Since the boom of the digital age, would-be writers have been practically coming out of the woodwork. Everyone wants to be a writer and hey, I can’t blame them. Sweet gig if you can score it. Yet, many of these eager folks are ill-prepared for the reality of what all an author’s job entails and this job is so much more than simply writing the book (though that is a saber-toothed bugaboo all in itself).
Years ago, when I decided I wanted to become an author, I heard all the sage advice from my writing mentors. Stuff like:
The first three books you write likely will be total crap. Don’t get too attached.
You can’t do this for the money.
Book signings are WAY overrated.
Remember to put on pants when leaving the house.
Me, being a total neophyte completely rolled my eyes because I knew *flips hair* that I was the exception. Yeah about that.
Frankly all of this is seriously excellent advice, especially the part about the pants. But why am I mentioning all of this? Well, I decided to become a novelist…in 2002.
I just published my debut fiction…Tuesday. As in of this week.
Yes I am being serious.
Granted, I did take a side-trip. I knew social media was going to be a MAJOR game-changer for authors. All the people I saw teaching how build a platform were insisting writers turn into marketing robots that shoveled out spam faster than C-Span shovels out BS. And I knew their approach would be more successful at turning writers into cutters than actually selling any books.
For me, becoming a branding expert for creative people was a moral imperative…a calling.
Just not my original calling.
I recall a conversation with a friend back in 2011. She was laying into me that I needed to work on my fiction. My answer?
“Social media is one of the largest tectonic shifts in human communication. There need to be guides. In 5 years? We won’t be as necessary and in 5 years? People will still want thrillers. Social Media How-To’s? Meh. Not so much.”
My years of blogging and being a social media expert and craft teacher kind of remind me of the movie Karate Kid. Instead of writing glorious novels that became instantly famous and were made into movies? Here was Kristen….
Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off.
But, I was willing to do it (yeah that hadn’t happened before). Sure technical writing, and editing and blogging and writing social media books wasn’t making me a novelist…but I sensed it would get me there and that it was MY road. The road that I needed. The one involving way more @$$ kicking.
Granted, if I am brutally honest, there is a part of me that feels like a complete loser that it took FIFTEEN years to become a novelist, but I wouldn’t change how this all happened because this seriously long@$$ journey changed who I was. It shaped this undisciplined, self-centered, unlikable, lazy pile of wanna-be-hack into an actual honest to God pro.
Before I decided on “author” I tried a lot of things. Hell, I wanted to be frigging everything when I grew up.
I loved ballet. I wanted to be a dancer. I loved being on stage. But the bleeding, wrecked, blistered feet? Practice six days a week for four hours a day? Working my a$$ off just to end up in the background waving a rose?
Yeah, not so much.
Then I was going to be a doctor. Loved me some science. Even won a military scholarship to become a doctor. I looked seriously cool in the white jacket and practiced signing Dr. Lamb…and deliberately making it messy because who the hell ever heard of a real doctor with legible handwriting?
All was cool at first, but then I had to start dissecting stuff. I’m not squeamish at all. Hell, my mom is a nurse.
But then I hit a crossroad in Majors Biology with, of all things? A starfish. The super smart Indian kid next to me in lab? His starfish was PERFECT. Like razor lines and every tiny organ laid out and delicately pinned in artful perfection.
My starfish? It looked like it got drunk then called Chuck Liddell a p***y at which point said starfish got pounded into paste…then peed on.
And what I realized was that, while science and medicine “in theory” fascinated me, I just wasn’t in love with the process of getting any good at it. Hell if I did that to a starfish? Yeah. Probably best not to let me near people.
There is a point in all of this and hopefully one that you guys will find helpful. I certainly had aptitude for all the careers that interested me, but I lacked one critical element—love for the process.
Was I willing to do anything for however long it took to get good at it? Really good. Maybe even the best? Nope.
That was, until I decided to become an author. Then everything changed.
The Author’s Life FOR REAL
There is this myth perpetuated by popular culture that talent is vitally important, when in actuality it is highly overrated. People seem to believe that if we are skilled with language then magically we’re capable of creating a work spanning 60K-110K words as easily as breathing.
They seem to think anyone with command of their native tongue can whip out a novel, no problemo. Writing is EASY!
***Note: These were the same people paying us a hundred bucks in college to help them with a four-page essay while they chewed a Xanax *rolls eyes*
No, writing is not easy. It is a craft. We are builders. But instead of getting wood and nails and sheetrock and concrete and crews of people helping us build? We are tasked with creating entire worlds from various combinations of 26 letters…alone.
Yeah, super easy.
It’s a skill and it often has a long and brutal apprenticeship filled with blood, tears, rejection, and too much box wine. We get down on ourselves because friends and family, six months after we start, are certain we’re a failure because we aren’t toppling J.K. Rowling out of her top spots on the best-seller lists.
I know. Been there.
But this is why loving process is critical. When we love the process, we keep at it. We learn all we can. We are willing to tweet and blog and maybe even figure out what the hell is so interesting about Instagram. We learn to ignore the naysayers. We gut through the unfun stuff because love fuels all we do. It has to.
I am not particularly worried about the millions of other “published writers” because many won’t be in it for the long haul. A lot of them are there for the cover, the book in hand and a “signing” and “launch party” and nothing wrong with that. It is their fun. Not all dreams are meant to be life callings.
But, often when these sort of folks discover this isn’t all a giant unicorn hug? That sure we authors can get raving 5 star reviews, but we can also get raving ONE star reviews from lunatics who have nothing better to do than be cruel and crush a writer’s will to live?
They move on *shrugs*.
Or maybe they are pretty good writers, but they don’t want to do the unfun stuff like building a platform (which actually IS a lot of fun if you do it the way I teach it). And these folks will languish in Amazon purgatory because they only loved part of the process, the fun parts.
Some will invest years and never get there and give up because it is taking too long. Heck took me 15 years. I can appreciate that kind of discouragement.
My first book? Well it reminded me of that starfish from Majors Biology (dramatic reenactment of Kristen’s starfish performed by a pumpkin)
But I kept at it and kept at it and kept at it and now, my starfish looks like this! 😀
So yes! My romantic mystery thriller is finally out and available for .99 on Kindle (just click the cover pic above). We will do more official “launch” stuff next week. And thank you kindly for sticking with me these many long years. You have no idea how many times I would have given up had it not been for this blog, knowing y’all were there in the trenches rooting for me. So THANK YOU.
In the end, lighten up on yourself and give yourself a break. Not too much of one. You still need to get your tail to work. But remember everyone has their own road, their own journey and process and keep your eyes on YOU and YOUR work.
What are your thoughts? Do you get discouraged with the process of writing? I know I do. Would be awesome to just spend 8 hours a day making up stories but there is a lot more to this. Do you maybe feel better if you believed you were taking too long? 15 years is a tough number to beat, LOL. Did you have a similar experience? Did you try a career you thought you’d love but then went…yeah NO.
I LOVE hearing from you guys!
****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.
Talk to me!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
***April’s winner is Carl D’Agostino. Please send your 5000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Double-spaced, one-inch margins and New Times Roman and CONGRATULATIONS!
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