Everyone Wants to be an Author

Everyone Wants to be an AuthorI saw a piece of information in passing the other day, that said something like “a recent study finds majority of people in the UK would like to write a book”. I wasn’t really surprised, since the majority of people that I know also want to write a book someday.

I have friends who read, and friends who don’t. I have friends who are writers, and friends who are not. While writing is something that, I believe, is more intuitive than learned, I also believe that there is more to writing an entire book, or even a short story than most people realize.

Self-publishing has opened up a world of opportunities for those who always wanted to write a book but who either never got accepted by a publisher, or who just wanted to do it on their own. It has created possibilities for people who may have otherwise never been authors at all. And some of the books that come out of self-publishing are really well done. But some of them are not.

I think that reading and writing are two separate skillsβ€”just because you have read a lot of books doesn’t mean that you will make a good writer, and just because you are a good writer doesn’t mean that you read everything you can get your hands on. Often, the two go hand in hand, but not always.

A lot of the time, people link the two, and believe that because they read often and enjoy it, that they will be a good writer. And even if they are good at writing things like emails and letters to family, writing a book or a story is another kind of beast altogether. Creative writing is vastly different than writing a journal or a blog.

It takes more than an idea to write a good piece of fiction, because once you get into the meat of it, you find that you have to have a thesaurus stored in your brain, an active understanding of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and a love of subtlety. It can take the longest time to write a simple passage, while a more detailed one could come with ease.

Writing isn’t just about telling a story, it’s how you tell it that matters. You don’t just need to find the words that explain what’s happening, you have to find the words that make it feel real and piece them together one by one until you have a sentence that sums up exactly what you are seeing in your mind.

To me, you shouldn’t write a story because you hope it will make you famous, you should write a story because it is dying to get out of your head. You should have respect for the craft, and for those who take it seriously. You should write because it’s what you love to do and because you put an effort into understanding its nuances. You should feel pride in perfecting every last phrase and sentence, because that is what makes the piece stand out.

I have had so many calls or emails from people who have an idea for a book, who I really don’t think should publish a thing. Many have had ideas for stories that were either unoriginal, or just wanted to write a book to check it off of their buckets lists. When did writing a book become such a casual fantasy? While I applaud self-publishing for giving everyone an opportunity to go public with whatever they choose, I can also see a downside to it.

With everyone wanting to publish a book, and having the ability to do so, I worry that many stories and books that deserve recognition will never be what they could have been because the slushpile is just too big. They get pushed aside because of too many poorly written books saturating the market.

Of course, even publishers put out terrible books, and good writing is subjective. This I know. I just feel that since so many people want to be authors, the writers out there, like many of you, who really try, who live and breathe it, may get swallowed up in the ever-growing pit of less-than-stellar self-published content.

How many people do you know that want to be authors? Would you go to a publisher before self-publishing?Β 

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39 thoughts on “Everyone Wants to be an Author

  1. I wrote one and it took over a year. It was tough and I am still editing the dickens out of it. Trying my second one now as I edit the first. It is an obsession or what appears to be a work in process and the process is blurry. Writing a blog, a daily exercise in my life. Writing is in the soul and my soles hurt.

  2. I’ve encountered many people who, upon hearing that I’m a writer, automatically respond with “That’s cool. I’ve always wanted to write a book too.” Nowadays, my typical response to this is to just smile and offer some genial platitude, but once upon a time I used to reply with what I was really thinking – “So why don’t you?” It didn’t take me long to learn that the majority of these people don’t really want to write a book; they just want the perceived romanticism of being a writer. They don’t want to spend countless hours laboring over something that may or may not ever actually see the light of day, oftentimes while alienating their friends and family in the process. They don’t want to know what it is to have to force yourself to put pen to paper when it feels like an insurmountable task. They’re not consumed with the same burning need to craft a compelling story that I am. They’re simply in love with the *idea* of being a writer.

    When I first started encountering these wanna-be writers, I often felt the urge to stab them in the eye with a rusty spork. Repeatedly. But after a while I started to pity them to a degree. They’ll never experience the sense of accomplishment that I do when I write those two precious words “The End.” They’ll never know the nauseating mix of anxiety and excitement I feel every time someone buys one of my books. And most importantly, they’ll never know what it is to have a dream become a reality.

    • Yes, yes, and yes! You should have written my post today, because that’s more or less what I was trying to get across.

      There is the idea of being a writer that so many people have, and maybe it’s from movies, or from seeing authors become famous, but they never really see what is being the scenes.

      Writing can be a sloppy, frustrating, and baffling affair, it’s rarely as simple as sitting down and writing a novel. Especially one that needs no editing.

      I get the same kinds of responses when I say that I am a writer. Either they say that they always wanted to do it too, or they think that I am a poor artist. A friend of mine was at a bar awhile ago, and upon telling someone she was a writer, they responded with, “I’m a writer too! I write emails!”. Apparently they were serious.

      Cheers to you on this lovely Friday, and keep on doing what you do. πŸ™‚

  3. I think you are right to a point but I think everyone who wants to write a novel should go ahead a do it. You see it is one thing to romanticize about being an author who makes millions selling their bestseller and writing that best seller. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is one thing to start a novel, but it’s having the staying power to see it through to the end, and hold in your hand the finished item and then have to start again with the editing. As you know a novel is always finished just because you’ve written the words ‘The End’.
    Yes I agree, there is a large number of people who give up after a few rejections, and then self-publish. but what they don’t understand is that with self-publishing you have to do a lot of marketing yourself. The more one -off wannabe writers’ books fill the online booksellers shelves the more the writer has to work hard promoting their books for them to sell in any large numbers.
    The way I see it is, if I write the right book then I will get an agent, so I shall just keep focusing on my writing while waiting and see what happens next. Lucky for me I have a very supportive husband who knows as much about the publishing world as I do, so he knows nothing happens overnight.
    Good luck with your writing,

    • I agree, everyone who wants to write one should. But I think that many people don’t really know what it means, or that, as you mentioned, they will have to work hard to market that book after the fact. It’s never as simple as, “I wrote it, now I am going to be famous”.

      Few authors have been successful with their very first submission to a publisher, many have had rejections. As you said, the right book will catch the right fish. But sometimes, you might have to bait the line a few times before you get a bite.

      I really appreciate your input, and your comments. Thank you for putting so much time in to respond!

      • You see, Brittany I think the quickest way of put off the fame-driven writers( Writers who think it’s the quickest route to fame and fortune) is when they find out it is bl**dy hard work. I’m working hard at writing the right novel. So far I’ve completed two, both I thought were brilliant. That’s the problem. You may think you’ve written the next bestseller, but you’re not the best one to knows, you not the one investing your time or money into marketing and selling that book. All you want is to be paid for your work. As you know ideas are cheap. Every writer thinks they have a brilliant idea for the next bestseller, every writer thinks they are writing the next bestseller, but it’s down to the buying public to buy the book. And there lays the problem, not everyone is a reader and how many readers do you know who doesn’t write.
        Most of my friends on my Facebook page are readers, but they are also writers. The number of readers who now want to be writers is growing because of computers.
        If we were to step back in time when writers used long hand and then type up on a typewriter, the number of people wanting to become writer would drop dramatically.
        I started write my very first book before the age of computers and enjoyed it, but it was a long time after that before I was able to get my first short story published. For me I don’t think about fame & fortune, I’m on my own personal quest to get a book published for my own satisfaction. By mainstream publishers of course.

      • I agree, but I also think that self-publishing allows people to publish with less work than what they would have to go through with traditional publishing. A good editor will guide you through the pitfalls of your story and make your work better. Without one, you only have what you thought was brilliant, and for most things, one mind isn’t enough. Collaboration is a big part of writing, and without professionals, stories lack that extra few layers of effort. Not only professional editing, but also self-editing, as a publisher and even an agent will make you do it again and again.

  4. A friend of mine made me laugh a couple weeks ago. We were talking about my books, and she said, “Yeah, so-n-so and I decided we should write a book. We really love to read, and figured it would be easy. So we cracked open a bottle of wine, sat down at the computer… and realized we’re not writers.” I think many people don’t realize the sheer amount of effort that goes into writing a novel until they try it.

    I think anyone who wants to try it should try it. But just like anything else, it takes years of study, practice and dedication to produce quality works, and we should always be continuing to study and improve. It’s like any other career.

    • Hah! That’s excellent, thanks for sharing! It’s nice when people actually realize that it’s more work than just deciding to be a writer.

      Right now I have a book in the background, but have been focusing on honing my non-fiction writing skills. I have been mapping out my books for over a year now, and haven’t put anything on paper yet because it’s just not ready. I need it to stew first, because that’s my way.

      The problem may be that people don’t take it seriously as a career, since so many think that they can just pick up a pen and get to it.

      Ah well, I’d rather have people romanticize my profession than despise it I suppose!

      Thanks for your comment, I really did laugh at your story. πŸ™‚

    • I agree, Shanan no one would say ‘Hey, I’m going to be a brain surgeon and expect to operate on a patient the next day or week, so why do some people think they can sit down and write the next bestseller overnight or even within a month and make millions is beyond me. I gave myself 10 years to get something in print i.e. a short story, nonfiction article etc. To write a novel worth reading I knew would take years. I read over 250 books on ‘How to’ write to be published.
      Good luck with your writing.

  5. I’ve been writing since I was five or six, and doing it seriously since I was ten. I was twenty when I published my first book, and I’m still learning. Writing is fun and rewarding, but it is difficult, The right word, finding a description to fit a particular moment in the story. Making the characters leap off the page, bringing to life the setting, doing your research, finding a balance between adding too much or too little, and so many more things. It’s not for the casual person who just “wants” to write a book.

    If you ask someone why they haven’t tried to write a book, you’ll usually get an excuse that will show whether or not they’ll actually ever write a book. Most are of the latter sort.

    • Well said, Rami. There’s so much that goes into real writing, even short pieces like copy. But it’s hard to get that across to people.

      I used to wonder how people got paid to write (when I was very young) because I didn’t see it as a skill. I thought everyone could do it.

      Then I got published for the first time, and realized that I was wrong. It was a good moment.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter! I agree that while everyone has a story to tell, many don’t know how to tell it. It’s emotionally healthy for people to spill their guts on paper, but if you want to get published, you need to do a lot of cleaning and rinsing beforehand. I wrote five short novels back when I was 13, 14, 15 years old, but I’d never show them to the world.

    The novel I’m working on right now is the first serious one that I plan to offer to a publisher. It’s over half-way finished (woohoo!). Yet I just know it’s going to be weeks of editing before I even begin writing query letters to agents.

    Wax on, wax off.

    • Congrats! That’s excellent, I wish you well! I think a lot of people are either frightened of the editing process, or else they just forget about it entirely, but it’s really not as scary as you’d think.

      The more you edit something, the more intimately that you know it, and the more pride you place in it.

      There’s no shame is unpolished writing, but the polishing makes all the difference from being just anyone to being a writer.

  7. I feel this exact way. Whenever I mention that I’m a writer and I’m working on a book, there seems to be an incredibly high chance that the person I’m talking to will say, “Oh, me too!” followed by a high chance they’ll tell me their story which is usually something along the lines of “this book and that movie and this general story idea all woven together” except not really woven so much as mashed and poured in an alarmingly over-blinged chalice of Mary-Sue. That, or else a, “Yeah, I have a book I want to write too but I just don’t have the time.”

    On the one hand, I feel as though a lot of these former mentioned fellows I encounter really -want- to be writers, and they just haven’t spent the same amount of time writing and learning writing…but then on the other, I feel as though a lot of them want to write a book because they feel like the only prerequisite is literacy and their motivations are less because they want to be a storyteller and more because they want something else – the attention, probably. The latter mentioned fellows kind of piss me off since they always say it in this dismissive, off-hand sort of way that carries an air of “Oh, you’re a writer? I have no time for such foolishness” and demonstrates that they clearly have no idea what goes into being a writer, as if most authors “have time” to write – most authors I know of have day jobs and perhaps families.

    I always have a hard time criticizing those who want to publish and write, even when they…have no ability to do so. Because if you really want to do something, even if you have no talent, you learn how to do it and then you do it and if you have no talent, you just have more to learn first. But then there’s now self-publishing and the long road suddenly isn’t so long. And that’s where my feelings resonate with yours so completely.

    I personally want to go the agent-publisher route because with self-publishing, self-promotion is what you need more heavily than any other option and I’m just not good at that. I’d be doing well to mention it to my friends that I published a book, let alone anyone else. But I can’t just go to a publisher myself because I could see myself having a conversation such as, “Great book! Give you fifty bucks for it.” “Oh my goodness, you…you want to buy my book? Yaaaaay! Yes please!” because I’m not always a very confident person. Also I don’t know the industry super well and only have a vague idea that a novel is probably worth more than fifty dollars, probably a lot more…but…well, best to leave these things in agent hands. Not to mention how that helps a book get out of a publisher’s slush pile.

    • Yes, there’s a big difference between “I want to” and “I will”. Not everyone who says they want to write a book will actually do it, and a lot of people who are writing books won’t even actually publish either. The sad thing about the industry is that it is full of rejections, and so it takes a hardened soul to keep submitting over and over.

      I haven’t written a book yet, just shorts, and I work full-time as a marketing writer, but even when I tell people I am a writer, they have this fantasy about what I do. Perhaps it’s an issue of writing not being fully accepted as a career unless you’re famous. It’s all well and good to want to do it, but everyone thinks they can, because who can’t write in the simplest sense?

      When I do finish my book, I’ll go the publisher route first. Even though I know the inner-workings of the industry, I still expect it to be a difficult task, full of surprises. I guess those of us who are serious have just got to do our best and keep pushing for it. You’ll get there. πŸ™‚

  8. Pingback: Everyone Wants to be an Author | Build a Villain Workshop

  9. I’m currently 40k words into my first book. I have a friend who is a published full time author but I still didn’t realise how hard it is. I love writing my book. I’m writing it because I wanted to tell the story, I told my friends and family it was just a hobby and it helps me to relax (which it does most of the time). Now I have spent so much of my time and soul on it I am going to try and get it published, I might even self publish. I hope it will be a best seller and I write more books. If it isn’t it will still be my story that I loved.

  10. Pingback: Intuition or Learning? | Rami Ungar The Writer

  11. So far, when I finally reveal that I’m a writer I get one of two responses, a blank look as if the person I’m talking to doesn’t know how to respond or a sort of pitying, oh, you can’t a real job, kind of look.

    I haven’t met anyone in my local area who is aspiring to write a book. Perhaps, it’s the area where I live, I’m not sure?

    I’ve been working on my novel for about ten years and know it isn’t an easy thing to do, especially the self- editing part of writing.

    I write everyday to make the world and characters in my story as real as possible.

    I’d prefer to traditionally publish, but if that isn’t possible, then I will try to self-publish, but that decision is proving to be harder than I originally thought, but I’m determined that one day my story, the world and the characters will be read and loved as much as I have enjoyed living their story through the writing of it.

    I really enjoyed this post, thanks for writing!

    • What many people don’t realize is that there are many different types of writing. In a world that focuses on technology, content is in high demand, which is lucky for us! Self-editing is difficult, I think I might write a post about it today! Best of luck with your novel, and thanks for your kind words. πŸ™‚

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