Friday, March 19, 2010

Writing a Novel is Like Playing the Lotto

Hello, blog-followers!! Let me start off by apologizing for my extended absence. For the past several days, I was holed up in bed, stuck in a sweaty, fever-induced cocoon of sickness that looked something like this:
Image source. I tried to make a hilarious Paintbrush rendering of my state, complete with sweat and stinky sick breath, but apparently those renderings are really hard! I have a much greater respect for people who can master hilarious MS Paint art now. 

Anyway, now I'm fully recovered...or at least recovered enough to update my blog, which is really all you people care about anyway. 

While catching up on my emails (98 missed emails in 3!), the hubs came over and handed me his lotto ticket. He asked if I could please check the numbers when I got a chance. 

Every time he does this, I get a little frustrated. It's not like we have a lot of money, and I always think - what else could that four dollars buy that would show measurable results rather than this gamble of a lotto ticket, which literally has a 1 in 20,358,520 chance of wining (which I know because I looked it up)? 

But as I'm waiting for the flalottery Web site to load, I still get a little squirm in my stomach...what if we win?? I could probably quit my job and write full-time, at least for a little while. Or at the very least I could pay off all my debt and not have so much pressure to work as much. I could buy as many books as I wanted, and build a giant home library. I wouldn't have to worry about how I'm going to pay for SCBWI-LA - I'll just pay for it. 

This excitement is the only thing that has kept me from telling the hubs not to waste his money on lotto tickets anymore. He doesn't buy them every week, so if he wants to pick them up once in awhile, so be it.  

Today, I couldn't help but be reminded of the publishing industry, and how writing a book is a little like playing the lotto. You dedicate months, possibly years of your time to writing. You shun parties and social events. You pay to attend conferences and get to know crit partners. You pour your heart and soul into a book...what happens if it never gets published? Does that mean it doesn't matter? Was all of this time poorly spent?

I definitely don't think so. Even if you query away and no one bites, you've still learned a lot just throughout the writing process. I'm a firm believer in the philosophy of "the more you write, the better you become," so even if your novel is never published, you've still learned plenty to get started on your next one. Plus, unlike the lotto, there are many factors in the writing process that you can control - talent and craft and industry knowledge. If your gamble isn't paying off, maybe you need to just reevaluate your hook or tweak your query. Or maybe the first half of your book is great, but something isn't clicking in the ending. The point is, though you can't change your lotto numbers, you can revise your novel every minute until it gets published (though you might want to avoid changes in the page proof stage - it tends to piss publishers off because it's so expensive...though I did learn that Dennis Lehane doesn't really care about that rule and will submit changes right up to the day the book is printed, expenses be damned.) 

Obviously, we haven't won the lotto - yet. And I haven't had my book published, either - yet. But I'll let the hubs buy his lotto tickets, and I'll keep revising and perfecting my book until I think my gamble isn't so much a gamble as it is a safe bet. 


  1. Sorry you were sick and I'm glad you're feeling better. And I love this post. Thank you so much for it. :)

  2. I thought the exact same thing the last few days since I've been querying agents and keep getting rejected!!! Great post. It's nice to hear someone else feels the same way. :)

  3. What a great post! Sometimes you do have to break it all down. My husband too loves to play the lottery on the off chance we might actually be a winner, I think I do the same with writing, no matter what I have the desire to write but at the end of the day when it's finished wouldn't it be amazing if I walked away a winner!

  4. Awww Im glad you're feeling better! That picture is too funny. If I'd known I'd have sent you some virutal chicken soup--vegan of course;) But yay, you're back and yeah, I too need to think about how to make SCBWI LA happen. And love the lotto analogy!

  5. Glad you are feeling better and I love the last line of this post.

  6. I'm in the scary editor submissions part... for the second round. And I am terrified. Glad to know I'm not alone.

  7. Yay! I'm glad you're feeling better.

    And I wholly agree with the sentiments of this post. Spending weeks and months and years on a novel that doesn't sell seems to be such a waste of time, but it isn't. The skills you learned can be applied to the next novel. And each time you revise and learn from your mistake, your chances get just that much higher.

  8. I'm glad you're feeling better! And surprised because my dad buys lotto tickets too and this is how I've always looked at it! This post was a really inspiring one, I need to go off and write now. Because I want to feel what it's like to have a safe bet.

  9. I seriously loved this post! Especially the pathetic little egg picture! :) Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. So true. I'm still doing both. Revising and playing lotto. Got two numbers this week. At least that wins a free ticket. Too bad I can't get a free publishing ticket.

  11. Thanks for the feel-better wishes, everyone! I do feel better, now...just a little residual stuffy nose is all.

    Liza - Glad you liked it! I was afraid it was too cheesy :)

    Anne - Are you kidding?? I can't wait til I'm there! I mean, yeah, I'll be scared out of my mind, but in a good/excited way.

    Sandy - Definitely agree. The more you write, the better your chances of landing a publishing deal end up.

    Hayley - Good to know I'm not alone in my eye rolls! So glad I could inspire you :)

    Tiffany - Hehe, he made me laugh too!

    Karen - Yes, revising and playing the lotto...have to keep it up on both fronts, right?


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