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!
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!
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!
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.
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!