Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Big Three Delusions every new writer has.

Don't get angry with the title. I'm writing from experience.

1. The Copyright Symbol

The © is more than a Copyright Symbol. It's the symbol of all the insecurities and neurosis in the deep dark chasm of the authorly soul.

It isn't good enough to put By Authorly Awesome when you submit to a literary journal or print out your piece to let someone read. No. It must be © Authorly Awesome to evoke fear and legality to anyone hoping to thieve thy work!

I make fun of it now, but of course I was there. I don't think I shoved the epic threat of ©, but I made sure my name was on everything I submitted, twice. And now doing bits of freelance editing here and there, every new author I've worked with has either had the © or brought up not wanting to submit anywhere not "legitimate" because the agency/publisher/contest may steal the work.

I also see this paranoia seep in with publishing short stories or blog posts, authors not wanting to put anything out for (Gasp!) free. For some reason the author feels better having a price on it, because someone won't steal the piece if they've paid for it but they will steal it if it was free. What?

All I have to say is this: Authors are far too in love with their own work to steal yours. Do some research, but don't let irrational fears keep you from submitting, publishing or blogging. Deep breath. It's okay.

2. Universal Themes

I wrote a play once that contained Furries, disability fetishists, and a transvestite. All in the same play. But I held on to the idea that it contained a UNIVERSAL THEME of belonging. I would be off-broadway within the next week with such a resounding, relatable theme. Right.

I say this, and some disagree but I will say it again. Any book is a niche book. Writing a "literary" book instead of a "genre" book does not free you from a niche, or a niche market. I prefer reading genre because I more often get what I expect. Most "literary" works I start reading quickly fall into a romance/sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre. Until your book becomes a staple like Moby Dick or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest you will not be able to market to everyone just because of a universal theme. Don't be afraid of niche or genre. When I first started writing I shirked on some pieces because "I don't want to get too niche-y." Wrong. Now I write what I want to write in the genres that certain readers want. And everyone is much happier.

3. I want it more/work harder/am not a wannabe

The first advice I got from a real-life, traditionally published author was to start with lit journals. Tune my craft, understand how to pitch to editors and build an arsenal of publication credits. I was a Freshmen in college at the time and I thanked the author but said to myself: "Pshh. I don't need to build! I'm good enough to go straight to publishing a book. Everyone else does other things then thinks they can write. I'm going to school for writing. I'm doing it right."

Once again. Wrong.

It took me five years to get that degree, seven years to write and publish my first book, and in the first year of submitting to lit journals, I only got rejections. The second year, two acceptances, and then I began to grow. And I haven't stopped growing. Sure people publish more than me, are better than me, do things I only dream of accomplishing at this stage. And yes there are people that talk incessantly and never publish, that rush the process and put out typo-ridden ebooks that they beg you to purchase daily via every social networking site they have. But I can't base my growth on what others are doing. Being a writer means a lot of hard work and no guarantees. But it's a risk you must be willing to take and you must be able to turn off the static of the bajillion and one other writers that are trying to be successful at exactly the same thing you are trying to do. Don't get angry with the writing community. Embrace it and learn, and don't let the less-than-helpful aspects distract you from your own work.

So, there you have it, my Big Three that caused me so much grief when I first thought becoming a writer was something I want to do. And right now I might not be able to see them, but in a few years I hope to write The Big Three Delusions the intermediate writer has.

'Til then, a little reality check from Mr. Wilde,

“In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.”

― Oscar Wilde

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