At my ‘mundane’ job yesterday, someone asked me how long I had been writing. I told them, with a smile, since I was in sixth grade. But I have been writing seriously since I was sixteen. I’m not about to tell you exactly (although I’m not afraid to tell my age normally), however rest assured it is over twenty years. Then they asked why I still do it. That got me thinking.
What things does a writer need to become an author? First, you ask what is the difference between an author and a writer? A writer is someone who writes. An author, in the strictest definition is a person who is published. I like the less strict definition of a writer who is serious about being published or is published.
So what does it take? From my experience it takes five things. One. It takes dedication. This is a dedication to learn the craft. Yes, writing is a never ending learning experience. No matter how good you are, whether you have published nothing or are a best selling, multi-published author, everyone is still learning. And writing has a very large learning curve until most people are ‘ready’ to be published. No, I’m not just talking about grammar and putting words together. I’m talking about finding your voice, finding your style. And making it the very best it can be. As with everyone else, I’m still learning and refining my craft. And I will be forever.
Two. It takes a thick skin. By this I mean you have to be able to take suggestions and rejection. Not everyone will like your work even if it’s the best it can be. And as you are learning and think that your ‘baby’ is ready for publication, you must be willing to hear that it is not. That it needs help and work. That it is not up to snuff. You must be able to take the rejection, digest it, and turn it into a positive. Trust me, not an easy thing to do. Sometime it’s merely looking at the work again immediately, rewriting and moving on. Sometimes is letting it sit for days or months then finally coming back to the work, realize that the critique was right, swallowing the hurt, rewriting and then moving on. (That is from personal experience. It once took me over six months to even reread comments from a very painful face-to-face meeting with an agent. But after a time I came to realize that she was right, as much as I didn’t want to admit it even that long after the meeting. Still, I swallowed the hurt, rewrote and now it is published.)
Three. Belief in yourself. You have to believe in yourself. If you know that your manuscript is the best it can be and you believe in the work with all of your heart, your enthusiasm will come through when you pitch to an agent, talk with a publisher, or on tour/presenting. This feeling is a deep set feeling that no one but you can develop. And with this belief comes confidence. And confidence will win the day.
Four. Persistence. This trait ties in with all of the above but is also separate by itself. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. Yet you keep sending it out to get published. And while you are waiting for the next rejection, you start on the next manuscript. It is that feeling of stick-to-it-ness that all of the best writers have. You are there day after day, cranking out the words (in the best possible way) and sending out your babies to the world to get rejected. But one day, yes one day, it won’t be a rejection. It will be the coveted acceptance. Trust me it is worth the wait.
Five and last. Luck. As much as no writer likes to admit, luck does play a part in getting published. You have to be in the right place with the right manuscript with the agent/publisher in the right mood, and wham, you get published. Although hard work is a good provider of luck, it still plays a part. So go out and get lucky.
There are my thoughts about being an author. So what did I do tonight when I got home from my ‘mundane’ job… I wrote this blog, edited a short story that will take place between book one and book two of my Mel Addison mystery series books. These will be free. My gift to the world. Oh yeah, and I worked on a different mystery series book, not done yet. But I’m still cranking out words, rewriting and hopefully some day soon, it too will be ready for publication. Stay tuned.