Authors, Transform and Rollout

Howdy gang! I'd like to start this post by saying how much I really appreciated all of the words of encouragement left on my last post. Had some old, and very dear, blogging friends pop in to say, "atta boy"regarding my quasi-publishing announcement. 

I promised more specific details in the future, and there will be, but for now I'd like to talk about how I got to this point. I'd also like to discuss the transformation that, I believe, all authors go through. (The point of this post.) BUT FIRST ...

NA LIT CHAT IS THIS WEEK


The inaugural New Adult Twitter chat is this week! If you follow me on Twitter, you're probably sick of hearing about it. I've also mentioned it on this blog a couple of times. But just incase you aren't up to date, I'll give it a final shout-out here.

Basically, I'm teaming up with the wonderful ladies over at the NA Alley Blog (click to check them out, they rock) to facilitate a weekly Twitter discussion of New Adult literature. This week's topic is: The 5 W's of NA - What it is, who writes it, where it gets published, when it takes place in life, and why it's important.

So if you've ever wanted to know what NA is all about, this is the week to learn. It's also going to be a great place to meet folks who are writing and reading NA right now. 

I'll be hosting this THURSDAY, 9 PM EST, and the cosmically cool Bailey from NA Alley will be moderating. To join in the discussion, just search for #NALitChat on Twitter and use #NALitChat in your messages at the appointed time. 

If you want more info on what a Twitter chat is, and how to do it, be sure to check out the most recent post on the NA Lit Chat blog. There's also a calendar with upcoming chat dates and other FYI tidbits. Really hope you'll join us, and appreciate any tweeting or other types of promotion you might be able to do to help us get the word out. 

THE EVOLVING AUTHOR

Last week I announced that I'd been working with an editor on a story I plan to see published in the near-ish future. Basically, I was all panicky about digging into the revisions, but excited about moving forward with the project. 

You'll be happy to know, I quit being a coward and dove into the edits with my nose pinched shortly after I posted. (Your encouragement seriously helped me with that, btw.) I've made a ton of progress and can most definitely see it coming together now. Won't be long.

After reading some of the comments, it occurred to me that I probably ought to talk about where I'm at in my writing career or, more importantly, how I got here. Some of you have been with me since the Spring of 2010 when my first post went up, and I've changed my goals and priorities a bit since then.

I say "more importantly", because I think the changes I've gone through are the most relevant aspects to anyone else out there writing. 

IN WHICH I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I'M DOING

Okay, I wasn't completely clueless. But close. I barely knew what a query letter was. I'd just begun to understand what a market was and how that impacted publishing. Agents were unicorns to be stalked and studied from afar. And all of my writing was in third person limited POV because that's what Harry Potter was written in. (You think I'm joking. I'm not.)  

I wanted to write fiction for teens (still do, btw) because that's what I enjoyed reading, and I'd worked with teenagers most of my adult life. I knew teenagers and could relate to them.

And I'm not talking about those awesome teens that have their poop together. I worked with the teens that struggled with life. The lost ones. The abusers and the abused. The fragile and the neglected. So I wanted to write things for them. Stories saved me as an early teenager, and I wanted to write things to save them. 

Not that what I was writing was anything momentous or life-altering. I wasn't writing about racism or cancer, after all. My stories had robots, crude humor, and whatever else geeky, normal kids preoccupy themselves with. I aimed to tell stories that provided an escape. Because that's what all of my favorite stories gave me growing up. 

I was a kid from small town Oklahoma who liked classical music, comic books, and drawing who wanted to pretend he was from anywhere BUT small town Oklahoma. Books let me do that. 

A WRITER WHO DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO WRITE

Isn't that how we all start? If passion and desire are all it took to write a great story, I'd be dictating this to my butler while sipping cold drinks on a yacht somewhere in the South Pacific. Instead, I'm in my pajama pants, gulping down a Diet Dr. Pepper, and trying to keep my playful dog from yanking out the computer's power cord. Again. And I'm blogging from South-Central Texas, where we'd love to see a little rain this time of year, much less have an ocean view. 

Good writers are great failures. I thought I understood that going in. I expected to struggle. In fact, I looked forward to it. This would be the most challenging thing I'd ever attempted. I'd declared myself to be "a writer" to my friends and family, and now my blog said so too. The clock had officially started. No more writing only on the weekends or vacation. I'd write every day. I'd set goals and have standards to live by. It wasn't IF I'd reach them, but when.

To be fair, I never dreamed I'd end up questioning my own intelligence. I never would've considered that I'd be stripped of every ounce of confidence and self-appreciation I had--sometimes daily. And I certainly wouldn't have believed that I'd get so lost and buried by it all that my dreams would no longer matter. Not sucking is all that mattered.

My wife has often told me, perplexed, over the last few years, "You're so confident in everything you do. Except writing." I think if she truly knew the number of hours I'd dumped into this only to reach a point where I can look in a mirror (most days) and honestly say, "I don't completely suck," she'd probably get it. 

TRANSFORMATION


At some point in the last year and a half, something clicked. That's the simplistic way of saying it. The more complex version would included something about me seeing a bigger publishing picture. It might cover how I decided that I didn't have to be just one thing. Perhaps, the lengthier version would even mention how I discovered the key to getting my "voice" into my writing was to switch to first person POV. 

There were a billion little steps in the transition from what I thought writing--and subsequently becoming an author--was, and what it REALLY is. And I'm not even quite there yet.

Undoubtedly, the massive changes sweeping over the publishing industry have shifted my goals and expectations. Everyone is adapting on the fly these days it seems. 

When I began, I thought I wanted to know that my book was on a shelf at the local Barnes & Noble. It took me a while to figure out that what I really wanted was to know that my book was in the hands of a reader. And I cared very little about how they got it.

Initially, I was consumed with learning about the business. That seemed like the biggest obstacle in my mind. How to talk to an agent, what's attractive to publishers, could I say "shit" on my blog and still write YA ... On and on it went, and I got further and further away from what mattered. The writing.

In the beginning, I wanted to write what I thought I was SUPPOSED to write, and write it how it was SUPPOSED to be written. Now I write the only way I know how to write, and have resolved to let readers determine if I've done it correctly. 

This isn't some big FU to the establishment or conventions, btw. I have a book on craft on my bedside table in perpetuity. I draft and revise until the blood seeps from my fingers and eyes, then revise some more. I still keep up with agents, and listen when they say something is important. Entertaining readers and getting better with each story is still # 1 in my book. Lastly, I'd traditionally publish in a minute if the situation was right, AND I fiercely support independent authors. (Yes, you can say both.)

I've transformed my reality is all. And ultimately, I believe that's what being an author is truly about. Whether we're adapting our ideas to write the best story possible, or adjusting our professional aspirations and tactics to reach readers, the ability to change, to push for more, is what's going to determine our success.

What about you? Has your writing style changed? Has your career trajectory altered any from what you once thought it would be? Are you happy about it?

I think this song pretty well sums up my personal experience:




~EJW~

19 comments:

  1. In other words, you've arrived at a place where you have enough confidence to go forward no matter what. Or you can at least fake it with style!
    I certainly had no idea what I was doing and no plans to do more than one book. Yes, that has definitely changed.
    You have a goal and a dream. Don't let the details and distractions sideline you or hold you back!

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    1. Yes! Thanks for the enthusiasm, as always, Alex. Something else I never dreamed when I started all this, was just how much I would rely on the support of folks in the writing community. (Folks like you.) I've learned more from you all than any book could've hoped to teach me. And I appreciate it a great deal.

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  2. "cosmically cool" Bailey? I'll take it.

    I like this post for so many reasons, EJ, but the biggest overall reason is that it's just so honest. And because of that, it's completely relatable. I think the best mantra for every writer every day is, "I don't completely suck." That's the point I'm at and it's so much higher that where I have been that it's awesome!

    Knowing why we write is the first step to being a consistent writer, and accepting that we don't completely suck but can be better is what makes us improve. I stopped being so scared about opening a craft book and reading something that made me realize, "Oh, I've been doing it wrong for years!" I just finally read the things I needed to read and then tried it again and said, "Oh, some of these things are actually wise and worthwhile and my writing is improved! Hallelujah!"

    So thank you for writing this post, and I'm stoked about our chat on Thursday night. I'm glad to have met you in the writing realm of the Internet.

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  3. So, So, SO COOL, E.J...

    I get this. I so *get* this. In a way, I feel like your adventure mirrors mine a bit--the emotional journey, anyway... and even though I'm still up and down, I love where I'm at right now. It's still tough, but I feel like I have a good grasp on things... and I love seeing the progression I've made in the past couple years. I love your honesty---it's so... refreshing, relevant, and relatable. You. Are. Awesome.

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    1. I'm with you, Morgan. I'm happy with where I'm at. I guess I think it's exactly where I should be. Do I wish I could've been here two years ago? Sure! But I'm not sure it would've felt the same. You know? Anyway, thank you for the "awesome", I really appreciate it, especially when it comes from someone I consider to be awesome. :)

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  4. Great post and so honest. I guess now I know I have to watch out for power cords. Wonderful. Anyway, once you see some money coming in from your writing, you'll be confident. :)

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    1. You know me, TDR. The only thing I keep inside is ... well, nothing. :) Guess it's kind of my lot in life to be honest. And if I see any money from something I write I'll set some aside to buy you a drink someday when we meet up at whatever writing retreat old famous authors go to. :)

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  5. You means the writer's life isn't as glamorous as I thought? No private island and expensive car? Bother. Have to rethink my career now. Haha

    Confidence is one of those things I lack too. I can fake confident with everything except my writing. But you'll gain that confidence,and I will too. i guess we both just need to keep working at it.

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    1. You're so correct, Imogen. Confidence only comes with hard work, and probably failure. Seriously think that we build the most strength in the times when we are at our lowest. So maybe we'll be super heroes instead of writers one day? :)

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  6. Dreams are all very well, but I think it's much more fulfilling to actually be working towards them, even if things are different than how we might have thought. As long as you're enjoying the journey, that's all that matters! Realising you don't suck is one of the hardest things to do, even if other people tell you you don't. But that all just keeps us striving.

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  7. What an awesome song, EJ--literally gave me chills. Yes, writing--like any creative endeavor--implies a transformation of a kind no one will, or can, warn you about. We start out with vague assumptions, misty dreams of success, half-baked ideas of what it means to be a writer, mostly based on Hemingway legends and Hollywood. And then, whether by design or accident, we find out it's a hell of a lot more. The self-doubt comes with the job; a confident writer is a superficial writer. Only through doubting ourselves, by pushing harder--harder still--do we lift our work out of the ordinary and touch--maybe just brush up against, lightly--upon a vibrant chord that might one day fall into a reader's hands and make them go "Whoa." Congratulations on this time of upheaval, EJ. It is necessary, and never-ending :)

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  8. Your journey is so relatable. Most writers must go through similar steps - the ignorance, the insecurity, the progress, the breakthrough - or we all will eventually. Continued luck to you!

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  9. I can relate to a lot of your experience with writing. When I started, I didn't know about queries or agents or anything. It's been kind of an amazing process. But my writing is nowhere close to what I would one day like it to be.

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  10. I find your experience so relatable as well. I am still learning so much about this process, and I couldn't have been more clueless than I was when I started out. Kudos to you for getting to this place of confidence! Best of luck with your editing and I know I will be looking forward to reading your work. :)

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  11. Great post! I can so relate to your experience!

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  12. Hi EJ, thanks for this post! I really related to the following:

    "I'd declared myself to be "a writer" to my friends and family, and now my blog said so too. The clock had officially started."

    I'm at that point too. I've always wanted to do it, but now I've made it official with a blog I now have people moaning when I don't post, so I have to keep writing!

    I look forward to enduring that editing process too!

    Good luck,

    Neil.

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  13. Excellent post! I think it is tough for anyone who puts themselves out in the public eye to have all the confidence needed. But many achieve this. I think you are on the right road. I'm supporting you. Go, E.J., go, Olympic writer of the soon-future!

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“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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