Steps Toward Becoming a Writer

Are there discrete steps or stages between non-writer and writer? Do all writers tread the same path?

I got thinking about that after reading Ani Chibukhchyan’s guest post on thewritepractice.com. She claimed to have passed through seven stages in becoming a writer, and guessed all writers climbed the same set of stairs.

Her stages were: Keeping your writing to yourself, Wanting to share your writing, Hiding behind a pen name, Waiting for permission, Coming out, Insecure introductions, and I am a writer.

With due respect to Ms. Chibukhchyan, the steps I went through don’t entirely match hers, though there is some overlap. Moreover, I suspect there are considerable differences in the stages among all writers. Here are the steps I took:

Step 1. My novel will be a best-seller.

I had the world’s best idea for a novel. Sure, I’d never written anything for publication before, but how hard could it be? After all, getting a killer idea was the most important and difficult part, right?

Step 2. Writing is harder than I thought.

It turned out, having a “killer” idea was not the most difficult part. Not even close. My prose was so bad, even I couldn’t stand the stench. I needed help. I went to writer’s conferences, read how-to books about writing, joined critique groups, and took writing classes. Good! Now I was on my way.

Step 3. When will this %&@!^# novel ever be done?

Novels, it seemed increasingly clear, are long. Reading a novel took some time, but nowhere close to the time it took to write one. Who knew? I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote some more. Before I knew it, twenty years had passed. That’s no typo; I meant twenty (20) years.

Step 4. Should I try short stories instead?

At some point in those two decades, I wondered if I should try something else. Short stories might not be any easier, but they were…well, shorter. Perhaps I could get a few shorts published, establish a vast readership that way, and they’d be clamoring for me to write a novel.

Step 5. Do I dare submit this?

I was done with my first short story, and my finger hovered over the Enter key, the button that would submit the story to a market. Was it ready? Was it my best work? Should I spend a little more time editing? Had I caught all the errors?

Step 6. Drowning in rejections.

After overcoming the fear of submitting, and after embracing Robert Heinlein’s Rules, I submitted story after story to market after market. At one point, I had fourteen stories out there. Problem is, I was getting nothing but rejections. All nicely worded, but still. Dejection set in, along with the feeling that I just wasn’t cut out to be a writer. Until…

Step 7. Wow! I got accepted!

There’s nothing like that first acceptance. If only someone could bottle and sell that feeling. First comes the acceptance e-mail, then the contract, then some edits to fix, and then seeing the book come out, with your name in it! I’ve had over thirty more acceptances since then, but still get excited with each one.

Step 8. I’m a writer.

Well, I’m a short story writer, anyway. No novel yet. No movie deals. No legions of adoring fans (that I know of). Still, I’m several steps above where I started. It feels good up here.

More steps remain for me, I’m sure. I’ll update my stair-stepping journey in a future blog post. What have your steps been like? I can almost guarantee the steps for you will be different than they were for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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23 Ways to Celebrate World Book Day

Time once again to celebrate World Book Day. What’s with the blank look? Did the holiday sneak up on you this year? Wait—you say you’ve never even heard of World Book Day? Well, this is the right blog post for you.

According to Wikipedia, World Book Day (WBD) was “organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to promote reading, publishing and copyright.”

Now that you know that, let the celebrations begin!

Um…you don’t know how to celebrate WBD? Okay, let us count the ways:

  1. Buy a book. Ever the helpful blogger, I’ve included a suggested list in the right column of my website.
  2. Give a book as a gift to someone else. New of course, unless you make it clear the book is used.
  3. Peruse a bookstore. Best to carve out the whole day.
  4. Visit a library. Again, you can get lost there, so allow time.
  5. Get a library card. Mine gets more use than my credit cards.
  6. Help a child get a library card. Open up endless new worlds for the kiddo.
  7. Buy an ebook reader. A lot lighter to carry than hundreds of hardbacks.
  8. Bake a book-shaped cake. You’ve heard of devouring books. Do it literally!
  9. Sing a traditional WBD song. What? There are no songs for this holiday? Then…
  10. Compose a song for WBD. There’s definitely a need there.
  11. Create a dance for the WBD song. Start the tradition of dancing around a bookshelf.
  12. Dress up as a book character. Pick your favorite. Spend the day talking and acting like that character.
  13. Tour a book printing factory. It there’s a book printer near you, it would be fascinating to learn how they make the darn things.
  14. Buy or build a bookshelf. Fill it with books.
  15. Write a book review. Post it on Goodreads, Amazon, BN.com, etc.
  16. Email an author. They all love to hear from fans. Hint: pick a living author.
  17. Set a reading goal. How many books do you think you can read between now and the next WBD?
  18. Attend a WBD Festival. There’s one in Kensington, Maryland. If that’s too far away, then…
  19. Plan a WBD Festival in your town. It will breathe life into the place.
  20. Commit to reading the classics. Hate it when your friends quote some classic, and you don’t get the reference? You either admit ignorance or pretend you know it.
  21. Write a book. You’ve been wanting to. I’ve seen your bucket list. You can’t finish what you don’t start.
  22. Answer David Filby’s three-book question. See below. *
  23. Read a book. Escape all TV, radio, and video games. Make it just you, your favorite drink, and your book.

* Near the end of the 1960 movie, “The Time Machine,” David Filby finds that George has left in the time machine.
David Filby: “He’s gone back to the future, to begin a new world. But it’s not like George to go off without a plan. He must have taken something with him. Is anything missing?”
Mrs. Watchett (George’s housekeeper): “Nothing…[sees blank space on bookshelf]…except three books.”
Filby: “Which three?”
Mrs. Watchett: “I don’t know… is it important?”
Filby: “Oh, I suppose not. Only, which three books would you have taken?”

 

I hope World Book Day will be as enjoyable for you as it will be for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Writer, Know Thyself

How well do you know yourself? I came across a wonderful post on this topic by Joanna Penn, guest-posting on WritetoDone. I’d like to take her basic idea in a different direction.

As Joanna said, the phrase “Know Thyself” has an ancient lineage, going back at least to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece, but possibly further back to ancient Egypt. It has various interpretations, but for today, I’ll take it to mean that wisdom begins by looking inside.

If you aim to be a writer, able to write convincing tales about characters who are unlike yourself, you must first understand the person from whom these characters will spring.

Why? It’s the filters.

Let me explain. So far in life, you’ve observed the real world and many people for several years. In your mind, you have a model of that world and those people, but it’s not a perfect model. It doesn’t match the real world exactly.

Every sensation of the world has to pass through a filter in your mind, a filter you built over time based on your experiences. It consists of your stereotypes, biases, personality, political views, gender, education, occupation, etc. The filter through which you see the world is your unique perspective based on who you really are, and it is distorting the view you see.

If you write a book, you’re writing through that filter about a world you see and characters you see. Once published, the book is out there, part of the real world for readers to enjoy. When a reader reads your book, she understands and interprets it through her own mental filter.

It’s possible that, despite all this filtering, many readers will enjoy your book and you’ll earn lots of money. If so, it will be in part because your words reached through the filters and entertained readers.

It’s wise, therefore, to take an introspective look at your own filter, to study it with as much objectivity as you can. Who is this person who wants to be a writer, who would write words describing people and who would comment on the human condition? In short, who are you?

Joanna Penn’s blog post makes some great observations about attributes that most writers have in common. But I think it’s just as important for you to understand the specific attributes unique to you.

How do you do that? You could take a few days off, get away from the world as best you can, and write down what you know about yourself. You could take a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Five Factor Model, or some other measure.

If you do this, I’m certain you’ll find many of the attributes Joanna Penn listed will be true for you (a loner seeking recognition; one who’s scared, doubtful, and creative; one who believes in finishing projects and striving to improve; one who knows the dark side of life).

You’ll find out much more than that, things that make you feel proud to be you and things you wish weren’t true. You will see facets of yourself that are average and facets that are far from the norm.

This project of learning about yourself can benefit you and your writing in several ways:

  • You may find things about yourself you’d like to improve;
  • You’ll know about those parts of you that are unusual, and realize that connecting with readers may take an extra effort;
  • You’ll understand that your characters have personality filters too, and by writing about the world of your story as well as the thoughts of a character, you are revealing something about that character’s filters.

Good luck! And now, excuse me, it’s time for me to get to know—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Should Your Book be an Audiobook?

What’s the deal with audiobooks? The market for them seems to be rising, with improvements in delivery technology, reductions in price, and increases in reader’s demands to enjoy books while multitasking. Today’s question: are audiobooks a good thing for authors, like you?

From the Reader’s Perspective

There’s something different about listening to a story, isn’t there? Something olden, even ancient. People told stories verbally for millennia before developing writing. When Edison invented the phonograph, he thought its primary use would be for books, not music. President Franklin Roosevelt understood the power of the spoken voice as he radioed his fireside chats.

Printed words are sterile by comparison. They sit there on the screen or page until your mind gives them substance. But the narrator of an audiobook breathes life, drama, tension, humor, horror, etc. into those same words. A good narrator gives the characters different and distinct voices that help conjure a picture of each one.

In addition to the difference in the audio reading experience, readers can multitask while listening, in ways they can’t do with print books. They can read while driving, showering, cooking, exercising, gardening, or performing similar tasks.

From the Author’s Perspective

We can see why readers might like audiobooks, but what’s in it for authors? Creating an audiobook is a more labor-intensive process than creating ebooks or print books, making it both slower and more expensive.

The process goes like this. You submit your novel to an audiobook publisher. If they accept, you wait for interested narrators to send you audition tapes. If you don’t like any of them, you start over and resubmit your manuscript again. Once you choose a narrator and arrange payment (see Costs below), send the narrator a pronunciation guide to your story including character names and descriptions of character voices. Listen to the chapters as the narrator sends you each recorded tape in turn. If there are mistakes, send have the narrator that chapter. (Perhaps you forgot to send that pronunciation guide.)

Note: it will likely sound strange to have your words read to you by someone else. The narrator will emphasize different parts of your sentences, give characters different sounding voices than you imagined, etc. You’ll need to get past that.

Costs

Did I mention audiobooks are expensive? First, you pay the audiobook publisher. Then you pay the narrator. The best narrators can demand payment up front. A narrator may instead offer you a 50-50 split of the remaining royalties (after the publishing company’s slice). Some narrators charge an hourly fee, calculated based on finished recording hours; you’ll only pay of the duration of the completed recording, not for the narrator’s mistakes.

Audiobook Industry Outlook

At present, there’s strong competition among audiobook publishers, and many from which you can choose, including Audible, Inc.; Beacon Audiobooks; Blackstone Audio; Caedmon Audio; Deyan Audio; and Recorded Books. You can also record your own book very inexpensively at home. Some books are being produced solely in audiobook form, without a print version being published.

There are numerous devices for listening to audiobooks now, including cell phones; desktop and laptop computers; compact disk players; MP3 players; and intelligent personal assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Cortana, Siri, and Google Home.

With retirement of the baby boomer generation, many expect the audiobook market to continue to grow.

 

Should you have your novel, or short story collection, published as an audiobook? Perhaps you can now make that decision yourself, thanks to the information provided by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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