Friday, July 14, 2017

What skillset is undervalued in the author’s life?

Doughnut day again! Fridays are the best! Shannon here.

Before I forget, NEXT WEEK Go Teen Writers is hosting a Word War. We're hoping it will give a boost to those of you doing Camp NaNo and will encourage all of us to write our way through the summer. I'm excited and I hope you are too. The war begins on Monday!

Now back to our . . . 


Today's question is a good one. Stephanie, Jill and I will give you our answers and I hope you'll chime in with yours in the comments section. Here goes:

What skillset is undervalued in the author's life?


Discipline. There’s this archaic idea that authors are all drunks who stumble around waiting for inspiration. And while that may happen in some circles, that has not been my experience with authors. Every author I know who consistently pumps out stories, is very disciplined about their writing. They work hard at their craft and they want to produce something of great quality. Inspiration is talked about a lot, and it’s so important. But that discipline thing? It’s undervalued.

I would have said “discipline” if Shan hadn’t already. So I’ll say business savviness. All writers (or almost all writers) get into writing because they love it, not because they’re trying to start a small business. Yet that’s what it means to be a published author. You are now a small business with a product that needs to be sold and marketed, taxes that need to be done, and various other businessy tasks. The ability to embrace being a creative and being a business owner is huge in determining a writer’s success.

I want to say “respecting your dream,” but I’m pretty sure that’s another way of saying discipline. Still, I’ll explain what I mean. When I first started writing, I thought I knew everything. I thought my half-written story was going to sell for a million dollars. I had made a lot of assumptions about what it took to write a book, so when I pitched to an agent for the first time and he rejected me, I was flabbergasted. After a good cry and several hours of honest reflection, I came to realize that I had not respected my dream of being a writer. To compare, I had respected my dream of becoming a fashion designer. I had been designing and sewing my own clothes since I was in junior high. I had studied fashion history and the lives of famous designers by reading books on their lives and watching documentaries. I had learned to draw and sew more complex things and create patterns. I went to college for fashion and graduated with a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. I worked in the industry, earning several promotions and raises. I started my own wedding gown business in which I designed and sewed a line of better wedding gowns, took my line to the Chicago Bridal Market, and had pictures of them in Bride’s Magazine. When it came to fashion, I knew my stuff.

Not so with writing. I’d written half a book and daydreamed that I was a natural and would be paid millions of dollars for a few months’ effort. Pretty sad, huh? But this is a common tale. So many people think writing a book is easy. It’s not. If you want to be a writer, respect that. Put in the time to learn about the industry and the craft of writing. Practice by writing a million words. Only then should you start worrying about selling those words.

How about you all? What skillset do you believe is undervalued in the author's (or writer's) life?

22 comments:

  1. I think the most important skill set is to have some sort of attachment to your character. Feel their emotions. Sympathize with their journey. If you don't do that, how will the reader do that? Your character has to become one of your best friends in a sense that you know everything about them. I think that's important.

    I only recently heard of the stereotype that authors are drunk all time, looking for ideas. I must say, it is an offensive stereotype.

    Back to my point, knowing your character(s) is important in order for the reader to know the characters. I think that is the base of everything. If you can feel as your characters feel, you'll see what they see and know what they know, making them more lifelike. It's hard to do, but worth it.

    God bless y'all. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Character connection can make or break a book. I've followed plotlines that were meh, but I loved the characters, so I stuck with it. I love seeing the world through someone else's eyes; it brings such a richer depth to a story.

      -Ann

      Delete
    2. Fantastic answer!!! "No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."

      Delete
    3. So true, Ivie! And I would add that being able to connect with your character is related to being able to empathize with the people around you. On that note, I think beginning writers often base characters so much on themselves that their story becomes a dumping ground for complaints and self-exaltation. I think authors need to be able to balance the amount of themselves they invest in a character with the amount of outside material in order to create an accurate but relatable and down-to-earth character for both writer and reader to enjoy.

      Delete
  2. I think an undervalued skillset is patience. Although I'm not sure that really counts as a skillset? I think it goes with discipline, however. In order to have such discipline, it's necessary for an author to have patience. There are some author's who hit it big quickly, but most of them took years to write and get published; thus, patience is necessary for a writer or an author for them not to give up if it takes many years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES! Patience is a biggie. Even if you do get a book contract, it can take a year or more to have it published, and you have to build your readership bit by bit. Writing isn't a get rich quick scheme. :p

      -Ann

      Delete
    2. It TOTALLY counts as a skillset. It's something that must be learned. And we wait so much as writers. It's the "hurry up and wait" industry and that's so true I can't emphasize it enough. It also takes a TON of patience to brainstorm a novel. Patience with yourself, with the stupid ideas that usually come before the keepers. And then once you start, it takes even more patience to actually get all the way to THE END. Fantastic answer.

      Delete
  3. Besides what's already been mentioned, I would say logic is sadly underestimated.

    Being the right brained creatives we are, its easy to stifle the left brains input. But really logic is just as important as creativity in order to keep the reader's suspension of disbelief. Otherwise stories become farfetched and/or melodramatic.

    -Ann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Good! Logic is so valuable and you're right. If we drop the ball here, no one will believe a thing we say.

      Delete
  4. Being well-rounded. (Not physically.) A lot of people, I'm finding, write without reading anything, let alone things in their genre. Or they write only poetry and never prose, or vice versa. Or they figure that since they write contemporary romance, all that part in History class about medieval battles is irrelevant and they needn't bother with it. But with ideas like that you get a focus that's too narrow, and can't see how the contemporary romance's setting fits into history, or ignores poetry's discipline of fitting a great deal of meaning into a very few well-chosen words, and ends up with sprawling manuscripts that need to be trimmed down severely.

    It's the same idea as a liberal (classical) education, I guess: being familiar with many different ways of thinking, so that even when you choose the one you like best (words, in my case), you have a balanced view of things, and are at the very least aware that other ways (such as maths) exist. Or you can take the best parts of each.

    So don't only read poetry written by, say, women in the last five years --- try the Iliad, Beowulf, the Mabinogion, the Divine Comedy. Or don't only write crime fiction --- try a literary piece, and stretch yourself by writing deep, leisurely descriptions rather than just short, chopped-off action scenes.

    https://ofdreamsandswords.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Balance is the key to so much in life.

      -Ann

      Delete
    2. I am such a fan of a classical education! My kids are going to a classical ed school and I AM IN LOVE. And you're right. It helps in so many ways. I had a chat with a gal at a conference recently who wanted my help on her manuscript. When I asked her what she liked to read, she told me she didn't read much. And that made it very simple. My advice, always, is to read. If you want your stuff to be better, read other people's stuff. We can't write well if we don't read well.

      Delete
  5. I'm probably going to go with Stephanie's answer and say business. As a business major, I find these things exciting, but I know a lot of people don't think about them until it hits them in the face. Marketing, taxes, and time management are all important details in the life of an author. Not always the most important thing, but definitely overlooked a lot of the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes. Business skills. Boo! But you're right. These skills definitely come in handy.

      Delete
  6. I think someone said this already; but patience. Most people (I think) assume that authors just belt out either incredible or not-so-incredible books in a few months or so and get them sold by big publishing houses that accept everything, and people just buy them either way. But most people do not realize that no matter what, your first draft will not come out the way you want it to. Authors realize this, but I think a lot of ordinary people may not.

    ~Mila

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True! First drafts are just starting points. Takes a lot of patience to whip them I to shape.

      Delete
  7. Thanks for the post. I thought it was interesting what Mrs. Williamson said about practicing and facing the reality of the situation. I just have one question. What is a word war and how do you do it? I guess that is technically two questions lumped into one but whatever.
    - Book Dragon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. Sometimes these are also referred to as "word sprints."

      How does it work?

      Write as much as you're able to and when you're done, leave a comment on that day's blog post about how the day went. You can share how many words you wrote, stumbling blocks, a favorite line you wrote, whatever you want!

      You can also start mini word wars in the comments section of this blog, or on the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group.

      The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we write. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the war goes on!

      How long does it last?

      This word war begins Monday and will end Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join, and you don't have to participate every day.

      Delete
  8. I think being open to criticism is the most undervalued skill set. As writers we have to be able to take constructive or nonconstructive criticism. More often than not the criticism is meant to help us, but we get offended and angry at that person. They, as a reader, are not able to "get into" the book for one reason or another. When you ask for someone's input or opinion, you have to take into account that your book might not be "up to par". But this goes both ways; you also need to be able to look at your writing and realize that is lacking in some area's. I have been in contact with author Michael Phillips, a historical fiction novelist. In his last email, he said that, "Good writing is 1% a good idea, 4% first draft, and 95% editing". As we write, we MUST be able to see our first draft as less than perfect. We are taking our own criticism. However, it is good to get opinions from people you know, because they are readers, so they will be the one's you are writing to. Michael Phillips also quoted Cathryn A Manduca, "Good writers are made not born". This goes along with patience, we cannot expect ourselves to become great writers over-night. Learning to critique our writing and taking criticism is a hard skill to learn, and when it is learned, I think many people overlook it and say that they are being too hard on themselves. No they're not, they are realizing that their writing is not perfect and that they need to continue to practice each and every day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a very good point, Rachel! Writers might reject constructive criticism because they think that they--as the author--understand better than the critic... but the point is for the reader to understand, too! I've also heard it said on this blog that it's important to get the opinions of people who understand and appreciate the goals of the specific genre you write.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Rachel!

      Delete
    2. So many good points. Learning to filter advice, taking the helpful and discarding the unhelpful, is crucial. Thank you so much for sharing!

      Delete

Home