Hobby vs. Occupational vs. Serious Author

Photo by J. Paxon Reyes

I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as an author.

It’s been almost eight years since I started writing my first book, and I hope I’ve come a long way. I used to think of authors simply as people who wrote books, but now I see that while that’s true, there are also many kinds of authors. Most are one of three kinds of authors (or working to become such).

There are those who work on a book once in a while, and ten or fifteen years later, they complete it. They have day jobs, various hobbies, and writing is one of them. They will probably only write one to three books in their lives.

Then there are authors who are experts in a field, and as a way of advancing that field, they write a book on the topic. They have day jobs doing the very thing they write about. They’re authors as a means of promoting their day-job. They may write multiple books, but those books will most likely all be relating to their niche.

Then there are serious, full-time authors. They are the authors who write and write and write. By the time they finish a book, they’ve got at LEAST one more underway. They may also write for magazines, newspapers, journals, or any number other places, but they write. They may participate in events, seminars, and teaching, but for the most part, writing IS their day job. They may be fiction or nonfiction authors.

I suppose there are a dozen other kinds of writers, but these seem to be the main three.

I started out as the first. I wrote my first book as something to simply pass on to posterity. As I got near the end, I decided to clean it up to make it marketable, but by the time it was finished, I discovered something interesting: I absolutely LOVE writing. I love it passionately, every bit as much as I love composing music, sometimes more so.

By the time I completed the first draft of my second book, I was fully converted to the writing life, and determined to write for a career someday.

Only recently have I realized that aiming for some etherial future career isn’t going to be enough–not really, anyway. It’s not enough to passively write and hope for the best. I’ve got to make plans, give myself deadlines, and become a serious, SERIOUS author. I may not be able to up and quit my day job, but it’s time to stop working for the future and simply BE the author I’d intended to one day become.

I’m not suggesting that one type of author is better than another. Obviously every author will have a different story, focus, and plan.

But as for myself, I choose to be the serious author.

Help. I Hate Advertising.

Those of you who know me know that I hate – HATE self promotion. I have the hardest time in the world telling people, “come buy my stuff!” Just the thought makes me want to gag. Which brings up the question, why did I go into music and writing? Well, the $4 answer is that I love to do it. I love writing, I love composing, and I’m happy to share it with those who come asking for it.

Anyway, so my publisher – remember, I’m brand new at this stuff, is asking me to be proactive and find ways to advertise my book (once it’s ready) in as many ways as possible, multiple times a day. Some of the suggestions they have include blogging, twittering, having a regularly updated website – stuff like that. I follow a lot of other authors, so I see how most of them are doing it, with tweets, giveaways, review invitations, and contests. They’re doing great at it. I’m amazed at how well they are able to promote their stuff without sounding too advertisy. But for some reason, every time I try to do it – to do ANYTHING, I want to barf my lungs up – it feels so pushy to me.

So my point in mentioning this is to ask you all – no, BEG you all – how do you all like to be advertised to? I know I have to advertise. I recognize that there’s no way around it – if I want to be a professional author (and musician), I’ve GOT to promote my stuff. So if that’s what it takes to be a professional author, (gulp) I’ll  do it. I’ll promote my blasted stuff.

So what I want to know from all of you is, how do you like to be promoted to? (badly worded question, but you know what I mean.)

I’m serious about this. I need your help. I can think of no one better to turn to for feedback and ideas than those who know me either through my blog or Facebook. I’m determined to turn my dream into a reality (sorry for the cliche, but it’s true), and whatever suggestions you can all give would be WONDERFUL!

I’m gunna be published! Like from a real publisher kind of published!

Don’t get me wrong, I still think of self-publishing as a publishing, and I have nothing against it – but I had no idea how excited I would be when I opened an Email from Cedar Fort at work that said, “We are pleased to inform you that we would like to publish your work… Congratulations!”

What?

“We are pleased to inform you that we would like to publish your work… Congratulations!”

“Holy cr**! This is for real!”

I’m almost embarrassed to say I was giddy. I would have immediately jumped up and done the Myposian Dance of Joy, but at the time I was filming a girls basketball game (no seriously, don’t laugh, that’s my job), and I didn’t want to be mistaken for one of the cheerleaders – especially since my team was losing pretty bad. So I saved the Dance of Joy till I got home.

Just to let you know, too, this isn’t the Mission book (Giraffe Tracks) I’ve talked about on this blog that I self-published already. This is a different book about dating, and since I don’t know what the protocol is for what to share about my upcoming book, I’ll leave it at that for now. So here we go! Let the games begin! I realize it’s going to be a long road ahead, and I know it’s a lot of work and time to get a book from acceptance to on the shelf, but I say BRING IT ON! I’m gunna be friggin’ published!!!

Nano: Writing a Full-size Novel in a Month

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On November 1, Jenni I were about to get ready for bed when she mentioned to me that she had a friend who was going to write a novel in a month. When I asked why he was doing it, she told me about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and how it was a group that challenged people to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I laughed, wondering what kind of goof would make such a ridiculous commitment. I love writing, but that would be way too much.

Still…

Then gears started turning in my head. “No,” I told myself, “I’m a nonfiction writer.”

Of course, I knew that wasn’t completely true. Anyone who’s been following the Synergetic Novel knows I’ve at least dabbled in the juvenile fiction genre.

Then my fingers started to itch.

“Argh…” I told myself, “but I’ve got a Christmas CD to be working on. I’ve got two other books in the works right now. Taking on another project would just back up their publication.”

But they wouldn’t be ready for publishing until next year anyway.

Then the laptop started calling my name. It was kind of creepy, actually.

So then I took a deep breath and realized that I would just have to look at the logistics of it all to convince myself that a commitment like that was impractical for my situation. First off, to get 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write about 1,500 words a day – your average high-school essay. That’s not a big deal for a couple days, and every day for a whole month? But I knew I’d need weekends off. So at five days a week, I’d have to do 2000 words a day. Then I figured I’d need Thanksgiving weekend off. Let’s just round it up to 2,500 words a day.

No way. That’s like a five page essay a DAY! Six, if it includes a bit of dialogue! On a good writing day, I could get about 1,000 words an hour – if there was no research necessary.

Then I did a Google search to see what size novel 50,000 words was. According to my research,
The Giver is about 43,000 words, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is about 77,000, and Holes is about 47,000 or so. Even Charlottes Web is only about 32,000.

It was almost time for bed – and it was a weekend. If I were to do it, I’d have to start the next day anyway. I’d sleep on it. It’s always a bad idea to make a decision after 10pm.

As I showered and got ready for bed, a plot started floating around in my head. It was one I came up with years ago, but had finally rejected because it had too little message to it – a plot with no other purpose than entertainment. I’ve always had a hard time justifying working on a major project that didn’t have some kind of benefit to mankind. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, I don’t know.

But if I only had a month to write a book, it would be hard to write it with a grand moral message anyway. To do so would be to risk bombing the novel and the message. So if I was going to bomb a story by taking only a month to write the first draft, it may as well be on a meaningless story.

I didn’t dare decide that night whether or not to participate, but if I did decide to do it, I’d use that story.

With that thought on my mind, I went to bed.

Then the tossing, turning, sleepless night started. All I could think about was the stupid challenge. It was a horrid night, but for some reason, when I woke in the morning, I felt strangely fabulous. I suppose it was because I decided to do it. I determined that after the kids went to bed that night, I would get started.

What on earth was I thinking?!

But I was going to do it.

So how was it?

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It was A BLAST!!!

I truly loved it. I had no idea that writing a novel could be so fun. I’ve decided that with fiction, marathoning is the way to go. My first night I got 3,000 words just to give myself a jump-start. Every night after that I did 3,000 words again. I took weekends and Thanksgiving weekend off, and by the end of November, I had 64,000 words. Three days later (Dec 3), I had my last chapter finished, a bunch of plot-holes filled up, and 70,000 words written. So now I have the roughdraft for The Santa Code, and in a couple weeks (it’s always good to put it down and give it some time before redrafting) I’ll begin the second draft. If I do decide to publish it, I’ll let you all know when it’s ready. I hope to have it ready and published by October, since it’s sort of about a Christmas conspiracy, so the holidays would be a good release time.

Hard work? You better believe it. The biggest challenge for me was staying awake. I usually go to bed around 10:30pm, but now I was getting ready for bed at midnight, and still having to get up at 6:30am for work. While writing, I made sure to keep snacks and a couple arcade games on hand for five-minute wake-up breaks. Remarkably, I never got bored of the work, and though I did occasionally find myself getting distracted with research for the novel, it turned out to be very helpful.

If you love writing, you’d love doing a challenge like this. If you are thinking about it, just do it. You don’t even have to wait till next November when they run the challenge again. Just start writing. If writing isn’t an interest of yours, you probably wouldn’t like it, since it requires a few hours a day writing. But if you enjoy writing, do it! You’ll love it!

NaNoWriMo is an annual thing, so you can bet I’ll be at it again in a year. Yay Nano!

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I Need a Writing/Critique Group!

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——–THANKS EVERYONE!!! YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!  We got a writing group together and we are now full.  But if you’d like, we can start some kind of system for helping other people group into writing groups.  Just let me know.  At any rate, I’m leaving the original article up anyway.———

talltab1 Hey, all you writers out there, I have a favor to ask!  I need to be in a writing/critique group, and I’m not sure where to start.  I would be happy to either join one that already exists or start a new one.

talltab1 I’m kind of out in the boonies of Sanpete, Utah, so I can’t meet in person very often.  Most correspondence would have to take place online.  I mainly write LDS nonfiction, so it would be good if it were an LDS group that can help me keep doctrine pure, but most of what I have so far is memoir type stuff anyway.
talltab1 I have done a tiny bit of fiction, but not much.
talltab1 Are you in a writing group that needs another writer?  Do you know other LDS writers that are looking for a critique group?  Please let me know!  Either comment or email me.  I know there are a lot of opportunities for writers living near the city, but it’s hard for me to get up to Salt Lake or Utah county, so your help would be appreciated!

Thanks!

– Chas

chashathaway@gmail.com