Friday, June 27, 2014

Writing: A Writer's Hierarchy Of Needs

This idea has been percolating in my mind since the announcement of the ACFW's Carol Award finalists (and, no, I didn't make it this year). Just as Maslow postulated that humans have a hierarchy of needs, I believe there is a similar pyramid for a potential writer.

At the base of the pyramid is the thought, "I'm going to write a book." And those who carry that out--who actually put tens of thousands of words together until they reach "the end"--are to be congratulated. They have done something not everyone has done.

But then come the dual steps of gaining representation by an agent and getting acceptance by an editor or publisher. That's something to celebrate. However, the writer's tasks are just beginning. Once a book is published, there are several goals for a writer: reviews, sales and awards.

Good reviews by sources such as Romantic Times Book Reviews are sought after and enjoyed when they come. When they don't, writers often wonder what they did wrong. The answer is that tastes in books are different, and what one reviewer pans a reader might love. Go figure.

I won't go into some of the tricks that have been used in the past to get books onto a "best-seller list." Let's just say that the definition is a loose one, and although I could use the term I choose not to.

As for awards, there are a number of them out there. I've been fortunate to have my share, but it pains me when I find myself frustrated not to be a finalist for every one. That's not how it works--or, at least, not how it should.

I haven't even talked about publishing a second or fifth or thirtieth book. When I started trying to write seriously, I had no idea the industry was this complicated. Did you?

What's your take on my "hierarchy of needs" for a writer? I'd love to hear.


Donn Taylor said...

I suppose the beginning writer's first need for commercial fiction is to see the book published by a reputable publisher. That means the book has passed a number of stringent tests. All beyond that is gratifying but not essential. It's different for poetry. When I finish a poem and know that it's good, my hierarchy of needs doesn't require an audience. It's enough to know I've created something beautiful. Anything beyond that is welcome, but not essential. But I confess that I'm gratified when I finish a reading and someone says "Wow!"

Richard Mabry said...

Donn, You're right--the poet's "hierarchy of needs" differs from that of the author of a book. Then again, how does a poet ever know a finished work is good? Like poems, books are sometimes not so much finished as abandoned. That's why having an agent and/or editor accept the work is an important step toward validation.
Thanks so much for your comment.