April Blog … So You Want to Be an Author, Eh?

Blog Yellow MidMiss      Beautiful Monsters Front Cover

I recently read an article in The Guardian that claimed the number one most desired job in Britain is author, according to a YouGov poll. In fact, 60% of Brits desired the authorly life—even topping movie star. I suppose the meteoric success of E L James (Fifty Shades of Grey), Stephanie Meyer (the Twilight series), and J. K. Rowling (the Harry Potter series) has something to do with this poll result. And I bet if polls were taken in most other countries, the results would be similar. Suddenly, being an author is the cool gig!

Girl Typing

If you’re a writer like me, trying to sell a book, you’re probably snickering and thinking that, indeed, 60% of people actually ARE authors because of the record number of people hawking books online and at the various social networking sites. But I find that most fledgling authors—and the public, in general—have a skewed notion of what the job of scribe entails. Many people think we’re enigmatic, intelligent oddballs who set our own hours, stare off in space, throw down a story in a month, then rake in the cash as we’re lauded at book signings and interviews. Nothing could be further from the truth! Well, … maybe the enigmatic oddball label fits since we do loiter in the dusty corners of life. lol This snicker-worthy quote by Jules Renard speaks to the possible lure of the occupation: “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.” It’s true!

Pink Typwriter

Being an author is hard, tribe! There’s so much more to it than committing a story to the laptop. All those exquisite passages that give us goosebumps and make our hearts clench don’t just fly off the tip of an author’s fingers. The fiction writer must first master plot, structure, character, setting, mood, point of view, pacing, subtext, theme, description, dialogue, ad infinitum. These literary elements work together to create the magic of great prose. Add to that a working knowledge of grammar, format, and genre specifications, and the learning curve is high. It’s an arduous, exhausting task that writers continually pursue throughout their careers. It took me over three years to turn Beautiful Monsters into a book I’d be proud to put my name on.

If you don’t believe me on the strenuous nature of a career in publishing, consider this quote by George Orwell (often rephrased and expressed by other icons of literature as well): “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.” And he’s right!

Orwell Quote

Writing one’s first manuscript is perhaps the most idyllic time in an author’s entire career. There’s no real pressure except to create. But after that, things get dicey! I remember well the first time my pink bubble of naivety was popped by a savvy editor who gave a workshop in my town. He looked out at our inspired faces and said, “You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than of having your first manuscript picked up by a publisher.” WHAAAAAAT??? Pop, pop, pop. (That’s the sound of our naivety bubbles bursting.) He further crushed our hopes by telling us that writing the manuscript was the easy part of a career in publishing—just the tip of what would be required of us with long hours of promotion and social networking. By the end of the seminar, our wide-eyed, hopeful expressions had been tempered with a dose of harsh reality.

Red Pop Balloon

To say the least, I was miffed by the editor’s dire pronouncements, but I now realize he was preparing us for the disappointment later when rejection notices and dashed dreams would land in our laps. Nor do I want to discourage anyone who loves to write. You see, writing is not a choice; it’s as necessary as oxygen for some of us. First and foremost, it’s an ART, secondly, a business. Just know that you probably won’t become rich, famous, or successful with your books. Writing rarely pays the bills. And besides, there are much easier routes to those goals. But for those of you born to the craft, an author’s life is the most difficult, demanding, thrilling pursuit of ART you’ll ever know.

To soften the blow of bursting any pink bubbles—and to show you how much I “luvs” ya, I’ll send a signed copy of Beautiful Monsters to one of you (randomly chosen) who comments below. And if you find this blog informative or interesting, I’d appreciate it if you’d share the love. Happy reading and writing, tribe!

~Cynthia

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Comments

Rebecca E. Dalmeida

Love your post and I agree most people have no idea how much work goes into a novel. I have just finished writing my first novel and it took me seven years. Those around me that knew I was writing didn’t understand why it took so long. But with a full time job in the medical field to pay the bills, I had to write when I could and then re-write, re-write, re-write what I had written until I felt the flow of the story was right. Now starts the daunting task of getting published. I am considering a company called Bookbaby as they do e-books and POD. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

adminBM
adminBM

Hi, Rebecca. Believe me, I understand about taking a long time to complete a book so that it meets one’s own standards. It took me three and a half years to complete BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS—and that was working full-time on it. I have tons of advice on publishing as this has been an enormously steep learning curve for me. I will send you an email with some insights and leads. But first and foremost, congratulations on completing your manuscript! That, alone, is a major accomplishment. I wish you the best of luck on the road to publication.

Maxine McCoy

Great post. I recently had someone make me an offer I could refuse. She said, “I always have such great ideas for a book, but I never have time to write. Why don’t we become a writing team. I’ll come up with the ideas and you write the book. We’ll split it right down the middle.”

Seriously? She’d do that for me? Great! Now that she took a few minutes to come up with an idea, all I have to do, as you said, Cynthia, is take care of plot, structure, character, setting, mood, point of view, pacing, subtext, theme, description, dialogue, and grammer, plus a myriad of other aspects of putting word to paper.

Needless to say, I agree with you that most people have no idea what the actual job of writing entails. But they also have no idea of the joy it brings to crawl into a character’s skin and live their lives the way I’d live my own if I dared. I love my vulnerable, flawed, changing/learning/growing, and by the end, courageous heroes and heroines. I enjoy spending time with them.

adminBM
adminBM

Maxine, I had to laugh at your friend’s suggestion because I’ve had several people suggest the same to me. By and large, I find that most people have NO idea what writing a book entails. Even as someone who has always written in some capacity, I had no idea what it entailed when I first started to write professionally. To put out a well-wrought manuscript takes herculean effort, but that’s the fun part for most authors. To get the manuscript published into a book and then sold to the masses takes a whole new level of effort. Talk about a learning curve! lol But you’re right; after putting in the time and diligence to accomplish this feat, there is nothing more gratifying than to hold a copy of your book in your hands or to hear a reader say that they loved it. That feeling falls into the realm of peak moments of life. Thanks so much for your interesting comments!

Matthew Peters

Great post, Cynthia. I couldn’t agree with you more. Many people I’ve encountered on my journey are gung-ho with the idea of being a writer, but they don’t want to put in the long hours it takes to become a serious practitioner of the craft. If more people knew exactly what it takes to be a decent writer, I think most would be turned off by the idea.

adminBM
adminBM

Yes, you’re so right, Matthew. Most writers I know don’t know how to take a day off or a vacation. It seems we’re either writing or worrying about not writing. And the whole social media and promotional aspect of the job adds an additional level of stress. Honestly, anyone who is not dedicated to the written word is crazy to even attempt it. There are much easier ways to gain respect or make money than writing. I find the true writing devotees aren’t in it for the money. It’s about pursuing the ART of writing. Of course, the ideal situation is to be able to write and make a living doing so. That, in my book, is bliss! Thanks for your always insightful comments.