Still Doing It All Wrong
A long time ago, I wrote a little piece on how I didn't define myself based on what others thought an author should be. At the time, I was just commenting on the fact that authors should help one another and not look upon other authors as competition. This is something I still live by.
But ya know, there are a lot of folks (including other authors) out there who want to put us all into narrow classifications and lately, I must admit, it's been grinding my gears. So this post is a small list of authorly advice and tropes that seem to get tossed about as fact that don't really jive with my philosophy.
But I must also make it clear that I'm not writing this simply to claim some sort of special snowflake status (I need not claim what I always knew about me). The point here is that I worry about the future of Indie publishing. I worry that would-be authors see all the advice being thrown around and shy away from doing what they love because they don't fit the mold. Hopefully, my experience with being a happy oddball helps someone to realize that there is no need to narrowly define your dreams.
Here we go:
If you piss off an author they will write you into their book to kill you.
This one goes along with the whole 'authors have researched how to get away with murder' and other tropes about how our search history is evidence. Here's the thing, let me just clear the air here and tell you a fact no one wants to remember: not all authors kill off their characters. No for real. This is not a thing you have to do. In fact, I'm reluctant to kill off any of my characters and since finishing the Eyes series, I haven't really had to deal with real world weaponry or the like, so my browser history is quite tame.
As for putting a character in my book that is vaguely similar to someone who pissed me off just for the sake of killing them off? That's kind of psychotic, don't you think? I might borrow a name now and then, or even write a little in joke for folks I know, but I'm not going to exact my revenge against someone for some perceived slight by mentally murdering them.
Write everyday. Even if it's bad writing.
This is a bit of trite advice that may work for some people who are disciplined a specific way, but this isn't me. You see, I'm more of a pantser than a plotter (which is another way to narrowly define authors, but more on that later). I have a general idea of what I'm going to write about, but the story carries out the way it wants to. This makes me a slow writer. Painfully slow.
When I was a full time author, I assumed having a whole day to write would mean thousands of words daily. Yeah, no. I was just as slow, but now with slightly less focus because I didn't have a finite amount of time to work out my thoughts. Now that I'm working a somewhat physical job, I come home some nights and find I'm too drained to write anything more than a text message. So I don't write, but I also feel no guilt over that either. Write when you can and don't compare your speed to others. It's not a race.
There are only two types of authors.
Pantsers and plotters, as mentioned above, get thrown about often. But really, is there only two types of anything? Is the world divided into black and white? Do we not have shades of gray (like at least 50 of them)? Like anything else, your style is personal. You find your flow. Me? I've been at this gig longer than I'd care to admit and how I write is still something that changes depending on the story.
Writing needs not be fancy. Whether you sit down with a pen and notebook and carefully craft every scene or open up a word document and start banging out your once upon a time, you are writing.
Indie Authors are a brand. You can't expect to just write and assume success will follow.
I must admit, this one makes me a bit angry. Essentially, the idea that a creative type like an author is somehow less legitimate because they don't spend time marketing is a scam meant to bully writers into paying for services or making them meekly rethink wanting to be an author.
I admit, I do some marketing, but not much. I'm a person, not a brand, and all of my success has truly hinged on the fact that I am accessable. And while on a very basic level, it stands to reason that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, remember that success is 99% luck. If your goal is money, lots and lots of money, then by all means, brand away.
But there is 100% nothing wrong with writing for the joy of bringing a good story into existence and hoping to share that joy with others. Seeing sales is nice, but nothing will replace the absolute rush of someone telling me they enjoyed my story. That joy should not be diminished by those who see writing as more of an enterprise than an art.
An author can't survive without a website/social media platform.
This goes with branding. Obviously, I have a website. Well, technically a blog, but the whole reason I bought my domain wasn't because I needed a recognizable place for people to reach all things me. No, honestly, I bought the domain because I was super excited that such a cool name as Vampires and Robots wasn't already taken and I wanted to be one of the cool kids, dammit.
And I have social media because I'm social (kind of). I enjoy the strange conversations I find myself participating in on Twitter and Goodreads. Yes, I'll occasionally remind people that I'm an author and I'll always tell folks when I've got a free book or a sale, but that's about it.
But you know what? Not everyone is social. Some people are private. Some people don't want friends and family to know they wrote a book and keeping an anonymous internet presence can be taxing. Hell, having a not so anonymous internet presence is quite taxing as well. Yes, it's nice to follow authors whose books I've read and loved, but it's not necessary for my enjoyment.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea. We're in a strange time. Anyone can write a book and get that book in front of readers. But as independent publishing rises, so do the naysayers who think we should self-police and become the very gatekeepers we chose to circumnavigate by eschewing the traditional publishers in the first place.
If you've taken anything away from this, let it be that if you have a story to tell, tell it. And while I'm not saying to ignore every piece of advice, I am saying don't let the opinions of strangers define you. And don't feel bad if you can't relate to all those oh so relatable author memes.