QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, May 21, 2012

Think Like an Author

Courtesy of mrpac-man
Finding success in publishing is tricky.

For one, not everyone defines success the same way. For some, it's enough to capture a world on paper. For others, there's the desire for validation that comes from finding an agent, a publisher, and/or being read. And there are still others who measure success by dollar signs.

Success is also tricky because all but one of those terms of success relies on someone besides the author or writer.

QueryTracker's mission statement is "Helping writers become authors." I believe this is the first step to success, and that this can happen even before you find an agent or are published.

It all starts with *how* you think.

It has been said that everyone has a book inside of them. While this may be true, not everyone has the ability or desire to sit down and write their book. Of those that do, some find that while they enjoyed writing a book, it's not something they're all that passionate about. But there are those that find magic in their story. Those that find joy in weaving worlds out of words.

These are the writers.

How do they become authors? Somewhere along the way, they believed they were--usually after a lot of hard work, a number of novels (or non-fiction books), finding an agent, and then landing a book deal.

But to my way of thinking, especially with all of the craziness that is in the publishing industry, it can help bring some sanity back into a person's life if they train themselves to think like an author once they realize they're a writer.

What does it mean to think like an author? (For the purposes of this post, I'm defining an author as someone who writes with the desire to be published/read.)

Write with Intent

While everyone's process is different, a book seldom gets written that is not written with intent.

Back when I was just writing because writing was what I did in my spare time, I have a hundred story beginnings, a few middles, and no endings.

An author writes with the intent to be read, and to be read, a person needs to be published one way or another. Usually, people write with intent because they have something to say.

So if you're ever stuck in your story and all your characters and plot have gone on strike, remember back to when you first started. When you were writing with intent, and ask yourself why you started writing this story. What is it you wanted to say?

Finding the Discipline Within the Passion

Writing a book is hard work. Brain-being-shoved-through-a-colander-and-turned-into-oatmeal hard sometimes. Or maybe that's just me. :-)

I love writing. I do. I love the worlds and the people who live just around the corner of my own reality. But, being a naturally lazy person whose brain now shudders whenever I pass the cottage cheese at the grocery store, I'm not always that enthused to write. On the other hand, I'm always very enthusiastic at having written.

An author is someone who goes in and gets the job done. They can be loving the story and rushing back to it every second they can, thinking about it every spare moment, or they can be at a point where deadlines are looming, the rent needs to be paid, and really, there's this new idea that would like to be written once they're through with this one.

A hobbyist talks about writing. Writers, we are all experts at creative procrastination, talk about writing. Authors sit down and write.

Be Willing to Try, to Learn, and to Make Mistakes

One of the scariest things about being an author, in my humble opinion, is the certainty that I'm not always going to get it right. Most of the time I won't--at least the very first time I'm writing the story down.

Big things, small things, and in between things are always there waiting for me to fix during revisions and edits.

But even scarier than those things are the Other Things. The quirks and bad habits I don't consciously realize I have. At least, not at first. This is why it is so vital to keep on learning. To never accept your best as your very best for all time. To never believe you've made it to the top of the writing mountain, and now you have nothing left to learn.

There is *always* something new to learn or relearn. Always.

There are *always* more mistakes to be made. Always.

And that's a good thing. Learning, making mistakes, indicates that you're doing something more than gathering dust. It means that you're trying something new, something hard. Something that could very well end up turning into a beautiful piece of art.

Fear inhibits art, so an author gives him/herself permission to fail. Permission to try. Permission to do.

Be Proud of Your Work

There is a truism is writing, usually in reference to learning how to decide which bits of advice to take when revising your manuscript. You have to look at what aligns with the vision you had for the story and see what advice makes it stronger, clearer, and better.

Take that advice and strengthen your story. Everything else, just let it blow away in the wind.

The truth is, if you write something that comes from the heart, you're never going to please everyone. All books, everywhere, have their critics. And if you are an author and are writing with the intent to be published/read, those critics are going to find you.

It is then, before you read your first critical review that you'll want to remember the other side of the truth above: you don't want to please everyone.

Books that are written by writers who are seeking to please everyone will end up pleasing no one. Those books lose their voice, because they lose the heart of what they were trying to say in the beginning.

Authors know what they want to say (not always easy at first), and they say it without regret or apology. For their story to resonate with readers, it has to first resonate with themselves.

Be proud of your work. Own it. Believe in it. If you don't, how can anyone else?

Finally, I'd like to share a link to Neil Gaiman's Address to the University of the Arts I found via Dean Wesley Smith. It is, hands down, one of the best things I've heard about writing in a very long time. :) I hope you enjoy! 

Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (CatspellFirespell, and Applespell), and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Fantastic post, Danyelle. Writing with intent and just getting it done is so important. Thanks for the reminder.

Red Tash said...

Kudos! Well put! I couldn't agree more! We all have different goals, and with so many different goals wearing the same label, it can be easy for us to lose sight that not everyone wants or needs what *we* want or need from this kooky career vocation!

Great read. Off to share with my author friends.

Steven J. Wangsness said...

I agree it's a sine qua non to believe in what you write: it's the key to authenticity. You can write canned fiction to suit others' tastes, or you can write what you want to say. Nothing wrong with the former, as a trade; but the latter is what makes you a professional.

REG said...

Love what you said so much I quoted bunches of it, printed it out on pink paper with butterflies, and placed it in the front of my daily journal.

Marsha Sigman said...

If you didn't love Neil Gaiman before that speech I don't see how you couldn't after.

I've been put on the spot with my writing when it comes to co-workers or distant family members in the past, and I've actually pretended to shrug it off as just my hobby. I couldn't bear to see that pitying look people give when they think there is no way you will ever accomplish a goal. I will NEVER do that again.

I am an author.

Stephsco said...

I like the line about everyone having a book in them, but not everyone is willing to sit down and write it. Very true.

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I love this post -- and I also love that it inspired REG so much!!! :-D