Busting the Myths about What it Means to be a Fiction Author
Reasons why you might care about these Myths:
1. You might want to write fiction, so you’re interested in the process/challenges.
2. You’re a patron, a reader. You want to understand and support authors (We definitely need you!).
3. You’re thrilled to see someone working as hard as you do. J
3. You’re wondering if you’d enjoy reading the books I’ve produced after all my hard work.
Reasons why I can burst Myth Bubbles:
I’m a former high school and college English teacher, spending my last 7 years in education as a high school principal. As a principal, I opened a brand new high school…I know a lot about mythbusting from that experience. After 30 years in education, a career I loved, I can surely speak to you about adversity. My decision to write suspense novels certainly wasn’t an obvious second career. I was adept at teaching students how to write essays and teachers how to design riveting lesson plans, but I chose to write fiction! Contemporary. Intricate suspense/mystery. To cap it of, I used romance to complicate my plots. A small New York Press snapped me up in 2011 and I’ve been publishing more than a book a year since then…books 9 and 10 come out this year. I’m called a hybrid, backed by a small press as well as independently publishing some books…the term for me is ‘Indie.’ I’ve employed the same editor for all my books.
10 books in, I’ve got some Myth Doozies!
Myth #1 Authors are born, not made
Nope. I’m not the kid who read at two and started writing short stories at four. I began writing fiction in 2000. In order to build skill, I took courses, went to conferences and retreats, read exhaustively about the craft, read hundreds of books in my genre, and joined clubs and loops. My author friends are golden, mentoring me regarding the craft and the career. And I kept writing, because writing is the only way to improve. Remember, I started writing in 2000, but didn’t get published until 11 years later! This is not a sprint. It is a cross country race across miles of rough terrain.
Myth #2 Stories take over an author’s brain(almost) fully formed Not for this writer! See Myth #5.
I grab my storylines from illogical and unusual places…always unplanned. Often my cover design and my blurb and loglines come early in the process, because both the cover image and my blurb center my story-writing. I sit in front of the computer and let my imagination and my fingers guide me into the story. Once I have a decent plot going and a cast of characters who interest me, I research like mad, and rewrite until my book takes on a whole new look/feel. My book club gets my completed MS next, and their suggestions make me rewrite the story another time. Now, off to my editor, a very picky woman with her own ideas about how my novel might be improved. When the commented-on text comes back to me from my editor, it undergoes yet another transformation. By me. Alone. Once she’s given me another round of feedback, I go back to heavy revising. Next come my beta readers. After that, the book goes to readers, now fully formed. Yup, it’s more like making sausage than something romantic or linear.
Myth #3 Best Selling authors have muses Forget about this concept.
Don’t believe it, adopt it, or give it credence, or you’ll hurt your career. Write every day. Do not wait for inspiration or energy or some sort of creative burst. If you take a break for anything or anyone, living or dead, to get you charged up about writing, you will not be an author. Bursts of writing are okay. Retreats where you write for hours, lubricated by wine, are fine. But never wait to write, thinking the timing will be better. Write. Every. Day. Period. Know this: Muses do not exist!
Myth #4 You have to be a follow rules Write what you want to…what thrills you…what charges you up when you think about it.
Don’t try to predict the reader market or tie your career onto the existing ‘popular’ genre. For my book, LIE CATCHERS, which takes place in Petersburg, Alaska, where hundreds of Scandinavians settled back in 1920, I decided to juxtapose that period with contemporary Petersburg. In a romantic suspense novel. First time at portraying two historical periods…first time in Petersburg. I took enormous risks with this book, and it’s one of my bestselling novels!
Myth #5 Inspiration is something an author plans for Definitely fake news.
I never know where my ideas come from or what I will do with them when they smack me in the face. For CÉZANNE’S GHOST, I watched a woman in a cowboy hat for three minutes at a French train station. She became my heroine. Inspiration for FIRE is NICE, came to me from an NPR segment about a woman who was born without fear. For some reason, I was bound to, doomed to, energized to write about a heroine who didn’t experience fear!
I have Five more Myths to go. Stay tuned next month for the Final Five!