“So what do you want me to do?” I can hear you quip. “Get published? Just like that? Sorry, buddy, I’m trying, but it just don’t work that way. Some things are out of my control.”
Now, getting published may be a fine route to authorship. But this post is not about getting published.
If you’re like most fiction writers, whether published or not, you’ve struggled with that decision about when to actually call yourself a novelist. Yes, once you land your first contract, it’s a given. But most of us toil for years before that happens. Are we presumptuous to call ourselves novelists, or even writers, right from the start?
Trish goes on to list some of the quirks that make a novelist, even if you haven’t yet snagged the ear of a publisher. An entertaining post.
Trish is on to something here. See, this isn’t about getting published. This is about mindset, whether you write novels or something else. Do you still consider yourself an “aspiring author”? When do you get to graduate to the status of full “author”?
One biggie that is not the answer, at least not in today’s book market: getting published. A publishing contract makes you an insider. You’ve been accepted. So it can affect your mindset in the same way that dressing up in nice clothes makes you feel better about yourself. But many indie authors, some of them independent millionaires, have never signed a publishing contract. I for one would call them “authors,” bona fide authors.
“But they’ve made lots of money,” you may say. “They don’t need a publishing contract.” Indeed. But the amount of money a writer makes is also a poor yardstick, if you want to figure out whether she’s an “author.” Because making money is about business model, not about authorship. How many published authors make little or no money? (Answer: plenty.) Or a more entertaining example: How much money does the estate of William Shakespeare take in from the sale of his work? And does that mean William Shakespeare is no longer an author?
So what makes an “author”? Trish goes down a list of quirks you may display if you’re a bona fide “author” of novels. But what it boils down to, I think, is this: an author pursues writing as a profession. It may sound funny to describe storytelling as a “profession.” But think about it. A novelist relies on specialized skills. She must pursue competence in her skills, always improving them, always aspiring (hee hee) to be more than she is. And she identifies with her work, invests herself personally in it.
That’s why she loses herself in her stories, confuses real life with the fictional world and characters that she’s created. That’s why she’s always looking for new character and plot ideas in the people and world around her. That’s why she’s always thinking about the next story she’s going to tell.
Me, I do almost all of the things on Trish’s list. Plus, whenever I’m listening to a talk that involves any anecdote or object lesson, my imagination can’t help but vamp on story variations that would intensify the story experience or turn it into a modern parable.
Furthermore, the “author” doesn’t write only for personal fulfillment. She also writes for society. So her writing will be published, eventually, one way or another. Never content merely to set those stories on a shelf and let them collect dust, she’ll either seek out a publisher whose nose-ring she can grab, or else she’ll jump off the indie cliff. One way or another, she’ll share her work with the world, for better or worse.