Monday, 1 October 2012

AUTHOR WANTED - Apply Within

Susan discovered that being an
author was as easy as riding a bike
Many years ago when I decided to be an author, I thought it was just a matter of writing a really good story, finding a publisher and signing a few books in the local bookstore. Simple. Beyond the ability to write, I had no idea of the range of skills I would need, and I sometimes wonder if I knew then what I know now, would I have persisted?

Writing is a journey. But it's not just a journey to publication; it's a journey of self-development, fraught with ups and downs and long periods on the flat.  Apart from the obvious writerly attributes (imagination, knowledge of grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax, ability to use word processing software and the desire to blend these into a story), most of the required and desirable skills are only to be found within. And you won’t necessarily know if you’ve got them, until you need them. 

The writing process for example needs good time management and great organisation skills, especially if you also have a family and/or other job. The hours are long, often unsociable and you will be paid well below the minimum wage, and to actually get pen to paper, every day or week or month, or however long it takes to get the story out, takes commitment. Even the best story in the world has days when you feel like it’s not going anywhere, when it’s just a hard slog, and you wish you could jack it all in. 

And that’s the easy part. Once the initial phase of writing your story is complete, there will be an extended period during which you will be re-evaluating, revising and rewriting your work. You will need to be self-critical, and prepared to let go of things you love; shaping, sculpting, crafting, over and over again until your story is right. No one can tell you how long this will take. If you are not motivated by perfection you will sell yourself short.

Dennis was a patient man, 
with a quiet determination 
to succeed.
When you’ve finished, you venture onto the road to publication; patience, determination and tenacity are your key skills here. After submission, you may wait months, or more probably years, before publication. Or, if you choose the increasingly popular method of self-publication, your skills will involve technical know-how and getting to grips with different self-publishing media, project management (because books still need proof-readers, editors, cover-artists and illustrators) and you will still need all that patience, determination and tenacity because nothing happens quickly in the publishing world.

You will also need to give some time to self-promotion. A strong media presence is increasingly important via social media sites, blogging and your own website, and you will need to be confident, friendly, thick skinned and have a sense of humour whilst raising your public profile.

When your book is finally out there, you must dedicate your waking hours to publicising your book, both in person and via the wonderful world wide web. School visits, author signings and publicity stunts are all expected methods of promotion. Ditto for confidence, friendliness, etc.

Plus of course, you will already be working on your second or third book by then, so multitasking must be added to your list of skills

So, if I knew then what I know now, would I have persisted? The answer is a very big and definite POSSIBLY. Except of course, it doesn't matter. I'm enjoying my journey, I don't want it to stop, and I probably couldn't anyway. 


  1. Great post Wendy.
    Hindsight's a wonderful thing, eh? Sometimes, in my darker days of feeling that I've spent such a lot of time and energy on writing and feeling that I'm not getting anywhere, I wonder if I should be careful what I wish for. So many successful and established writers moan about the downside of writing that it makes me consider why I bother trying to chase the dream at all. And yet, like you Wendy, I do keep going because I can't imagine not writing.

    1. Thanks Helen. I so empathise with the feeling of 'not getting anywhere', but writing this last blog post has helped me realise a few inner strengths I didn't know I had - which probably, in the big scheme of things, IS getting somewhere. Maybe we should hold on to these small forward steps and rejoice a little more!

      And BTW - HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY to your wonderful blog. (Thanks for the mention :) - Here's one for you x

  2. Oh my, I need another bowl of ice cream, stat!

    1. Ooo, naughty Louise, putting the thought if ice cream in my head... I may have to indulge too :o) x

  3. Yet another great post, Wendy. For me at least, sometimes it is easy to forget what motivated me in the first place, and without frequent reminders, it would probably all seem way too hard. But do I regret it? No, not never! It's difficult, and it's draining, and it's all-consuming, but I love it.

    All the best, Kate


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