A simple question, but a complex answer.
First off, I’d like to thank Marie for allowing me to visit her blog today! My second novel is about to be released later this month, but you’ll learn all about that later.
Recently, a friend of mine asked a group of us to answer a question for her. Keep in mind, the group is a very talented gathering of people. And while most of us had had some success getting short stories published, I was the only one who’d made the leap to novels. She’d been mulling it over in her mind for a few months and couldn’t come up with an answer. Her question was this:
“What does it take to be a writer?”
My initial response to her was to ask her if she wanted to know what it took to be a writer or an author. I asked her this because there’s a difference. Anyone can write. My kids write every day at school, you’ve probably sent a dozen emails this week alone. Writing is not hard. Being an author, though, that’s a different story. Every author is a writer, but not every writer is an author. This is what I told her.
First, it takes courage. Tons of it. It's no easy thing to hit that send button. Confidence is good, but it comes with time. Courage is more important at the start.
Being willing to see errors when pointed out, and learn from them. There's a difference between an opinion and a valid crit. Sometimes, the opinions are understandable and you should change something. Other times, you're going to go with what you wrote originally. A crit, however, is different. That's a comment about something that really doesn't work (putting the wrong name of a city, for example), technical help (should be went to the store, not had to the store!), or helping you find the holes in your story. If you want to be an author, you have to get ready to have people tear your 'baby' to pieces.
Perseverance. It takes time. Time to get the contract (shall we play rejection letter lotto today? I've got lots of cards!), time for it to go from signing to release, time put into marketing (even the big Houses are going to expect you to do some), and time for readers to discover your book. Unless you've somehow got the name recognition already (Amanda Knox, Michael Jackson, a former President, or Brad Pitt), you will not get stellar sales out of the gate. It can take months, even years of concentrated effort to gain a loyal enough following that the royalty payments are going to buy you more than something to eat off the dollar menu at McDonalds.
Seriously, don't sweat the small stuff like adverb usage, tell vs. show, active vs. passive, and any of the two dozen so-called rules of good writing. Spelling, grammar, punctuation - as long as they're not blatantly bad, most EICs will look past that as something that can be easily corrected in editing/proofreading. As my wonderful late Big Brother told me, "Did it sell? Then it's good." The other stuff, eh, it's just guidelines. The story has to be engaging and grab the attention of the reader. I've read stories that followed 'the rules' - and rejected them because they were dry pieces of cardboard without any depth. Or made my eyeballs want to bleed.
An author's going to write, revise, cry, revise some more, and polish it within a millimeter of its life. A writer's going to slap something onto a piece of paper and call it good.
In the end, it’s your decision if you’re an author or a writer. Do the rewards outweigh the risks? Do you want to invest the time and work to market yourself? No one can make that decision for you.
Guest Blogger Bio
Born in the late 60's, KateMarie has lived most of her life in the Pacific NW. While she's always been creative, she didn't turn towards writing until 2008. She found a love for the craft. With the encouragement of her husband and two daughters, she started submitting her work to publishers. When she's not taking care of her family, KateMarie enjoys attending events for the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA has allowed her to combine both a creative nature and love of history. She currently resides with her family and three cats in what she likes to refer to as "Seattle Suburbia".