What Did You Learn?

December 26, 2010

On Being A Writer 2

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , — ax20 @ 8:47 pm

I had a conversation with a friend recently that really got under my skin. She’s taken one writing class, where she wrote a couple of short stories. It’s been a few years since then and she hasn’t written much of anything else. which is fine, of course. But in our conversation (I don’t really remember what it was about exactly) she said “I really want to write a bestseller.” To which I said “and I want to win the lottery, mine might be more likely.” Well, really what I said was “Why do you want to write a bestseller? Because you think it would be cool or it could make you rich? Or because you really want to write a good book?” A lot of people think writing a book would just solve all their problems. How hard can it be? I can write, they think. It’s easy money. But the truth is, not everyone can write.

If what you want is to be a great writer, I applaud that desire. (Let’s be honest, your goal for writing comes through in the writing itself. Someone who is doing it for the money or the prestige and not the passion will read differently.) But if that’s what you want, there are a lot of things you need.

Determination is one of those things. If you intend to write a great book, it’s not just going to happen. You can’t just wait around until the perfect idea pops into your mind. (I asked her, “do you have an idea?” “No.”) Who knows when that idea will come and how will you have perfected your writing so that when you do have the idea you can do it justice?

If you want to be a true writer (and maybe, just maybe manage a bestseller one day, if you are lucky, the stars align, etc) you have to write. Everyday, or every other day. Whatever it is, write often. And challenge yourself. Write different genres and styles. Experiment with voice, viewpoints, tone. Take classes if you can (not all famous writers took classes, but there is certainly no denying how much it can help).

Ultimately, you may never get a bestseller. Most authors don’t and probably even fewer can live off of the money they make selling books. But you’ll never get there if you don’t put in the time and effort. Even more important, be sure that it is the book and not the fame that you want.

On Being A Writer

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , — ax20 @ 8:33 pm

As a writer, it’s easy to get distracted by all of your different ideas. After all, so many things can be made into a story and most writers have more active imaginations, allowing them to see possibilities in everything. If you’re like me, you watch TV and think about places you wish the show would go, imagine what happens after a movie you liked, picture how you could incorporate your friends, families, and experiences into your books. But the problem is, with all those ideas, how do you choose just one to write?

I have a friend who has written about fifty pages in five years. The reason, aside from a compulsive need to edit constantly, is because he can’t seem to settle on a single idea. He writes a little and then thinks of something else and starts to right it, thinks of another idea and starts to write that…you can see the problem there right? If you let yourself get distracted, you’ll never finish.

One of the qualities I believe necessary not only to be a successful writer but also an author, is focus. When you submit to a publisher, they want to know that you are someone who has the attention and focus to finish your work. If they tell you there is something they want revised, they have to have faith that you can manage it, and not just eventually but within the deadline they set. It hurts the publishing house if they have to continually push off the pub date for their books (bookstores make orders and if it seems like the book isn’t coming or won’t come out when they want it, they are likely to simply cancel their orders). And there is no bigger hassle for an editor than a signed author who cannot deliver the work.

This is one of the differences between writers and people who think it is just something that it would be nice to do. You need that determination to push through, especially when you hit writer’s block and it would be easier to simply start something new. The first step to becoming a published author is to actually finish your manuscript.

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