Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know (Brian Katcher)

One of the first things I like to tell groups is that the path to publication is no easy feat.

"You jerks think you can just waltz right into to the publisher's office and sign a contract, don't you? Don't you? Well, I'm here to tell you that's never going to happen, Buster. It takes years of sweat, blood, and deals in gas station bathrooms that I cannot even bring myself to remember. Your eyes are going to bleed and you'll wish you could just hang yourself with your typewriter ribbons by the time this roller coaster ride is over!"

"That's very nice, sir," they'll respond. "But if you don't put some pants on, you'll have to leave this Walmart."

What do they know? But here are some things I wish I knew before that fateful day I escaped from the chain gang and started my career as a young adult author.

1) One publication deal doesn't necessarily mean others. One month you're fending off amorous groupies in the penthouse suite at the Ritz Carlton, the next you're fetal in a back alley as John Green and Suzanne Collins drive their steel-tipped boots into your ribs and Stephanie Meyer hurls whiskey bottles at your skull. That's how fast fortunes change in this industry.

My first two books won awards, while my third was rejected outright. You're only as good as your last book.

2) There will always be another rewrite. I'm sure whoever wrote The Epic of Gilgamesh is still thinking of changes they could make, and they didn't have to deal with publishers, editors, agents, peer readers, and a father who had hoped your be an orthodontist.

3) It's been done before. They say there are only three basic plots: A stranger comes to town, a man goes on a journey, or an idiot man child is forced to return to elementary school to prove to his wealthy father that he's mature enough to take over the family chain of hotels. All stories are variations on these themes.

I was once super excited about a literary device I thought I'd come up with, until I saw it already in Moby Dick.

4) Most authors cannot support themselves by writing. If you ask a writer what they 'really' do, expect them to smash your face into the bar. But this is because the truth hurts. I'm often forced to sell my body to wealthy dowager countesses just to afford to fill my inkwell.

5) No one ever reads 'secrets of writing' lists.


  1. I do! Thanks, Brian for making me smile this morning :)

  2. An appropriate post for turkey time and essentially true.

  3. Wonderfully apt and hilarious post. :) I'll try to keep Stephanie Meyer away from you next time....

  4. Well I read 'em. Not that I'm ever going to write anything though. But reading of other's experiences in a creative industry is interesting.


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