Friday, June 1, 2012

Writer, First And Foremost

It's easy to stop writing after you've completed a book. It's easy to think that one will be enough to reach those phenomenal levels of financial success that other writers have achieved. There are lots of good stories of writers that hit the authorial lottery. One of the more recent additions to that exclusive club, E.L. James, has done splendidly with her Fifty Shades Of Grey series. I mean, who wouldn't want to sell 10 million copies of a trilogy of books in about six weeks? Uh, duh. That wasn't a trick question. Every writer I know would jump the chance for that kind of success. I offer my congratulations to Ms. James. While, her choice of genre and content may not interest me, it was certainly a good choice for the hundreds of thousands who do and helped those books break sales records.

My point in mentioning E.L. James and her series is this: Her success is not typical. She won the authorial lottery, folks. She's catapulted to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers' list--and several other lists for that matter. Her work resonated and spread by word of mouth in a rapid, viral way that is just breathtaking when you consider it. I know there have been plenty of articles discussing the numbers of printings and the sheer velocity of sales her trilogy of books achieved. But most writers don't experience this. The majority won't. I probably won't--even though I'd like to.

That one book isn't enough on its own to change anything. It may sell copies or it might not. I know it is easier to say that you're an author and point at that one book than it is to do more, to be more as a writer. I face that a lot and even when I wasn't able to focus on books, I found myself wanting authorial success. I mean, at this point, I can stand on a record. I have written and published four books, with a fifth and a sixth coming in the near future.

A Next Step?

I could say that it is enough. I've helped people get their stories out there. I did what I could. Now, I have a real start as a fiction writer looming and I'm second-guessing myself. When you add in the fact that I'm also an indie publisher, then the questions multiple even faster. In the effort to think like a publisher, I do get lost as a writer and I just don't do any. I think about what I need to do, but I see all of the work ahead and I just think about publishing instead.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it simply won't work with the business model I'm developing. I'm a hybrid writer/publisher. Concerning fiction, I'm just getting started. I don't have a backlist that I can start reprinting. I need content. Even though I'm including other writers on the lists at my publishing company, I know that the lion's share of the project is up to me.

I've got to be a writer, first and foremost or this little endeavor will never go anywhere.

Don't get me wrong, I am hoping like crazy that my latest nonfiction book sells phenomenally. I need that income to continue building my business. I have lots more that I want to do. Capital is a necessity. That's the publisher part of me talking again. I'm thinking in terms of costs like book cover design, layout, editing, and so on. I'm not even talking about content creation. But I should be.

What Is A Writer?

Well, here it is again. The one cent question that's also priceless. Regardless, of anything else I'm doing here, I am a writer and to put it simply, a writer is somebody who writers. Compare that with the definite of author, which is somebody that has written. Like I said in the beginning, I could easily just rest in the fact that I'm this author, but folks that would be the past tense. For a business that is firmly rooted in the present, that amounts to a writer's death sentence.

I've got to remain a writer regardless of how I'm feeling about the current status of my business. Every word I put down has the potential to make me money if simply finish what I've started and continue to work on storytelling. It's a formula of sorts that can certainly separate those that have staying power in the writing and publishing business and those that don't.

I want to be in this game for the long haul. Thus, I've got to keep moving forward and let the books I'm writing find their audiences. I can't afford to stop and wait for sales to come through. Writers are people who write. I'm doing my best to get better at telling stories while I know that other people may come to me looking for help to write their true life stories. I'm more than willing to do this. In fact, I like having one foot in nonfiction and the other in fiction. It is already providing a balance I need.

In Closing...

How do I finish up this little post? I'd have to say that being a writer is about writing and practicing the craft every day if you can. I know that I regret not writing if I miss a day. I try to get back on the horse and keep moving. I'm more enthusiastic about writing than I've been in a long time. Does it make the writing itself easier? Not all the time, no. I still have to sit in a seat for long stretches, but not long enough to do myself damage from the lack of physical activity. I have to balance that part of my life out too. I know most writers feel the same way.

I've taken my own advice and those of other long term pro writers to heart. I am trusting my writing voice more than I ever thought I would. I'm just trying to have fun with stories now. (I'm working on a novel right now.) Most importantly, I writing almost every day. I'm practicing. I'm learning about things like plot, character, pacing, voice, and all that stuff. I'm reading fiction more than I had been. I'm trying to understand what other writers do to make stories work. That's the only way I'll get better. That's the only way I'll be able to keep this going.

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