Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Guest Post: "It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish)" by Debra H. Goldstein

Last week author Debra H. Goldstein addressed the issue of orphaned books when the publisher shuts down. This week she considers the long term picture of a writing career.

It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish) by Debra H. Goldstein

Recently, I listened to Barbara Cook’s rendition of Cy Coleman and Dorthy Field’s signature song “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish” from 1973’s Broadway show, Seesaw. Forty-three years after the song debuted, the words remain true.

Whether one is writing a novel, short story, or poem, the process is the same. “It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.” Writing requires coming up with an idea, getting it down on paper, rewriting, possibly tossing out one’s original thoughts, and writing the piece again and again until the words flow. It often is a solitary process, but writers have the ability to inspire and help each other.

The reality is “If you’re going to last, you can’t make it fast,…Nobody starts a winner, give me a slow beginner.” At my second Malice Domestic conference in 2013, I had the privilege of riding an elevator with Carolyn Hart. I’m a pretty confident person, but as the elevator went up, I stumbled over my words telling “Ms. Hart” how much I enjoy her books. During the conference, where she was honored with the Amelia Award, I heard how her writing career wasn’t meteoric. Her first few books either were not published or failed to sell well, but she kept writing. When she became an overnight success, it had been a long night.

Our paths crossed a number of times during the conference and at the Sisters in Crime breakfast. Ironically, we were in the elevator together again leaving the conference. This time, I congratulated “Carolyn” on her award and we actually laughed about spending the conference in the elevator.

Thinking back on the difference in my behavior during our elevator rides, I realize that the change in my attitude came from being impressed with her writing abilities and with her persistence and willingness to help other writers. Even during the hour interview tied to her award, she took the time to give a new writer a shout-out. She was the only one to do so. It takes a big person to share one’s limelight with others. Her work ethic and her generosity illustrate the premise that “Your final return will not diminish/And you can be the cream of the crop/It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish/And you’re gonna finish on top.”

Debra H. Goldstein ©2016

Judge (ret.) Debra H. Goldstein is the author of ShouldHave Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing - April 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. She also writes short stories and non-fiction. Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter and Alabama Writers Conclave boards and is a MWA member. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Joel, whose blood runs crimson.


Su Kopil said...

Great post, Debra. I found so much inspiration at the Bouchercon conference last year from well known writers like David Morrell and Margaret Maron to brand new to me authors like Lori Rader-Day. I still carry that inspiration with me almost a year later.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

I feel the same way

Susan said...

Great post, Debra. I always find I admire people who have money but don't have to brag about it, and authors who are famous but are still willing to help others. It says a lot about character to me.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

One of the things that I repeatedly hear is that mystery writers are extremely generous with their time and talent. In the real world, that has been my experience, too. Everyone has been willing to help and interact no matter how successful. In a world that could be competitive for readers and sales, mystery writers cheer each other on.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Let me add one more "great post." I had the pleasure of meeting Carolyn Hart in the 1990s and she was gracious and generous to a newbie. I heard her talk about her "overnight" success, and many of us in the audience gasped when she said she almost gave up writing "if this book doesn't make it." Fortunately, that book took off. I think of that whenever I look at my WIP and wonder if it will ever go anywhere. The mystery world is blessed with terrific writers who are both successful and generous.

Earl Staggs said...

Good stuff, Debra. You made a lot of great points. Whenever I get discouraged, I think about the very successful writers who tell stories about how hard it was in the beginning and the number of rejections they had to get past.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Wonderful post, Debra! It's something we all need to keep in mind--aspiring writers and those with a couple of books under belt alike--that success seldom ever really comes overnight, no matter how it appears to others. And I agree about how nice and welcoming the mystery community is.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Susan, Earl, and Linda,
Thank you for leaving comments. Susan, of all the "big name" writers I met in 2012, when I first began attending conferences and meeting other writers like myself (I believe the description was below-wannabes as well as a rung or three above that description), Carolyn was one of the ones who consistently came up as kind, generous, sharing, and a reminder that "overnight" sometimes takes a little longer than 12 hours. Earl, I agree -- stories of selling books out trunks, writing in coffee shops while on welfare, being rejected by 80 agents, etc. etc. etc. Linda, the key is keeping it in mind when things get tough....because that's when things become easier...and sometimes, 12 hours is enough for that little bit of light to come on to keep us going for the next 12 years.