Monday, October 5, 2009

What does it take to be an author?

This isn't the Blog I planned for today but sometimes things happen to change the warp your mind wants to take. This Blog ties in, so bear with me.

I've spent the last few weeks talking about the hazards of writing, and the inspiration a writer needs but I haven't hit on the most important thing. What does it take to be a writer? Let me adjust that. What does it take to be a published author?

Let me start off by saying anyone can write. Writing is nothing more than getting an idea from Point A—your brain—to point B—a piece of paper or a computer screen. Writing can be a diary entry, a poem, or a note to your loved ones. The thing is it takes more than transporting ideas to be a writer, well a published writer. It takes a talent that doesn't come from anywhere but inside you. Writing makes you a writer. Talent makes you an author.

That said it takes more than talent to be a published author. It takes contradictions. Huh? What you taking bout, Jmo? I'm talking divine honest to God truth. Talent gets your foot in the door, but it doesn't put you on the fast track to anywhere. That's the first contradiction in being an author.

Being an author is all about Ego. It takes a mountain of guts to put yourself out there and say this is my work to first off a perfect stranger—an acquisition editor—then to a whole slew of strangers if it gets accepted and published. Those who slew of strangers? They're the reading public who will either love your book or toss in a box to trade in at the used book store. Lets get back to the editor thing because that leads to our second contradiction.

I said you need an Ego to get into this business. But, and this is a big but. You need to be humble and willing to say to yourself, I'm not as good as I think. That's where an editor comes in. Before you start saying, you don't need anyone telling you how to write, YES YOU DO. It may be something as simple as mechanics of the craft but an author should always be willing to open themselves to new ideas. On the flip side, you should never bend when your gut tells you you're right. Just make sure it's your brain talking and not that Ego.

Contradiction number three. You are your biggest fan and your worst enemy. Say what? Hey, that's not me talking. It is a stone cold fact. This happens to me, so I know I'm not the only one. I'm trucking along with a book and I hit a stone wall. Instead of admitting to myself I've lost control of a situation and rethink what I'm doing, I keep hitting that wall, knowing if I keep banging away at it something'll give. It rarely does. Authors are stubborn that way. This comes from two simple sentences. Thinking you're good is one thing. Thinking you're great will get you in trouble. That trouble being—thinking everything you write is golden.

Well, it ain't. You've got to be willing to take advice and listen to it. Really listen to it. You may hear a lot about crit groups and partners. There's a reason they exist. We as authors need someone to say 'that needs work', or 'hey that's good'. Believe me when I say this. It's easier coming from a comrade in arms than an editor. Not sure why, but it does.

So what does it take to be a published author? Ego, a humble acceptance of criticism and the most important thing of all—a finished book. Not to offend anyone, but I hear all the time—sometimes from myself—I almost have this story done. Well finish it. That's the big difference between a writer and an author. We can push that Ego to its limit and in spite of our own doubts and the doubting of our friends and family, we know in our hearts of hearts we're authors. It's that confidence that tells us to put aside our fears and sub that book. In the end all those contradictions will pay off. The first book may not sell but sooner or later, your greatness will shine and publishers will notice it.

Then, you go from Writer to Author.



Savannah Chase said...

It is not easy to write and create a book. You put yourself into your work, well I do...It takes a lot to sit down and put word on a page, to get the idea out there....there are so many others out there who want to write a book and get their work out write a book and be an author it takes a lot of energy and you have to go into it full force. Put yourself into it with all of your heart and soul...

Sandra Sookoo said...

You're right. It's a constant struggle between wrestling with the ego and learning.

I've learned alot over this last year and my writing has improved by leaps and bounds because of it. I can't wait to see what happens next year and the year after that.

Yeah, being a writer is scary, but once you can say "i'm an author" it's the best feeling in the world.

Heart and soul, guts and glory, living and life. That's being a writer.

Diana Castilleja said...

Awesome post Jmo. It's too early for me to wax poetic over this, but it's very true. That is the bottom line. And we all do it.

Jamie said...

Great post Jmo. :) I agree with you all the way, though I haven't submitted anything yet, I'm working on it and I'm ready for all the ups and downs that I hear authors go through. I'm that dedicated. Happy writing.

Geewiz387 said...

Thank you so much for this post. I wrote a Romance Novel but I was not sure that it made the grade. I am open to criticism. I know I am not perfect but I really feel deep down that this book is going to be a hit. I have submitted and queried until my fingers hurt from hitting the keyboard (LOL) and kept getting rejection after rejection. The thing is when I read a book if it does not catch my eye in the first three chapters I won't finish the book. I worked really hard on my book but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get past the first chapter. So instead of saying it is great just the way it is and these people don't know what they are talking about, I put it down for a couple of days. I reorganized my thoughts and went back and completely changed the first chapter. I just "finished" the revisions today and am about to start sending queries again. This post makes me want to work harder at it. Thank you, GEE