In October, my very first short story will be published in the Of Fae and Fate Anthology. I think I’m still floored. In fact, an old friend introduced me as an author the other day and my knee jerk reaction was “Me? No, no that’s not true. I’m just a writer.”
Just a writer.
Or am I really an Author now?
It’s funny because I totally bought into the idea that you’re a writer until you sign that contract, then you’re an Author. With a capital A. But now I’m here and I can’t help but wonder, is it different if you just publish a short story? Should you actually cash a check before you call yourself a "capital A" Author? What does it mean if I am an Author now? how am I supposed to act? And why do I keep referring to what I do in the terms of “just___”. Just a Mom. Just a Writer. Just an Author?
As you can see, I have a lot of learning to do, and some of it requires answers you can only get from digging deep down inside. So, let’s chat about how to decide what a title should mean, professionalism, and the relationships you make and keep along the way.
I’ve been part of Writing Through Brambles for over five years. I’ve watched members publish their first works and present multiple stories for critiquing and workshopping. I’ve cheered from the sidelines as they’ve done book signings and interviews. On writing group nights, whenever I have questions, they’re always able to give me great ideas to fix problems, and book recommendations to learn more about plot and character progression.
But even in five years, after presenting three stories, finishing one, winning NanoWrimo, and attending a bunch of conferences, I still feel like I know so little about how to be a writer that doesn’t just write when I feel like it, or who sets my work aside when life happens.
Thankfully, books, conferences, and plain old trial-and-error are great resources for learning what I need to know to take the next step in my writing career. Here are some things I’m currently studying:
How to Generate Ideas
A thought that often hangs me up when I’m writing is, “What if you can’t think of anything else to write when you’re done with this book?” It halts my progress, convincing me that even if I never finish my current work in progress, I’ll at least always have a familiar story to work with.
I’ve also noticed that all the stories I’ve thought of so far have a similar theme to them, if you strip them down to the bare bones, so in spite of having different character arcs and plot points, part of me thinks I’ve only ever had one idea in my life.
As writers, we are always chasing an upward trajectory. Higher word counts, query more agents, publish more books, earn more money... There's always another mountain to climb. That's why we attend conferences, read, and join writing groups. If we keep growing and improving, we'll finally make it to our goals where we can sit back comfortably and bask in our accomplishment. Right?
Yes. That is exactly right.
This month, I found myself feeling pretty good. I have a stable writing group that keeps me motivated, I got my first royalty check ever, and my sequel is wrapping up into a neat little package. Things are on track and the Rachel train has got momentum (woot woot!). I have to admit, a lot of this momentum comes from a year of working my tail off, but right now, I felt like I was coasting, and it felt nice.
To celebrate my comfortable place in the sun, I indulged myself and purchased a ticket to spend two days at the Storymakers conference in Provo, Utah. I have never been to a writing conference outside of LTUE, so I was excited to try something new. It's held in the same conference center as LTUE, so I expected that it wouldn't be much different than what I already knew. Nice and comfortable.
The familiar conference center was completely transformed. Instead of recognizing half of the faces around me, I only knew a handful of people. Instead of knowing exactly which panelists to follow, I was sitting in lectures by people I had never even heard of. I texted my husband...
As a published author, I want to believe I've made it and I know everything I need to succeed going forward. The truth is, there's a lot I don't know. Besides that, my definition of success keeps changing, and every time it does I realize I need to learn more to move forward in my career.
I've published two fantasy novels and two short stories in anthologies. My next goal is to self-publish an entire trilogy by the end of 2019. I aim to increase my writing income tenfold, and, as expected, that's not coming easy. Here are a few things I am striving to learn right now to reach that level of success as a writer:
How to (Intentionally) Write a Series
My first two books are technically a series, but I didn't plan them that way! When I published Woven I had no idea Bound would ever exist. Once it was published, I got the idea for the sequel. (I don't recommend that, by the way.)
Now I'm attempting to plot and write an entire trilogy before any of them are published. To be totally honest, it kind of sucks. I'm getting a perfect sense of the quote, “Writers are people for whom words come harder to than most people.”
Why would that be? Well, because we want to succeed so darn bad! As for me, I find myself acutely aware of every time my writing doesn't measure up to the incredible published books I'm reading. It makes it so much harder to write. I wish I could magically obtain the knowledge as some rite of passage for having already published, but it doesn't work that way.
What am I doing about it? I'm taking a course called “Publishing Mastermind” from USA Today Bestselling author Rebecca Mckernan, for starters. In her course, she leads you through a series of highly valuable lessons on craft, publishing, and marketing. Any author would benefit from her courses. Publishing Mastermind is the big one, but she also has several smaller courses, including “Plotting the Breakout Bestseller” and “The Secret to Series that Sell”. Most of her courses are included in the Publishing Mastermind course I mentioned.
I'm also using a tool called Plottr to get my outlines straight, as I mentioned in my post, “Hanging up Your Writing Pants”. It's turning me into a plotter, rather than a pantser, one outline at a time. They have an app now, too!
I'm also getting help from my writing group. They're learning right along with me, and their advice always seems to be just what I need, no matter the issue I'm facing.
By the time this trilogy is done, I'm determined to be a plotting, series-writing MASTER.
(The Pokemon theme song is playing in my head right now…anyone else?)
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.