First, the disclaimer. When I state that I am a great writer, I mean it more in the I’m-good-at-being-a-writer way versus the my-writing-is-so-great way. But it is. My writing, I mean. It is great. Just ask around.
I’ve been poking about on several social media sites where authors and/or writers tend to lurk and hawk their wares. I’ve paid considerable attention to what they post or tweet about and have come to a conclusion. I am a terrible author. There’s just no getting around it. I totally suck at the author-ness. But on the other hand, I tend to be a pretty good writer (or as I mentioned earlier – a “great” writer). Here’s how I’ve come to these conclusions.
1. I don’t take writing seriously.
It’s true and I admit it without reservation. I don’t map out every plot point in my novels. The most I do is sketch out an outline that becomes completely unusable by the fifth chapter because I have failed to adhere to said outline. I don’t tirelessly research every aspect of my story. Sometimes I glance at Wikipedia to make sure I’m not making a total fool out of myself, but that’s the extent of my dedication. I don’t worry about character development. I don’t fret about the pacing of the action and I certainly don’t sweat blood and tears to get the story down on paper.
I don’t read books about writing. (All right, honesty time. I’ve read two books about writing in my entire life. Three if you count Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, which I don’t because it was required reading. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing and Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, both of which I recommend.)
I don’t belong to a writing group. I don’t do writing exercises. I don’t go to writing workshops. I don’t even belong to a book club – though someday I would like to. The list of things I don’t do that authors do is so long and exhaustive, I’ll stop here. I bet you get the point.
2. I don’t have a set writing schedule.
I have two boys, one medium sized and one small. I’m lucky if I can get a shower in the morning without being interrupted, much less a few hours of time I can sit down and focus solely on putting pen to paper. (Yes, my first draft is still done the ol’ fashioned way.)
I write when I can. Some days I can crank out a couple of chapters, some days only a paragraph. Some days ~gasp~ I write nothing at all. To top it all off, I don’t even feel guilty when a day goes by and nothing has been written. Not even a twinge.
3. I don’t write for my target audience.
I actually do write for a target audience, but it’s not in the traditional sense. I write for myself and my best friend “George.” (Note: All names have been altered to protect the innocent – even my own.) George has been reading my stuff since I was a teenager turning out ridiculous prose to present day when my current self turns out slightly less ridiculous prose. I really want George to like my stuff. If George does, then I consider myself a success.
Oh, and I want to like my stuff. If I can set it aside for a month or two and read it again without cringing, then it’s a job well done and pats on the back all around.
I’m not even sure who my “target audience” is in the traditional sense. I suppose if I were an author, I would know that.
4. I am not dedicated to the process of “branding” myself and my work
Simply, I am not willing to do what is necessary to get my name “out there.” Heck, I’m not even sure if I’m writing for my own amusement or the amusement of others. I hope the two intersect, but if they don’t I don’t feel particularly upset about it.
If I were an author, I would blog, tweet, Facebook, and Goodreads myself into a proper branding tizzy. As it is, I hate blogging as evidenced by the fact this is my third blog post in the 9 months I’ve had this blog. I mainly use Twitter to be silly, only occasionally taking feeble stabs at marketing myself. I set up my author Facebook page but have yet to put anything on it, including my profile pic. And the only reason I even have a Goodreads account (I prefer Shelfari) is because I heard my book was on Goodreads and I wanted to see for myself.
5. I don’t have a cat.
This is perhaps the most damning reason of them all. Though it could be followed closely by I don’t like/drink coffee and I don’t really read books in the genre I’ve chosen to write.
So how, you ask with furrowed brow and incredulous glance, can I possibly consider myself a “great” writer? That’s easy. I love writing. I think it’s fun. I love thinking up stories in my head then scratching them out on paper in my less than tidy scrawl. I really get a thrill when others read what I have written and enjoy it.
I can sense you are still skeptical. Like just having me and George enjoy what I write isn’t really enough. Well, I have managed through sheer dumb luck (my favorite kind) to have had my work reviewed on two book blogs: Logical Stress and We All Make Mistakes In Books. Or maybe you’d like to see for yourself whether my claim to great writer-ship has any merit. If so, please check out The Knowledge of Good on Amazon.
Maybe someday I will make the leap from writer to author, but for now I’m just doing it for fun. When it stops being fun… well, what’s the point in doing it?
I never believed in Santa as a kid. That particular fairy tale just never seemed… plausible to me. The Tooth Fairy was also a bit of stretch. Especially when that fairy once left me a note in handwriting eerily similar to my father’s. (It had to do with payment given, but a tooth forgotten.)
Although a kindly, old elf distributing gifts around the world on Christmas Eve strained my credulity and forgetful fairies left me suspicious, I whole-heartedly believed in a different sort fantasy. I believed in magic. And considering what a skeptical little kid I was, that’s saying something.
I believed in the magic of talking animals. I believed in the magic of commonplace things like a wardrobe, a play tollbooth, or a rabbit hole having the ability to transport you to an entirely different world. I believed in the magic of a cupboard that could make toys come to life. The best part of believing in this kind of magic was the thought always lurking at the back of my head, “Maybe it’ll happen to me.”
I think that the success and longevity of some of the best-loved stories of all time strikes at the heart of what my little kid self was feeling. Magic can happen to ordinary people living ordinary lives.
Now I’m all grown up, living one of those ordinary lives. Yet, I still have that belief and longing for magic. I think a lot of grown-ups do. Adults lined up just as quick as kids (perhaps quicker because they had the driver’s licenses) for the release of each Harry Potter book. Books like Alice in Wonderland and the Phantom Tollbooth still line the shelves in stores. We adults are the ones with the money to buy these books. They’re placed at our eye-level — not at kid eye-level — for a reason.
Being a grown-up certainly has its advantages, but there are drawbacks too. The main drawback for me is just how mundane and predictable life turned out to be. Days blur. Duties and responsibilities consume my time and thoughts. It’s just so terribly… normal. A dash of magic, a touch of the unexpected is always a welcome relief. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.
It’s not just a passing fad that so many stories revolve around magic that happens in our ordinary world. I know that the best way to talk to animals, or go to another world, or learn to be a wizard is to open the pages of a book. I’m especially drawn to books that contain the possibility of “it could happen to me.”
I tell myself magical stories all the time. Keeps me sane and helps pass the time. If you’re interested in what kind of magic I create for this ordinary world, please check out my book The Knowledge of Good on Amazon. And if you’d like to read more of my musings on the magical and the mundane, please sign up for my newsletter. I promise I don’t write often and when I do, it’s short and sweet.
Every good story begins the same way. What if… a different choice had been made. What if… something was said when before there had only been silence. What if… I went this way instead of that. For when the words “what if…” enter into the context of a situation, new worlds spring up. Thoughts begin to take root that sprout more “what if’s…” Every fantastic tale, every discovery, every philosophical shift begins with what if…
What if… man could harness the force of life and craft a creature from body parts. What if… there’s gold in them thar hills. What if… all men are created equal.
So begins these tales of what if. What if… fallen angels change their minds. What if… a man becomes immortal. What if… one person thinks beyond themselves for just a moment.
Whether considering the natural world, current events, or ideas spun whole cloth from imagination, it’s always great fun to start with What If…