On Facebook, I have not hidden my admiration for a new writer making news recently. Hugh Howey, author of a series of dystopian science fiction novellas called Wool, did the unthinkable in the publishing world: he not only turned down two seven-figure offers from big publishing houses, but in the deal he did sign, he managed to retain his eBook rights. That alone has caused me to start calling him Trailblazer Hugh.
Now, ordinarily, this would be fascinating news because it is precedent setting for writers all over the planet. What makes Hugh’s story rise to the heroic for me is one simple fact: he’s living his dream. He not only has written a compelling work of fiction which I highly recommend, but he’s done it on his own terms.
What’s more for me is it has kick started my motivation to resume writing my book, from which I took a long break. Writers who don’t write often have their excuses for not writing, and mine are no different: I moved house, I started a new job, I found a partner whom I love dearly, etc. Sure, these may be legitimate reasons for a time, but did any of those things stop me from writing? Did they take up so much head space that I was incapable of continuing? No and no.
The simple fact remains that I just stopped. I wasn’t blocked or stymied or self conscious about my writing skill. I didn’t run out of ideas for my book. I didn’t even engage in the self flagellating that some writers do, i.e. I’m no good and no-one would want to read my drivel. Quite the contrary. I am brimming with ideas and have a story to tell that I think people will want to read. But dammit, I stopped writing it for at least 18 months. And now I’ve resumed. It feels great.
So what changed? Why now? I assure you, it has nothing to do with a New Year’s resolution. I’ve never made them and I’ve never reneged on them.
What changed is Hugh Howey came into my life. Yeah, that sounds creepy, like I’m stalking him from halfway across the planet. I first encountered Howey on Amazon.com, sheerly by accident. His Wool books came up as a suggestion after I’d bought several of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels, better known as Game of Thrones. I clicked on the link for the first Wool novella, read the synopsis and thought hmmm, that seems interesting. Then I saw that there were several novellas in the series collected into one Kindle omnibus edition, for the unbeatable price of $5.99 USD. I thought why not, six bucks is no big outlay for a book by an unknown author.
The rest is history. I raced through each story, anxious to find out what happened next. Since this isn’t a book review, I won’t reveal anything about the plot of Wool. Buy it yourself and find out what the hubbub is all about.
After reading the first few novellas, I was curious to find out more about this Hugh Howey character, so I found his website: hughhowey.com. He posts there regularly about his most awesome life as a professional writer. Now that sounds a bit adolescent, I realise. What 30-something man has an ‘awesome’ life, especially in these days of recessionary America. Hugh does. If you watch his YouTube videos, you get a real sense of his delight over his current fortunes as a writer. He’s like a kid in a candy store. God bless him for it.
I’ve since become a Facebook friend of his and I follow his Twitter feeds. He genuinely enjoys his fans and responds to them personally. I avoid filling his wall with gushing words of fan-induced praise, knowing that his primary goal is his writing, which brings me back to my own writing and why I’ve begun again. It’s Hugh’s simple advice, encapsulated in one word: finish!
Yes, it’s all so easy. Finish. Get the draft done. Then fix it. It’s advice that writing instructors for centuries have been giving. It all seemed so abstract to me until Hugh said it, but because he said it and in such simple and friendly terms, it has motivated me to do it.
I will finish my book.