Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What Does It Take? the Myths

It's a good question. What does it take to become a published author? Or if you want more than that, what does it take to become a published, famous, well-paid (dare I say rich?) author? Let's look at the myths first.

1. It takes amazing talent. Hmmm, yes. If I had a dollar for every talented writer I've seen who gave up after a few months or a year, I could retire. It does take some talent, true. People who can't write anything that engages even the most sympathetic reader are plentiful, but sometimes that's not a matter of talent, that's just a matter of learning how to make the words work better for you (and that is possible). But the hard truth is - some people, no matter how badly they want to tell a story, can't write. I can't play the violin (I've tried), I can't play golf (I've tried), I could never be a fireworks expert (I'm scared of big noises) - so I have given up these things, even though I would kind of enjoy being the new Tiger Woods. Some people need to give up the idea of publishing their writing. Sorry, but it's true. Or they should at least give up submitting to publishers until they have worked really hard and reached a better standard of writing. (OK, you can throw things at me now. I'll duck - my talent there comes from ducking errant golf balls I, myself, hit.)

But if you have a bit of talent (we usually spot it in your voice, believe it or not), but not much technique - you can learn technique and you can improve - in leaps and bounds!

2. You need to know someone important in publishing. How do you know them? Are you memorable because you stalked that publisher into the ladies' room and harrassed her as she washed her hands? Or because you got drunk and confronted him about your latest rejection? If you Google the many blogs and websites maintained by editors and agents, you will see one thing that absolutely shines above anything else in terms of getting published - it's the writing that counts. Think about it.
Yes, some people get lucky and meet the right editor at the right time at a conference, but if the writing didn't sing, they would be one more writer in the queue.

3. You need lots of inspiration. How many writers sit down at the computer or blank page every day and feel inspired? Very, very few. When you've been writing for a while, you start to realise that inspiration is sporadic. Lack of faith in yourself as a writer is more prevalent. The only thing that will get you through, keep you going, keep you writing to the end of your project (no matter what it is) is showing up at your desk and writing no matter what.
This seems so obvious that I wonder why I'm saying it!! But the truth is that there are many writers who believe that the only time they can write anything "good" is when they are inspired. Rubbish!!! You have to write no matter what. That's what a writer does. And you would be amazed at the number of writers who say they can't tell the difference, later, between what they wrote when they "felt like it" and what they wrote when they struggled and persisted, despite the doubts.

Some realities coming soon.

1 comment:

Kristi Holl said...

First, after you add your realities section to the myths, you might submit this as an article. ICL buys articles too.
Second, even on the days you write when feeling "inspired," that inspiration usually strikes most writers about twenty minutes INTO the writing! Something finally clicks, you get excited, and then you're typing like a madman. If I can just get myself to sit down and work for twenty minutes, I'm usually off and running then. Nearly always, it's FIRST you type, then you get inspired!