How to be an Author

books-are-magicIt seems everyone wants to do it.  No one knows the rules.  Some say there’s money out there for the taking.  Let me tell ya the truth.

Being an author is like a job.

Yeah, it may be a fun job, but there’s still some responsibilities and deadlines that have to be met.  Sometimes, there’s even a few bits that kinda suck to do.  So, let me give you a very brief overview of what you need to consider before you press “publish” on KDP.

First, you need a story.  I’m not talking about some interaction between two smoking hot people, who you wish one of them was you.  I’m talking about a story that can be set up in a single sentence.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Mackenzie just found out she has cancer and is determined to become a survivor.
  • Since a man isn’t going to come save her, Leyli plans to become a successful gladiator so she can save herself.
  • The Heir to the throne has never been a woman before, but that won’t stop her from doing what she must to protect her country, even if she hates it.
  • The PLG may be a boy’s club, but Riley is determined to be the first woman to become a professional gamer and destroy the glass ceiling.
  • Salryc may be a beast, but that doesn’t mean she’s worse than a human, and she’ll do whatever it takes to show the world that iliri are people, too.

Now, if you’re paying close attention, you might notice that those are MY books (and that 2 of them have yet to be released…enjoy).  Naturally, I didn’t start with a one-liner.  I start with an idea, and end up with the sentence.  It doesn’t matter how you get there.  The point is that your story must start somewhere, move through obstacles of some kind, and reach a solution.  Happy, sad, good, or bad, it doesn’t matter, but you must END the story.

Next, you must pick a perspective.

lauren-dicioccio-book-art-3First person.  Third person limited.  Omniscient.  Even second person if you’re feeling a little psychotic and want to have people cuss at you.  Now, if you don’t know what these phrases mean, try Google.  Research.  Learn.  Treat yourself like an artist trying to improve the craft.

As an aside: head hopping is evil.  Do not do it.  If you try to say it’s “omniscient” perspective, then just slap your own face for the rest of us.  We’ll want to, if that manuscript ever sees the light of day.  Omniscient has no inner thoughts and relies on ONLY mannerisms and descriptions of what can be seen, heard, felt, etc.  Third person limited is what you’re thinking of, and if you switch whose head you’re inside, well, you have rules.  Yeah… Google them.

When you finish – if you do – read it again.

Cruel point here.  Many writers never have the guts to actually finish a novel.  I hear it’s hard.  Personally, I think it’s due to confusion.  They want to write a GOOD book.  Unfortunately, no one has ever done that.  Many of us write books that “aren’t bad” but they still need help to become GOOD.  The first step, though, is to write a bad one.

When that is done, read it.  Highlight the bits that bother you.  Fix the typos (now, not while you’re trying to finish).  Watch out for things like now/not or chance/change.  Spell check won’t see those.  Make things tolerable enough while you read it, looking at the details.  Did her dress change colors?  Did an extra hand appear in that sex scene?  Is her brother suddenly her father, and then turns into her cousin?  Was his hair always brown?  Thought she left on a Tuesday at 9 am, so how did she arrive on a Monday at noon?  Fix it, highlight it, make notes in red, or margins, or whatever you need to do, but read it and don’t say “I’ll go back and fix that”.  Nope, this is when you fix it.

When you’re done with all of that, read it again.

And then someone else needs to read it.

Not your mom.  Not your best friend (usually, although mine is a writer so that doesn’t really count).  You don’t want the moron down the street to read this love child you’ve created.  Nope.  This is where you pick the smartest, meanest, most cruel-hearted person you know, who might possibly do you a favor.  Beg.  Do whatever it takes, and give them a red pen with the understanding that you want their HONEST opinion.

Then, go home and cry.  You don’t have to tell us you did that, but you will.  When the work comes back, mutilated by this asshole who thinks she knows what it took to make this into a work of art, then you can beat that cum guzzling gutter snipe back into the stone ages with the research you did and how you’re sure that they are wrong.  Er.  Um.  I mean… When the critique partner gives it back, you will probably feel a bit hurt, shocked, and embarrassed at how many things slipped past.  Have another good cry, a few beers, but make sure you lock up the guns first, because killing this person is still not a good idea.  Trust me, you’ll need them (the person, not the guns) again later on.

Now, you let it cook for a while.

frog-prince-book-artIs this your first book?  Great!  Set it aside for a week.  Don’t read it.  Don’t talk to it.  Don’t fix anything.  Start another book, either writing or reading, I don’t care.  Just do not touch it, or you will ruin the process.  Think about ANYTHING else (like that family you ignored while you were writing.  Yeah, your infant just started college, hate to break it to ya, you missed a bit.)

After a week (month is better) read that stupid book you wrote again.

Because cancer/gladiators/gamers/fantasy alien monsters was a horrible idea.  It’s so last decade.  What were you thinking?  Gah, this thing sucks, but you will still read it ONE MORE TIME.  You’ll also find mistakes that made it past you, the others who have read it, and – if you’re lucky/smart – the editor.  Typos happen.  Commas always end up in the wrong place.  Read it again and you WILL find them.  If you think you can write a book, make a cover, and get rich, well, you’re wrong.

If you can handle that…

Then you might be able to become an author.  What I have outlined here is kinda the bare minimum of what it takes to write a book.  You will need to put your pride in a box somewhere and bury it, because you will not be seeing it for a long time.  There are no insta-riches.  There isn’t some easy trick to becoming a multi-millionaire.  This is art.  Yes, it takes an inherent talent, but it can be trained.  Not even Picasso started off as a brilliant artist.  He had to learn, get critiques, and try again.  We all do.

The trick is to realize that your book is not you.  It is a single grain of sand in what makes up the person who wrote it.  Yes, you may love it, but that doesn’t make it great, and if you protect it from all harm, all you will do is ruin it.  Your book will become the pampered child who everyone hates because it’s got a filthy mouth, bad manners, and a helicopter mom.  Your book needs to bleed, to laugh, and to grow up.  Without a few hard knocks, it can never become the beloved novel that is hidden in the pile of shit that was born when you first typed…

The End.

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