My life has changed.
Well, my writing life. But the first sentence sounded more dramatic.
I’ve decided to act like an author, not a writer.
I have been writing for more than half my life, and all that time I have approached it like a “writer.” I write, yes, as both the writer and the author must do. But as a “writer” I write for myself. I have no specific goals. I work on whatever tickles my fancy at the time. Sometimes two…or three or four novels at a time. (I mean, take a look at the first fun fact I wrote about myself. I did this to the extreme when I was younger)
I wanted to get published when I was sixteen, but, well, that didn’t happen. I kind of forgot about it until 2010 when I decided to “actively” “try” to get published.
I love that. Actively try. That’s what I said I was doing. Actively trying to get published, and I couldn’t understand why it simply was not happening. And then it clicked.
I was acting like a writer. Not an author.
Wait. I have a little logic statement for you here. All authors are Writers, but not all “writers” are authors. (Go ahead. Draw up a Euler diagram if you’d like. If you’re a NaNoWriMo-er this may look familiar from a few years ago. This, however, is a Venn diagram. I had to look up the difference.)
Anyway. This whole distinction might just be something that makes sense only in my head. I might be the only person out there who sees a difference between being a writer and an author. But one thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that we’re not quite as unique as we think we are, and if I’m starting to realize there’s a difference between “writer” and “author,” then maybe someone else needs to realize that too.
So let me show you what it was like being a “writer.” A day in my life as a writer goes like this: I sit down to write, (usually late at night after all the bedtime battles have been won) and I open up my current “Work In Progress.” Good old WIP is completely written, had a quick read-through once, immediately after it was completed (because I love reading my books), and has had a few little errors here and there corrected, but it’s still pretty rough. There are plot holes and smudges, marshes and deserts, and at times a few skyscrapers of useless information. A little overwhelming, but I start to work. This needs fixed, that needs improved. Change this character and delete that one and…
By now I’m tired. Not ready to go to bed tired. I’m just tired of knocking down skyscrapers and filling in holes, firming up mud puddles and watering down deserts. My mind wanders to that wonderful idea I had a week and a half ago. Of course, that idea belongs in my New Book, but what harm would it do to jot the idea down? So up comes the file for NB and I jot down the idea. And I jot down how the love interest reacts. And I jot down how the antagonist uses that to her advantage. Oh, and there’s this incredible argument scene where the hero, the love interest, the antagonist all get into a fight and…
The next thing I know I have eight thousand new words. I feel so accomplished! I’ve done so much tonight, really getting somewhere! Next stop on this bus is getting published AND…
Wait. The WIP has been halted and ignored for the last six hours while I had my little affair with a love interest and antagonist duking it out in the New Book. I was supposed to have this whole chapter rewritten, but now it’s two AM and my brain is mush, and every word I put down in my revision feels a thousand times worse than the first words I used. And the first words were Awful!
I’m a terrible writer.
How am I ever going to get published?
Well, some day luck might smile upon this “writer” and I might make it through ten or fifteen, or twenty revisions of that poor Work In Progress. All the skyscrapers will have been completely knocked down, every hole filled, leveled, and raked over. The landscape will be park-perfect grass as far as the eye can see…and the book will be boring.
But perfect, I suppose. Let’s just publish it.
Great. Time to work on another one to get published. Hopefully it won’t take me another ten years.
Perhaps this example is a little over the top, but honestly, not too over the top. I decided in 2010 that I had a book that was worthy of publishing. Everyone I showed it to, be they friends, family, or complete strangers in the writing world, thought it was worthy of publishing.
That was six years ago. Has the book been published? No. But it’s been through fifteen or twenty…or maybe forty-five revisions. The “writer” in me is still not satisfied with it.
I realized I needed to change something. There was no way I could keep up this sort of pace at getting books ready to publish and get anything done. As prolific a novel “starter” I am, I have literally dozens of books that need to be polished up and put out there. No one is enjoying them but me, and that’s selfish to keep them to myself. (At least, that’s what a writer said to me last October, when she exclaimed that she wanted to buy my book but didn’t have the opportunity because I hadn’t published it yet.)
It was last October that changed things for me. I realized I couldn’t live my life as only a “writer” if I wanted to be an “author.”
It’s about discipline. It’s about focusing, setting goals and actually striving to obtain them. Yes. I still have those random thoughts about that New Book I want to work on, but I don’t allow myself to get caught up in long chunks of writing on something that is not pertinent to my Work In Progress. I allow myself a few hours a week to work on something new if I really want to, but something I’ve started to realize since I have begun writing like an author, is that I don’t want to work on that New Book. Not now at least. Take notes, keep track of ideas, jot down those brilliant one-liners, yes. But sit down and work on it for hours? No. I’m an author. I’m going to publish my book, and I’m sure my readers won’t want to wait five or six or ten years before they can read the prequel, then book two and three. It’s a Young Adult novel. My whole audience will be like…thirty before the series is done. (okay, let’s not bring up Harry Potter right now.)
The thing is, I need to stop being selfish. I need to stop writing for myself. I love writing novels, but I also love sharing them. My world would be a pretty lonely world if I never let anyone else live in it.
So what are your thoughts? Do you write like a writer, or an author? If you’re a “writer,” are you happy with just being a writer? (I know a lot of people who are, and that’s fine.) If you’re not happy with it, are you willing to discipline yourself a little more in order to get that book out there? If you write like an author, but you haven’t gotten published yet, well then, in the words of my October friend, “You’re selfish! I want to read your books. Susan wants to read your books. The WORLD wants to read your books!”
Wherever you are as a Writer, (all inclusive,) I just want to say this: You never grow unless you push your boundaries.
Have fun, and enjoy the writing.
P.S. Don’t let your Young Adult Readers look like this by the time they finish your series. Please. If they do, there might be something seriously wrong with them. Like…black magic or something.