs. Kafka thought he could work as a clerk at an insurance company during the day and then have time to write at night—the fever dream of writers to this day—but slowly, the job took over his life, demanding more and more of his time. The Trial offers so many clear connections to the drudgery of endless bureaucracy, it’s clear we’ve all benefited from Kafka’s unhappy career.

    Kurt Vonnegut
    Job:
    Managing a car dealership (badly)
    Book: Breakfast of Champions
    Kurt Vonnegut liked to joke that the reason he never received a Nobel Prize was due to his early, disastrous career managing the first Saab dealership in the United States. Under Vonnegut’s not so steady hand, the business came and went in less than 12 months, and it was years before Saab could mount a comeback effort. Of course, those early Saabs were much different (and much, much worse) than the modern models, so it might not have been entirely Vonnegut’s fault—but there’s no doubt much of his miserable experience at the dealership inspired parts of Breakfast of Champions and its deranged car dealer protagonist, Dwayne Hoover, offering a clear glimpse of day-job disaster being spun into gold.

    Roald Dahl
    Job:
    Taste-testing chocolates
    Book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    There really are candies called gobstoppers, and they’ve been around since the late 19th century. Given that, it’s no surprise Dahl’s famous Everlasting Gobstopper is based on a favorite candy from his childhood. It is a little more surprising to learn Dahl worked as a taste-tester for Cadbury while he was at school, gobbling down chocolates and reporting his impressions. This led him to become a bit obsessed with the Cadbury factory, and he often imagined the “inventing room” where all the new candies were developed. It’s a short leap from a vague stomachache to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Okay, so maybe “child chocolate taste-tester” isn’t so much a failed career as an awesome career.

    Mitch Albom
    Job:
    Musician and songwriter
    Book: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
    Mitch Albom has succeeded first as a sports columnist and later as a novelist, but his first passion, and his first attempts at a career, were in the music industry. Now, “failure” is a strong term for a guy who has had a few songs recorded and even included in film soundtracks, but Albom himself is pretty frank about how his hopes for a career in music never came close to true success. He turned to writing instead, and his most recent novel, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, draws on his experience and knowledge of music in pretty obvious ways. It’s a book that probably wouldn’t exist if Albom hadn’t tried to make it as a musician—and failed.

    Stephen King
    Job:
    High school janitor
    Book: Carrie
    It has been a long time since Stephen King needed to work for a living, but back in the mid-1970s, he was just like everyone else, struggling to get by with whatever jobs he could land. He worked as a janitor in a local high school, and while there’s no reason to think he wasn’t a fantastic custodial worker, his work mopping up after the kids obviously inspired his first published novel, Carrie. King’s on record about how his access to the girls’ showers inspired the opening scene of the novel—a book he almost threw away after it garnered a stack of rejections. We can thank his wife and (we assume) the fact that he hated working as a janitor for his decision to revise it one last time, with historic results.

    William Faulkner
    Job:
    Postmaster
    Book: Soldier’s Pay
    William Faulkner is one of our greatest novelists, but before he published his first book, Soldier’s Pay, he landed a gig as postmaster at the University of Mississippi, where he was famously terrible at his job. He was known to show up at odd hours, work on his novel while on the clock, and even purposely throw away mail. In 1924, he was forced to resign from his position, and penned a terse resignation letter that lives on in infamy, closing with the epic mic-drop: “I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.” His debut novel, about the drudgery of a veteran’s return to daily life, includes a memorable passage snidely commenting on the folks who would show up to check if they had received mail, despite having no cause to think they had (this was before junk mail, obviously).

     
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