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  • Writer's pictureRandy Overbeck

A Few Things I've Learned

After five published novels and eleven national awards,

what have I learned about writing books?


This past fall the Wild Rose Press released CRUEL LESSONS, my fifth novel published in a little over a decade. During that time, I’ve had the good fortune to see two of my books, BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE and CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY become #1 and #2 bestsellers on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve been humbled and thrilled by the hundreds of five stars reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and BookBub my novels have received.

And I’ve been blown away by the eleven (and counting) national awards the titles have earned from sites like ReadersFavorite (Thriller of the Year), Literary Titan (Gold Award) Chanticleer (Best Book) and ReaderViews (Mystery of the Year). 


Now, after a decade at this, what have I learned that I didn’t know five or ten years ago?


             The answer is a lot…but I think a few lessons might be worth sharing


1.     This whole writing thing turned out to be a great deal more difficult than I anticipated.  

In my talks, I tell audiences even though I’ve faced classrooms of angry and unruly teenagers and managed a staff of over 300 teachers, nothing I had done in my previous career was as challenging as getting a story from my head to a book that others would enjoy and actually buy. (I’m not talking about the down-and dirty practice that some writers take to throwing thoughts on paper and then using the independent publishing route to send the product out into the world.)

To invent a story, draft it so it makes sense, revise and edit the manuscript (with professional help) so it is the very best it can be, is a grueling process. Next, taking that manuscript and submitting it to the scrutiny of literary experts—be these literary agents or small press representatives—is a humbling and nerve-racking experience.

Then, I discovered, after I found a professional venue for my story, now a full-fledge novel, that was only the beginning. I had to do even more work to promote and market the book than I did to actually write it and get it published.


Had I known all this years ago, I might have taken a step back, sucked in a huge proverbial breath, before I jumped in with both feet. I still would have jumped, though I would’ve been better prepared.




I learned I don’t have to go it alone. The stereotypical image of the lone writer slaving away over his (or her) computer is not really an accurate portrayal of how it works. Though the writing starts that way—me, my ideas and the computer—this is only the first step. For much of the last decade, I have been fortunate to be an active member of one writers’ group or another. Participating in these groups has given me an insight into how other writers think and practice, often different from my own experience. But most important, working with these fellow writers and having them openly critique my work has dramatically improved my writing. Other writers, regardless of genre, see things in my pages that I missed or never thought of in the first place. The novels that I completed with help from a writers’ group are dramatically better, of higher quality and more readable because I learned from their input.


Had I known this at the get go, I would have sought out good writers’ groups from the very first day I started writing my fiction. This would have made my learning curve not nearly as steep.


3.     I had no idea of how overwhelming the competition for readers is and how crowded the field had become—and this is true whether the genre is mystery, thriller, romance, paranormal or even science fiction. I was stunned to learn that last year when my latest novel hit the market, over four million other titles were released. In fact, on the date CRUEL LESSONS went up on Amazon, 11,000 other books were released just that day.

For the prospective reader, it looks like a tsunami of titles flooding at them. Trying to get a reader to notice mine becomes a daunting challenge.


Had I been aware of this intense competition five or ten years ago, I would have been better prepared to deal with the reality and commit the work and time it takes to get readers to even be aware of my work. And I could be more realistic about the limitations the market places on my promotional efforts and what I can expect.


Knowing all this (and much more), would I still take the plunge into the literary pool?


The answer is a decided YES

The simple reason why I endure such abuse and march against these headwinds is because of my readers. Like the woman who hailed me at a recent writing conference and approached my stand with a scowl. She snarled, “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”

            I didn’t remember the woman. “I’m sorry. What did I do?”

            She said, “You cost me a whole night’s sleep. I bought your book here yesterday and opened it when I turned in. I got so sucked into the story, I couldn’t stop reading…all night.”

            I smiled and said, “I’m sorry…and thanks.”

            I wasn’t a bit sorry.


1 comentário

gloria morris
gloria morris
06 de mai.

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