Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers.
I first met today’s guest author in 2012 during her world famous Storystorm (then called PiBoIdMo) event and I’m honored to call her my friend. You can check out her blog at http://www.taralazar.com, or follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/taralazar.
Writer Or Author? The Choice Is Yours…
By Tara Lazar
Do you want to be a writer?
Grab a pen, tappity-tap a keyboard, spill words into a mic. Tell a story. Record it. Get it down.
You don’t have to write every day to be a writer—did you know that? Some writers insist on routine, but that doesn’t work for everyone. It certainly doesn’t work for this writer. Routine stifles my creativity. I like to keep my schedule open and flexible.
But then again, don’t wait for the muse to strike. Because sometimes she’ll be illusive and mysterious. She doesn’t work on your clock. You have to coax her out, or get along without her. So keep a notebook with you at all times, in case she pays you a split-second visit. Writing one or two words is still writing.
You see, to be a writer, there are no rules. No restrictions. Write whatever you please. Make it as long or as short as you want. Run-on sentences welcomed. Nothing is wrong when you’re writing for your own enjoyment. Anyone can do it. You can do it well—or not so well—and it doesn’t matter. The writing is for you.
But do you want to be an author?
Well, that’s when things change.
You shouldn’t sit down and write the first thing that comes to mind. Well, you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I did that for a couple years and learned that my ideas weren’t compelling enough. I didn’t think them through.
If you intend on selling what you write, you must develop a plan.
Understand the genre and market for which you’re writing. You must read. Become a student of the format you’ve chosen, because while there’s much advice touting “don’t pay attention to the rules”, there are indeed constraints.
What kind of constraints? When you’re writing for children, there are topic and length considerations. Today’s market won’t support a 2500-word picture book about a homeless man. Publishers prefer chapter books written by established authors. Middle grade novels don’t drone on for 100,000 words. Young adult novels don’t feature 11-year-old protagonists. (Yes, there are exceptions, but you catch my drift.)
Moreover, research your story idea before you dig in. Your concept might have already been done, and done well. You don’t want to spend months or years writing something that will never get picked up. Competition is fierce. You must be fresh, unique and marketable.
Being an author doesn’t mean you’re no longer writing for pleasure or writing for yourself, it means that there are other considerations besides you. Your audience now comes first.
And that’s the way it should be.
Some days I’m just a writer. I write and don’t worry about the topic or the format. It’s freeing. But I don’t expect those stories to sell. Heck, sometimes they’re not even stories! However, maybe in the future, if I develop a fan base, they’ll want to see my just-for-fun pieces. I could self-publish them or stick them on my website. Who knows? I never toss anything. Hold onto your words—they’re part of you.
Other days, I’m an author. I’ll revise a story based upon my agent or editor’s feedback. I don’t relinquish creative control, as is the misconception about traditional publishing, but I recognize when a suggestion would make my story better. Again, it’s not all about me. I have to set my ego aside and do what needs to be done to improve the tale, to entertain my reader. To sell the book.
And I get rejections. I don’t take them personally. You can’t because everyone gets them throughout their career, and you’d be one depressed doggie if you took them all to heart. I read them and consider what’s being said. Shall I incorporate the feedback into the next revision, or do I feel that the editor didn’t connect with the text? As an author, you’re bombarded with criticism at every step in the publishing process. You must develop a strong gut. Because it will be punched. Often.
So make a decision—do you want to be a writer or an author? Both have their rewards, but they are not the same thing.
And just remember, with hard work, you can be both!
Tara Lazar is a children’s book author, mother, foodie and boogeyman assassin (currently booked at 3am nightly).
Her latest picture book, WAY PAST BEDTIME, released in 2017 by Alladin, can be purchased here or in other fine bookstores. Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.