First and foremost, Happy New Year, everyone! I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a pretty rough year for me. Here’s hoping that 2017 is filled with a lot more light, love and laughter for all of us.
That being said, I know a lot of people make New Year’s resolutions. Diets are always a popular one, or going to the gym, or getting organized, or lots of other things we’ll probably forget about by the end of this month, heh. But for some on you, that resolution might include finally starting, finishing, shopping, or publishing a book. In fact, it was January of 2003 when I decided that, no matter what I was doing wrong (I’ll get to that later), I was going to start and finish an entire book.
You see, I’d started a bunch of novels up to that point, but I’d always gotten bored, distracted by a new idea, etc., and thus had never finished any of them. I’d also been told by a writer acquaintance that if I wanted to be an author, I had to have a chapter-by-chapter outline, a story board filled with details on all the characters, and extensive scene notes, all before I even started the book.
Anyone who knows me will understand how crushed I felt at hearing that. I may as well have been told that in order to write a book, I’d have to get a brain transplant. That kept me from attempting to write for another couple years, but the urge didn’t go away. I’d wanted to write a book since I fell in the love with the romance genre at age twelve (yes, I know – way too young to be reading romance, but hey, now you can say that I got a really, really, reaaaaaalllly early start on researching my future profession! ;)).
So, despite my utter lack of what some people would call qualifications and/or preparedness, in January of 2003, I started writing a book. In April of that same year, about fifty thousand words into my new book, I had a dream about a completely different hero and heroine. I could not get those people out of my mind, so, as I’d done many times before, I abandoned the novel I’d been working on and started something else. I’ll admit: it felt like taking a step backward into the same futility that had kept me from finishing any of my other stories, but this new idea wouldn’t let me go.
That new, dream-based idea eventually became HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE, book one in the Night Huntress series, which launched my career as a bestselling author of multiple books and series.
What’s the point of this post, aside from a trip down memory lane? It’s simply this: don’t listen to people who tell you that in order to be a “real” writer, you have to do A, B, or C, or you have to be A, B, or C.
I was reminded of this last week, when an author penned a piece published by the Huffington Post. In it, she claimed that self-publishing was an “insult” to the written word and that, among other things, indie authors aren’t “real” writers. There was a lot more crap in her article, but I won’t go into all of it. I’m also not linking it because I don’t want to give that author any more publicity. I’ll admit, I read it and laughed at how ridiculously uninformed and elitist her positions were… and then I stopped laughing because I remembered how I used to believe a lot of those same things when I was starting out. That belief, plus my own doubts, kept me from chasing my dream of being an author for many years, and I regret that lost time now.
So, I went on a mini Twitter rant that I’m copying here because I think it bears repeating. I’ve edited it to further flesh out my thoughts since Twitter’s character restrictions make that difficult. Besides, my original rant was written while I was on migraine meds, so I had skipped from point 4 to 6 while ignoring 5 (Twitter, give us an “edit” button, please!) Not everything below pertains to the article that ticked me off; I also added some other b.s. restrictions I’ve heard over the years. My hope in posting this is to provide encouragement to writers who’ve found themselves burdened by rules, limitations and requirements that don’t actually exist. If it also annoys any elitist authors who think that people need their approval before they can call themselves “real” writers, well, that’s just the icing on the cake ;).
Edited Twitter rant below:
I am so sick of hearing what it takes to be a “real” writer. I’ve heard you have to write EVERY day, write several books, write for a decade before you attempt to get published –
And of course, my favorite: NOT write romance because everyone knows those aren’t “real” books. Guess what? Writers aren’t Borg and one size doesn’t fit all.
Bottom line is, if you write, you’re a REAL writer. Period. All the rest is garbage. There isn’t a minimum number of books you have to write. Plenty of famed authors only wrote one book.
You also don’t have to write every day. It’s fine if you do, but it’s not required. Romances are REAL books, like it or not. Short stories and poetry count as “real” writing, too.
Yes, some self-published books are awful. So are some traditionally-published books. But trashing ALL self-published books is impressively pretentious, imo.
In summary, can we please stop acting as if there’s no room at the table for the “unwashed masses,” aka people who write/publish differently than we do?
*** End edited Twitter rant***
Note: I’m a person who never went to college, doesn’t write every day, never took a creating writing course, didn’t write for ten years before I got published, will self-publish whatever I want, will never do story boards, outline in detail, or stop writing romance, and I’m still a REAL damn writer, thank you very much :).
Note 2: Because someone will probably say “Shame on you for telling aspiring authors that creative writing courses and/or college is a waste of time!” let me clarify: I’m not saying that at all. I regret not going to college because I could have learned a lot more, and a degree is always a good thing to have. Also, creative writing courses would’ve no doubt helped me shave some revising time off my earlier works. However, I’m arguing against the “you HAVE to…” list I’ve seen spouted in many, many circles. By all means, do whatever helps you the most toward achieving your goal of being an author, but don’t let the “you HAVE to…” crowd tell you your dream is out of reach because you don’t have their same credentials, writing style, or publishing platform.