By Doug Owen
I don’t know of any writer who doesn’t want to be famous. All of them want to be a household name and a fixture on the New York Times Best Seller list. Come on, put your hand up if you agree with me. That’s right. Wait, you in the back! Come on, put your hand up. You know you want to.
But, believe it or not, that fame and fortune can be a liability for an author. Becoming a celebrity has nothing to do with great writing. It all starts with a great person.
And being a real person is the first step to becoming great.
Do you remember Princess Diana? Her fame led to tragedy. Everyone wanted a piece of her, because they thought her charisma would rub off on them.
Acquire mana and you could sell one million books. Your talents can only take you so far; the rest is up to that superstar mana which I will explain in my next column.
The first question we have to ask is, “What does being a successful author mean?” How do you measure success? Money? Sales? Likes? Reviews? Maybe writing every day and being able to pay the bills is enough to be successful.
Or is it just having really good books, regardless of whether they sell or not?
You need to be a real person to be a real writer
There are those people out there who use formulas to write. Yes, they search out what the newest genre rave is, find the biggest upcoming book, and do a spin. This is not real. Spinning someone else’s story to be your own is faking your writing.
Use your words as your diplomats
How you present yourself makes a big difference. The bulk of online communication is written, and we must be careful in our correspondence as we do our work.
What does that mean? Well, it means being diplomatic when communicating to people who only want to piss you off. We all know the type. The ones that write nothing but derogatory statements and open-ended arguments against you. Be pleasant, but don’t get dragged into their war of words. You will lose.
Likewise, make sure everything you write is well written. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because it shows that you care about your craft. You are a serious writer, so make sure your words always communicate such.
Genre and other handcuffs
Have you ever wondered if you would get pigeonholed into a genre? Are you writing only SF or fantasy, but truly love romance? This is what every author is worried about. Just like actors, a writer can become typecast in once genre or another.
Take a look at Spider Robinson. He started writing short stories for Analog, which took place in a bar called Callahan’s. But did he let that stop him from writing mysteries? No, he branched out. Then he wrote a number of essays that ran the gamut, from the space program to airport bans on smoking.
It just goes to show you that everyone needs to stretch their chops and gain notoriety in every genre that speaks to them.
Doing what you do matters more than what you do
Spider Robinson is good at what he does. He is known in the industry as a quality human being. He would be successful at anything he chose, because of the way he approaches his work.
He is a legend, because he writes with integrity.
First he wrote short stories, then novels. He branched out from SF to mystery. Recently Spider performed audio books.
Real people want to work with him, because he is real.
Don’t consume your words. Eat and enjoy them
There are millions of words put together by thousands of authors on how to create a great piece of work. Some authors were great in their time, while others only achieved greatness after their death.
Don’t judge a book’s quality by its Amazon rating or fashion—that would be as silly as judging a person by the colour of their skin. Yet, quality is something that everyone recognizes when they come face to face with it. There is a feel to quality, a richer taste, a clearer sound, an unbelievable look, a healthier scent. Very real.
Presence is all you need to do anything really well.
‘Present’ and ‘not present’ make the difference between devouring a roadside food truck meal and a high class restaurant’s blue-plate chef’s special. Is your manuscript a microwave dinner to be tossed out to the world, or a meal served up with care to your readers? Make the choice, because it will stick with you for as long as you write.
When reading, pay attention to the ingredients used to create the prose. The subtleties of language. Indulge in the way the author is present in their words. They are real.
Taking the time to rewrite your draft is like perfecting a recipe so your guests can sit down and read what they feel is the ambrosia of language.
Nothing beats experience—Get off your ass and do it!
Nothing beats a narrative that explains something the author has first-hand experience doing. It’s great to read about something and then write about it, but to actually have done it will add such flavor that the reader will be submerged in the experience. Never flown a plane? Don’t write about it. Readers like me have, and we know what a side slip is. If you don’t know what a spin check at 5,000 feet feels like, don’t try to explain it to me.
So go out and do it! Take an intro flight at a small airport. Go to a gliding club and ask for an introductory flight. Do what is needed in order to get the experience; your writing will come alive.
Having a roadmap is the best thing you can do
Want money, sales, reviews, and everything that comes with them? You just need a PR person to show you what the social media gurus are doing. Get in shape, because once you’ve set your sites on the fads, on you’ll have to beat the competition, and there is plenty of it.
But if you want to be a real writer and focus on your writing, then you are the type of person I like being around. A real person. And if you are going to be a real person, let me remind you of Spider Robinson, once again: a real writer.
In closing, if you are going to take anything out of this at all, it is to strive for that which is good for writing. You can become famous either during your life or after, like so many other writers who have come before you.
Follow Doug at his website: http://daowen.ca/
Learn more about our writer at: Doug Owen
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