Wednesday, October 07, 2015

IWSG: When Writers Disappear

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. And I'm a co-host this month, so I feel extra special! My fellow co-hosts are TB Markinson, Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, and Eva E. Solar, so be sure to check them all out.



I've been reading since the 70s. Over that time, many, many writers have come and gone. Some have endured.




While others have vanished.



Occasionally, I'll search for a new book by an author I once loved. In Kathryn Harvey's case, she has continued to write--under the name Barbara Wood. But what about the many authors who simply vanish one day? They write a few books (maybe more, maybe less), then never publish another thing again.

Where do they go?


Did they simply tire of writing?

Did they give up?



Do they sit down at their computers every day and stare at this?



Or, worse of all, do they keep writing books but their publisher/agent responds to every one with this:



Many writers spend years just trying to get a novel published. But what about those authors who finally achieve that dream, only to STOP?



What are you insecure about this month?

109 comments:

  1. Thanks again for co-hosting! You are going to have so much fun today.
    Maybe some of them set out to write just a couple books and with mission accomplished, they were done. (I keep trying to fall into this category but it's not working.) Maybe they wrote more but none of it was accepted. Maybe their agent or publisher dropped them. Or maybe, they did just run out of ideas and moved on with life...

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    1. That's great news, Alex, that you aren't finished writing books! I think once that bug bites you, there's no getting away from it.

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  2. I guess authors retire just like everyone else.

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    1. A friend of mine retired and moved to the beach--she didn't stop writing, though. I believe she self-publishes her books, but she writes them at her own pace.

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  3. Oh dear! I did chuckle at the response from The Paris Review. I'm afraid that if I sat down to write a book my cursor would still be flashing in the same place at the end of the day. I do respect anyone who can write a book, I think you really have to have a good imagination to do so, something I definitely haven't got.

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    1. Some days I think the ideas are all gone! I'm trying to come up with four ideas to send to my agent and I'm stalled on idea #4 right now...but the other three came when I thought no ideas would! My "idea" document is filled with a bunch of strange ideas that I have to try to put together like, "book about a girl who works at a movie theater" and "two guys like the same girl" and I have to put all of that into the same story!

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  4. This is something that I've never really thought about, but now it's got me thinking about my favourite authors from years ago.

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    1. I know...there are many who have disappeared but when I was trying to think of their names, I couldn't!

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  5. I first published in the '80s (!) and you could fill a small country with those who have come and gone. Some gave up, some got tired, some lost the fire, some couldn't adjust to the changing market, some changed pen names and fell off my radar and some found the competition too daunting. I can't imagine NOT writing even just to fulfill my need to shake those pesky words out of my head. Glad to see all of us here keeping on keeping on! Thanks for co-hosting today!!

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    1. I first started writing in the mid-90s and was part of a small writers' group. Even since then, some of the published authors have stopped writing. I wonder if they stopped writing, though? Maybe they just stopped publishing!

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  6. I'm at that right now. I've finished a series and am faced with that overwhelming question: What next?

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  7. Awful to think talent was lost because of rejection. I refused to put myself through the whole trad pubbing for that reason. :)

    shahwharton.com

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    1. Traditional publishing isn't easy, but I watch my self-published friends and that seems fairly challenging, as well!

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  8. I think about actors and actresses like that sometimes, too - like they were famous or on a great show and then they just seem to disappear. Did they keep trying to get roles and didn't? Or were they done acting and wanted to live a "normal" life?

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    1. Sometimes I'll look them up and you'd really be surprised. I watched Criminal Minds on Netflix recently and there were quite a few 80s/90s stars on the show as guest appearances...I'd look them up on IMDB and find that, wow, they've worked steadily for years. Three or four projects a year! Many of them are independent films or small roles on cable TV series, but they're earning a living doing what they love. Not a bad way to live!

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  9. Maybe they just got rich from a book or two and moved to some tropical zoo?

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    1. Ha! Only the best-selling ones. The woman who wrote The Help, maybe? I'm sure she probably made enough to live on for a while. The rest of us wonder how many books we'll have to write to make an actual yearly salary out of it!

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  10. Love your images to accompany this delightful post.Thanks for co hosting!

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  11. I don't know why they stop. Just hope it's not because they no longer enjoy writing.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG!

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    1. If they don't enjoy it, perhaps that's for the best.

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  12. Vomit out of our tear ducts. Sounds like that would burn. Happy co-hosting.

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    1. That sounds pretty painful to me! Luckily I've never received a rejection quite that brutal.

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  13. For some, the work to achieve a big goal is so ennervating, they have no 'juice' to go further. If not speaking about writing, there was a big goal towards which I was working. It took a couple of years, and finally I attained that goal, when there were others going for it with perhaps better credentials. When I got there, I dropped just past the goal, almost unable to move. But I took my sweet time getting up. And it wasn't in time to take the goal to the next level. For me, it was because I was afraid. Maybe in general, maybe that I was afraid I wasn't really 'good enough'.

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  14. Hmm, that's such an interesting question - and a good idea for a story, actually. Especially if the writer has had success.

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  15. Good questions! I'm disappointed when I love a book, then look for more by the same author and find nothing, even though book was published in 1997.

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  16. I always admire the authors. You all can write so well and the words flow out so smoothly and beautifully.

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  17. I rarely keep up with authors

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  18. Writers can't stop writing. Even if they don't publish anymore, they still write something.

    I love the urban legend that JD Salinger has a safe deposit box somewhere full of unpublished manuscripts.

    And I find it hilarious that around the time of his accident Stephen King talked about retiring. For him, "retiring" is only writing 2 books a year.

    IWSG October

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  19. I know a few authors who quit even though they had published multiple books with major publishers. One had health issues, one had a huge personal crisis and I never understood the others.
    Susan Says

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  20. That is a good question. I'm sure there are lots of reasons authors vanish. That cover from Judy Bloom brings back memories! I'm glad she didn't disappear.

    Thanks for cohosting!

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  21. I have seen this with too many authors, and it's even worse when they are friends. It's a loss to the creative community, even though I can understand the urge to quit. The business side of writing really can be brutal.

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  22. I'm going to keep the hope alive that they do still write, just chose not to publish? It would be heartbreaking if they stopped because of rejections or negative reviews. At the same time, some may feel satisfied with just one specific project and are happy with just that. Great questions though, it does make us wonder!

    Thanks for being a co-host!! :D

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  23. Love how you presented this post! My insecurity? Will my next book be as funny as the last? What if I lose the comic voice I'm known for? I panic every time I start a new book.

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  24. Love the rejection letter!! I knew a lady who wrote two Nancy Drew books (in the 70s). Then she wrote a romantic YA that got published after that and then she never wrote again. Life got in the way.

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  25. Other than the usual stuff, I'm teaching my first class on marketing this month. Biggest worry: No one signs up! But then I guess I don't have to worry about my insecurities in teaching! Thanks for co-hosting this month and I enjoyed your post.

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  26. Other than the usual stuff, I'm teaching my first class on marketing this month. Biggest worry: No one signs up! But then I guess I don't have to worry about my insecurities in teaching! Thanks for co-hosting this month and I enjoyed your post.

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  27. Other than dying, you're right, where do they go? I wonder if there's a club. I'll google and find out. What am I saying! I don't want to join. Thanks for co-hosting, Stephanie! Happy IWSG.

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  28. I do, too--wonder where writers go. I loved Carsten Stroud's gritty military books. He disappeared and resurfaced with a paranormal trilogy. Not what I would have expected.

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  29. Oh...I think I am close to being the last one. The result of encroaching self-doubt I believe.
    but so far I am toddling along, thank you very much. I just needed a break. I hope.
    Thank you for hosting this month!!
    Author of Wilder Mage at Spirit Called
    Facebook Wilder Mage

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  30. I guess it could be a number of factors, from personal issues to the fact they just simply decided they had accomplished their dreams and were moving on to something else.

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  31. Great post! I don't understand how you could publish a book and be successful only to stop. Though, perhaps, these authors decided to keep writing but not publish...I took a break from writing this summer and it was terrible, I could hardly stay away from words. I felt utterly miserable...I think you find out how much you really love writing by not writing.

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  32. Wow! Vomit out of their tear ducts. That's a pretty insane rejection letter. My insecurities this month dwell on writing vs blogging.

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  33. Yikes on the vomiting out ones tear ducts. I've never wanted to be an author and it appears it's a tough road to travel.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  34. Wow. Mean rejection notice, glad I've never received one like that! Thanks for cohosting this month! My mentor in writing published 8 books with St. Martin's press, then they let her go and she quit writing. Now she has reissued her novels but don't know what her plans are for the future. If I ever "make it" as a writer, I don't know how I would ever give it up but I won't know till I get there....

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  35. I think the relentless marketing of yourself and your work is a turn off. A lot of writers don't think beyond publication. So they publish a book and they expect it to magically find its way to cash registers everywhere. When that doesn't happen and they learn that the marketing aspect never stops, it might not be what they signed up for.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  36. I think it must be incredibly difficult to be a writer... I always wanted to but I am not sure how I could handle the never ending rejection you have to deal with... I do often wonder what happens to many writers... maybe they are only one hit wonders or just few, who knows xo x

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  37. Great post and thanks for co-hosting! It makes me think of the future for the first time. Maybe because I'm focused on getting published, I've never thought about it. Will I publish just one or a few, and retire? Or do I endure until death do I part? I don't know.

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  38. I think it is so sad to see writers come and go, and not only writers, but blogs, retail stores, restaurants....everything. Not every writer does as well as Stephen King, and I think, like with everything else, it requires a lot of work! I wrote a short (and true) story that I shared with someone who was working on his second book and he liked it and said he will publish my story (should be 2016). I won't get any money for it but I will see if it gets any response, and I did leave my blog link with my story.

    I think that writing takes a lot of time, effort and several misses before the hits come, and in some cases they don't come.

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  39. Good question. Where do those writers go that we once heard of daily? Life doles out its situations and we all must handle them as they come. Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to stare at the blinking cursor on the blank page. So wish me luck.

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  40. Hi,
    Your post is great. I checked to see if any of my favorite writers were still living and had stopped writing. The writers that I love or either still writing or have died and that was a relief. However, writers are people who have different goals and sometimes a writer only has one or two books to write within them and they move on to do something else, and I can accept that.

    Shalom,
    Patricia

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  41. Well, now I'm feeling insecure about publishing a few books and then disappearing, thanks :P

    That picture of the fake (hopefully) rejection letter made me laugh out loud, haha

    I wonder sometimes were certain authors go.. maybe they just didn't have anything more to write? I'll check out books from the library sometimes of people I've never heard of before that are sitting lonely. Hit and miss, that.

    - Madilyn Quinn @ NovelBrews

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  42. I think about this too, I will never understand it. Maybe they think they'll be able to live off a one hit wonder, or don't need to produce anything else, or they just give up...it's so odd to me though, to work that hard just to quit!?

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  43. I hadn't thought about this before. Some must retire I suppose and we all die eventually, but what about the others. Is there life after writing?

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  44. Great post and good question! I believe there are a number of reasons a writer may drop off the radar but I don't believe they (we) ever stop writing. I suppose there is the possibility of a one-book bucket list...:-)

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  45. I was saddened when Kathleen Woodiwiss retired. Totally understandable, though. But look at Harper Lee. She wrote one book, won a Pulitzer, then nothing. My book club is reading Go Set a Watchman, so I'm reading To Kill a Mockingbird first. What a shame she didn't write more.

    Thanks for hosting this month.

    Best wishes,
    Diane
    IWSG #94

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  46. In an age gone by, those authors were powerless to do anything if a publishing house said, "No." I appreciate that we live in a day and age where we have choices and options rather than relying on the mercy of publishers.

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  47. Thanks for the great laugh and also the fantastic question. ~Erika

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  48. It is kind of like blog land, you wonder what happened to people sometimes.

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  49. Loved your post. When my first book was published I was content to just let it be my one and only. In fact, I wanted my life back. Then the muse grab that idea and crushed it with another over-the-top inspiration. I fought it. I could have won and returned to a life of doing things that I love to do. However .... four years later, I'm on pins and needles hoping the publisher will accept Forbidden. And horrors of all horrors, the muse is needling me about a sequel. It's not too bad now as I've learned to achieve balance between writing, marketing, blogging, etc with being the non-author part of me. It's a constant effort to shut the muse up and remember I can have a wonderful life away from the muse's ranting. Perhaps, if there are authors out there who produced one novel, they decided to explore another life, and that is important to recognize in our life's journey. Perhaps they were better at putting a gag on the muse. Blessings.

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  50. Loved your post. When my first book was published I was content to just let it be my one and only. In fact, I wanted my life back. Then the muse grab that idea and crushed it with another over-the-top inspiration. I fought it. I could have won and returned to a life of doing things that I love to do. However .... four years later, I'm on pins and needles hoping the publisher will accept Forbidden. And horrors of all horrors, the muse is needling me about a sequel. It's not too bad now as I've learned to achieve balance between writing, marketing, blogging, etc with being the non-author part of me. It's a constant effort to shut the muse up and remember I can have a wonderful life away from the muse's ranting. Perhaps, if there are authors out there who produced one novel, they decided to explore another life, and that is important to recognize in our life's journey. Perhaps they were better at putting a gag on the muse. Blessings.

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  51. Sad to think of all the wonderful authors we've lost over the years.

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  52. I actually like writers who write just one huge book which becomes a classic and then never write anything else again :) It is so intriguing! Like my dear Jiang Rong who took 40 years to write WOLF TOTEM, which is an absolute Nobel prize worthy classic, so how can he find the time to write anything else?

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  53. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG today, Stephanie. I had never given thought to writers who publish one or two books, than disappear. Mostly, I've chosen a newly discovered series and read through the list (Sue Grafton, John Sandford, etc.) True writers are not able to stop writing, though they may have tired of the publishing process. Now, with "self-publishing" no longer a stigma, many can do their own thing and reach their audience with their own marketing. Certainly not an easy task but preferable to storing your work in the closet.

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  54. It is scary. Harper Lee was the one who really puzzled me. (I realize she's back now, but from what I've heard, her "new release" is an older version of Mockingbird.) I think that back before e-publishing, writers who didn't do amazingly well with their first book got dropped by their publishers, never to be seen again.

    I'm back to blogging every week now. Hope to see you back there...miss you! :)

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  55. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for co-hosting. I've always enjoyed it when I've co-hosted. I'm not feeling insecure today; I'm heading home after a LOT of traveling. That means I can really focus on writing, and I'm excited!!! Your post was great. I've only published a few things in my life, but I hope the rest of my life is full of published things. Happy October!

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  56. I can't imagine I'll ever stop writing, no matter what happens in publishing!

    Thanks for co-hosting. :)

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  57. Thank you so much for co-hosting! Very true. What does happen to them? Maybe they feel that because they accomplished their dream, writing is no longer a challenge? Or maybe they started families and feel that their main focus should be to them and not writing, though I think that's harsh. But it is indeed a mystery.

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  58. Looks like I need to write some words on my mirror!

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  59. I was also thinking about all the names who vanish...even from our blogging world...what happens to them? Something to ponder about...

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  60. I wonder. And hope the stories they are writing with their lives make them happy.

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  61. Thanks for co-hosting, Stephanie. Great post. Sometimes, we all feel tired: nobody is buying our books, no readers, no reviews, no...... I guess the trick is to disregard those multiple 'No's and concentrate on the positives: new characters come to my head, new stories appear, new adventures unfold. They do, really.

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  62. For some people, achieving success ultimately kills their dream. Who knows, some writers may stop writing because they become something else like cooks or filmmakers, finding other ways to tell stories.
    Thanks for co-hosting today.

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  63. I'd like to think they are enjoying retirement right now, reaping the benefits of their published works, but what I have always liked about writing is that, given the brain still functions, you can write as long as you like. Thanks for co-hosting!

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  64. I have to say, that editor's note was highly amusing. It wouldn't be if I actually received it from an editor, though. I wonder about authors who disappear. Also actors who disappear. Are they okay? Did they just change to a different career?

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  65. Great question! They probably just flake out. It's a creative personality thing. I flake out on so many things I'm "good" at...who knows if I'll blog forever or more than a few more months!

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  66. I love your meme about nowhere in my text will it ever read....
    I always told my kids when they were growing up, the only way they'd fail was if they quit.

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  67. Stephanie, I can see why someone as unknown as myself might want to give it all up. You know as well as I how long and hard it is to write a good manuscript, and I see very little results. I've thought about giving it a rest after re-releasing my books. But I don't know if I could give up writing altogether. It's kinda in our bones, don't you think? Love your inspirational meme!!!!

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  68. Huh. That's definitely a great question. I can't imagine giving up after striving so long so hard. But life does have a way of taking unexpected turns, so who knows. Great thought to dwell on for a bit :)

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  69. They become rich and retire to sandy beaches and blue skies!

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  70. I can't imagine giving up completely—maybe taking a little sabbatical would be good though! It's interesting because my post today actually touches on me having the thought that I might want to give up (but not really meaning it). I guess that's my insecurity for this month—not really knowing what the future holds or where to go from here.

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  71. Thanks for co-hosting this month. Love the blog post and all the graphics, I like Stephen Tremp response---I like that idea, But you know Harper Lee published To Kill A Mockingbird in 1962. She even won the Pulitzer Prize, but it is only this year we see her 2nd book Go Set A Watchman. Lots of debate over why,lol. Great post.
    Juneta Writer's Gambit

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  72. For a time I was reading a blog of a published author who was struggling with various issues which caused her to stop writing. That and slowing sales of her novels. The blog is still there, but she updates it rarely. I think that's what happens with some writers. Life gets in the way.

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  73. I've seen this happen to writers I know and it makes me so sad. This industry is tough.

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  74. I guess all creative types have their one-hit wonders.

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  75. I love this post. A nice way to close the day. Writing is tough. Long hours. No results. A person has to really love it to keep going. Or else be stubborn like me. :) Never give up as long as I'm breathing.

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  76. Thank you! This post inspires me to keep going. Some days if feels like I'm going to be an anonymous, unknown author for the rest of my life. And, I realize I'm going to write anyway, so I'm going to get stuff out there anyway. But still, I can understand why these authors, even if they were published and beloved, struggled to write another and another story. It's scary to have people read and like or read and less-than-like our stories.

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  77. What a great point! After all those manuscripts that have been mailed in to finally be accepted, what happens to writers we never see again? I think writers are born, so it does make one wonder if those missing authors are still writing in some form or other. Hugs...

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  78. Your post got to me, I mean really got to me. I've been in the garage for over two hours searching through our bookshelves for a book I read many years ago that I absolutely fell in love with. I didn't know when I read it that the author would go on to become nominated for the Edgar, for First Novel in 2004. I don't believe he won, but it's a huge honor to be nominated. The name of the book is Offer of Proof and the author's name is Robert Heilbrum. I remember waiting eagerly for the next year ... and then the next for his next great legal thriller or mystery novel to come out, but it never surfaced. It never occurred to me to google his name to see if he died or if anything tragic happened to him. Maybe I will as soon as I leave this comment. I just remember being extremely disappointed that he never wrote another book. Every few years, I checked on Amazon to see if anything new came out and I finally gave up a couple of years ago. He had an easy style, a unique voice and a fresh way of burying clues in plain sight that stuck with me for a long time. Your post reminded me of a long lost book friend, a name I could no longer even recall, but I was determined to dig that book out of the garage after reading your post. Thanks for bringing the issue front and center in my mind because there are several other authors who've disappeared and I often wonder why they left the business. I guess I struggle with their decision because I'm struggling to earn that option, and I know if ever given that choice I would write books until my sanity no longer formed coherent words.
    Wonderful, thought provoking post.

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  79. I remember that Butterfly cover. I can't remember if I've read it, though.

    I've also wondered this. There are so many authors who continue writing and have numerous books, whereas you see some who just have one or a few, and I wonder what happened to them.

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  80. The mocking. It's real.

    It's a sucky business we all decided to go into.
    But, we have to keep moving forward.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month.
    Heather

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  81. I can't imagine never writing again, especially if I had a successful book. But I guess like some child actors who didn't much like making a film, some writers decided one or two books is enough.

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  82. Thanks for co-hosting!

    Maybe some of the people who disappeared did so because they achieved what they wanted. They wrote a book, it was published, and people enjoyed it. That then led to contentment with making their goals, and they then moved on to other ventures. At least, I hope that's how it went for some. :)

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  83. I guess I'm insecure in the fact that I haven't sat down to write anything substantial. My wife keeps trying to make me feel better because I've had a lot of health and work issues I've had to deal with in the last month, but it still feels like I haven't gotten anything useful done.

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  84. I'm insecure about EVERYTHING and also irrationally confident about them as well when it comes to my story, characters, etc. Such a twisted state we writers can inhabit. :)

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  85. Perhaps these missing writers didn't have any other stories in them, or could only write for one generation, with one type of story. I have enough ideas and books with existing characters in my queue, I can't imagine ever not having anything to write.

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  86. I love the "it mocks me" picture :) I haven't published anything yet, but I hope I would keep writing more even if I do get to that point. I hope what Loni said above is true, that one book was all those authors needed to feel successful. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  87. Good blog. I think sometimes writers need to reinvent themselves. They grow beyond a particular brand and need to venture on, travel a different road.

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  88. Great post! I have often wondered the same thing. Especially when I really like a book and then never see another book by the author again. I guess there are a variety of reasons that we never hear from some of them again.

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  90. At the risk of sounding gloomy and doomy, I wonder too if some authors just pass on and if they aren't that well known, we just may never hear about it. How about that for an uplifting thought?
    I had an online reviewer that I became friends with. Sweet, sweet girl. She got sick and just disappeared from social media. It was unnerving.

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  91. It's always sad when a writer you know (whether only by name or on social media) stops writing. And it's always frightening because you know it could happen to you no matter how vehemently we say we won't.

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  92. Really glad I just write for fun! Must take some great inner strength to do what you do! and to do it so well.

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  93. Good question.
    Maybe they just decided to stop?
    I'm thinking that the concept of the hybrid writer is fairly recent, isn't it? So back in the day, writers would stick more-or-less to a particular genre... so if they exhausted those ideas, what was the next best option? To retire? Maybe. I'm just guessing...
    Today's writers are more experimental. Cross genre and multi-genre writing is becoming the norm.

    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month!

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  94. Maybe they get tired of the negative aspects, change their writing names and try a new genre! Writer's have lots of alter egos!
    Thanks for co-hosting - the IWSG rocks because of folks like you!

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  95. I am so behind! Congrats on co-hosting! You make a great point where do they go? I hope they don't lose interest because if that chick who wrote 50 shades of ughh got a bestseller(what did she do to get this I wonder??:)) then people who are great writers should always persevere.

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  96. I know what you mean. Sometimes I'll remember an author whose work I really liked, only to find that they haven't put anything out for years, or I'll follow a series and it will just stop out of nowhere. >_< There are a few I really miss, but others, it's more like "Oh, right, I read that once...."

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  97. I think different writers have different goals. I used to want to write one book and get it published (working on that) and I never thought beyond that point. Now I know that no matter what happens, I will continue to write.

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