The Author Puzzle
Taking Responsibility as a Writer
by Gina RosatiThe biggest difference in going from writer to author is responsibility. I am no longer writing for myself – I have an agent, an editor and her publishing house depending on my ability to produce a marketable product. I’ll have bookstores counting on earning a profit and libraries spending their dwindling budget on my book. And I’ll have readers who will hopefully find some meaning in my stories.
I love to write. I could spend every day with my characters and write, edit, change words like “happy” to “glad” and back again. Writing is immeasurably more fun than cleaning my house or cooking dinner. But being an author means helping our publisher market our book, and in this age of social media, it also means creating a “brand” out of ourselves and selling that too. This is not an easy thing for me to do. I tend to be introverted and while I can appear to be extroverted, it’s not my nature. Being an author requires a certain amount of self-promotion that can take some getting used to. On the positive side, being an author means meeting other authors, and this is the absolute best benefit! I have met some amazing authors … smart, funny, sensitive and very supportive of each other.
If you love to write, then write. There is a wonderful freedom when you think no one else will ever read what you’ve written – you write without boundaries and brakes, just for the joy of writing. Learn everything you can about the art and craft of writing … there are a lot of ways to write a book, and you have to find the way that works best for you. Read everything, especially books from the genre you love to write in. Troll the internet for blogs and websites … writers, editors and agents often offer excellent suggestions about writing and publishing. Join a critique group. If you don’t know how to find one, ask your local indie bookstore or search online for your local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). This wonderful organization represents writers and illustrators of children’s lit from picture book all the way through YA, and many chapters have a list of critique groups in the area. You can also find an online critique group.
When it comes time to share your writing with the world, the people closest to you will tell you they love what you’ve written because they love you and everything about you, including your writing. 999/1000 of the time, an agent or editor will ask for changes. Learn to let go. William Faulkner is responsible for the quote about killing your darlings because it’s those parts of your story you are most attached to that you are unable to be objective about. If you were to compare the first draft of AURACLE to the finished project, you’d find that over 95% of the book was rewritten. A few secondary characters were eliminated (including the talking tree I loved so much I had it tattooed onto my wrist) and new ones added. Even the theme changed. This is not unusual. You don’t have to make every change an editor asks for, but you should be prepared to discuss and compromise if necessary. The changes I made weren’t necessarily easy for me to make, but the story is definitely better now!
Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads are the main social media sites for writers (at least as I write this), so start making connections now. If you write, you are a writer. Shout it to the world! I AM A WRITER! It doesn’t matter if you have another job; start marketing yourself as a writer. Get your name out there as much as possible, and if you have nothing yet to sell, then go where the authors, agents and editors are and comment on their blogs … people love when others take the time to comment. Always use the name you plan to publish under. Find a picture of yourself you love and post it on your sites … people like to put a face with the name. If you’ve been leaving 1 star reviews on Goodreads, B&N.com or Amazon, I suggest you stop. It’s not that honesty isn’t the best policy, but my suggestion is if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.
And finally, the advice everyone else will give you … don’t give up! I compare writing a book to putting together an 80,000 piece puzzle … at times it’s totally overwhelming. Like any other skill, writing takes a tremendous amount of practice, patience and persistence. But when all the stars and planets align and it all comes together into that glorious papery or ebookery package, you can pat yourself on the back and say “Huzzah! I did it!”