The 'So You Want to Be a Writer' Series
Part 1: Top Three Myths about the Writing Life
By Sandhya, age 28, South Carolina
Creative people are like gnats. We generally have short attention spans, we buzz around trying to do fifty things at once, and everything we see holds our interest - for a second. But when you combine that energy and sense of wonder into discipline, you can get some pretty amazing results. Harry Potter, Twilight, and True Blood? All the results of creative, slightly nutty people who sat down and got it done.
But words like "discipline" and phrases like "got it done" don't sound very creative, do they? They don't spark images of the mad genius, sitting closeted away in a room, writing page after page of brilliant fiction.
Ah, that's exactly what we're going to talk about today.
Whether you were born with that urge to write (poetry, fiction, in your journal, whatever) or you want to cultivate it, there are three common myths about the writer's life that you'll need to know. That way, when you pursue your dream, you can go in with your eyes open and your brain fully aware.
Myth #1: Writers just write.
While it's true that writing is a large part of what writers do, it's not true that all they do is write. That would be great, but unfortunately, the real world doesn't allow it. To be a truly successful writer - and by successful I mean that you make enough to buy food and clothing - you'll have to be a lot more involved in the business side of writing.
Some of the things that go into this involve marketing your books to readers, being active on social media without spamming people about your book ("Buy my book!" almost never works and just annoys everyone), and researching your demographic. Simply put, your demographic are the readers who will be most likely to read your books.
Writers also spend a huge amount of time editing and revising what they've written. The first draft of anything you write will most likely not be ready for the world to see. There will be grammatical errors to fix, and if you're like me, lots of meandering about that really doesn't add anything to the plot. Revising and editing can take months.
Myth #2: If you get a book deal, you get famous.
Did you know that most New York Times best-selling authors still don't make enough to quit their day jobs? After everyone takes a cut of your book - the publishers, distributors, and your agent - you're likely to only land a very small amount of money. Now, if you repeatedly land on the best-selling lists and build up a following of very dedicated readers (like J.K. Rowling did), that's a different story. But for most authors, writing will always just be a second job.
Myth #3: The only way to get published is to get a New York agent.
This one is, thankfully, not true. When you read this article, one in six people in America will be reading on an e-reader such as the Kindle or the Nook. That means one person out of every six people you know is buying e-books rather than paperbacks or hard covers. This number doesn't even take into account the number of people who read on tablets like the iPad or on their PCs or Smartphones.
Increasingly, authors have the choice to either self-publish their books (for more on self-publishing for cheap, stay tuned to upcoming articles in this series!) or go through the submissions process with an independent publisher or small press. A small press is someone other than the big guys like Random House or St. Martin's. Nowadays, authors are finding that self-publishing or being independent affords them more creative rights and a greater chunk of their paycheck. Not a bad deal!
The myths listed here are not meant to scare you off the path towards becoming an author. Writing is, by far, one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things I do every day. When I spend time tapping away at my keyboard, I feel connected - connected to the world I'm building, connected to my characters, and connected to the readers who will one day pick up my book or article and get something positive from it.
Don't let intimidation stop you from pursuing your dream. Almost 80% of Americans want to write a book, but only 5% ever do. This series will help you get into the 5% category. All you need is some courage, an open mind, and the willingness to put in some hard work and reap the amazing benefits!