A Change is Coming

In Southwest DC New Years Eve 1999 under the threat of Y2K as the 20th century’s final hour ticked away I sat in front the computer at the dining room table.  With a clear view of the Washington Monument from my high rise apartment a Millennium celebration was underway with a concert featuring Will Smith.  A 20 minute walk across the Mall would have put me in the midst of it all.  But I was on a mission to complete the first draft of my first book.  A goal I had set 18 months prior and was then 6 months ahead of schedule and anxious to get the it done, I was convinced I was about to embark on a life altering experience.  That was 13 years ago and change came albeit minutely and incrementally.  It would take ten years to see my first book published.  Anyone who thinks they can write one book and instantly become an overnight success, think again, to quote a very famous Langston Hughes essay on the route to literary success “the road is rocky, and the mountain is high.” 

Much has passed since Will Smith’s concert performance when I had a high hope, the dream of being a bestselling author collecting a big advance with a three book deal.   That dream has yet to manifest but it remains a motivation and within reach.  With two books published and two in production and a steady income I learned becoming a successful writer like any other endeavor requires as the saying goes “90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration.”  It would take ten years for me to see my first book in print.  I learned that writing requires a long apprenticeship.  In my case the 10,000 hour rule, a concept popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, was never truer.  Gladwell in his book The Outliers explains the key to success in any field requires a 10,000 hours investment.  It is simply a matter of practicing a specific task and success can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.

It took ten years learning the craft of writing to publish my first successful novel.  The publishing industry has changed greatly in the past decade as the big 6 publisher’s gatekeepers, their agents and editors no longer have strong arm control.  Thanks to ebooks and the growth of independent publishing the traditional publishing route is in no longer the only road to success.  I arrived on the publishing scene at just the right time as the age of marketing, publicity and book tours were increasingly becoming the author’s responsibility.  The day of the do it all publisher’s publicist is quickly fading save for the celebrity author.  Today’s average authors are increasingly building their own platforms and taking responsibility for their own publicity and sales. 

Success for a writer requires what some call “ass in chair time” i.e., sitting engaged in the act of writing.  It’s a solitary task of which mentors can only teach the fundamentals before launching the apprentice on his or her journey.  Thereafter it will be necessary--with the occasional guidance of an editor --to go it alone while mastering the concepts of voice, point of view, show don’t tell, and revision, and make no mistake writing is indeed rewriting.  Also, it’s no longer just about just writing, success also requires knowledge of marketing and publicity.

That New Years Eve finishing the first draft of my first book with the final period typed Will  Smith’s hip hop sounds faded as the explosion of fireworks lit up sky announcing a new century and for me a new beginning.  I had written a book.  It was not the end but only the beginning on a path leading down to the road to publication.  I still haven’t written the best seller neither landing a 3 book deal nor a huge advance, but I believe it’s still possible.  My books are selling and receiving favorable reviews and my hopes of writing that great American novel is within reach like never before.  To all those seeking to embark on the journey never give up, change is up ahead just another turn in the road.

Norwood Holland is a freelance writer, lawyer, and author of the Drew Smith legal thriller series based on the capers of an urban trial attorney.  He is a graduate of Howard University School of Law with a bachelor’s degree in English from Fisk University where he studied under the renowned Harlem Renaissance author Arna Bontemps.  Holland favors D.C.'s local color in his fiction and currently writes the blog editorialindependence.com devoted to promoting independent authors among other things. 

He has served in several government agencies including the National Labor Relations Board and a number of Washington’s top national law firms.  In the mid 90s Holland began freelancing for the local media.  Some of his credits include The Writer Magazine, the Examiner, and Black Literature Magazine.  Minus One follows up on the success of Sleepless Nights, the first in the Drew Smith Series.


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