Monday, February 6, 2012

Writers vs. Authors (or "Wise Words From a Wise Man")

[Note: Long-time readers may have noticed that I took down the ads on the blog. I did this because a lot of them have been of the "Want to write a book? Start here!" variety, most of which are probably scams that seek to part aspiring writers from what little money they have already. I'd like to get them back up at some point, if I can figure out how to keep these from popping up. If anyone knows Adsense and can help, I'd much appreciate it. Thanks! -D.J.]

Since the end of the football season, I've endeavored to take this full-time fiction-writing seriously. Part of that is following a number of writerly blogs out there to get advice on the profession and business of this whole thing.

One thing that I've learned by going through a number of these blogs? Dean Wesley Smith is a pretty smart guy.

I say that without a hint of wise-assery (and I say THAT without a hint of wise-assery...and THAT without--you get the picture).

"Who the Hell is Dean Wesley Smith?" He's a very prolific fiction-writer, who, along with his wife, Kris, is good enough to make a pretty good living at the craft. He also has an excellent blog that is dedicated, at least in significant part, to dispelling a lot of popular myths about being a fiction-writer.

One of his central ideas is that there's a fairly wide chasm between what he calls "authors" and "writers."  Authors work meticulously on one book, then tweak it with edits or rip its still-beating heart out with rewrites, and then spend most of their time promoting "their book." Every book they write is "special" (at least in their minds), and needs a lot of time and attention to do well.

Writers, on the other hand, write. They write work after work, story after story, and when they're done writing, they write some more. Each story is exactly that; a story. Some are good and some are bad.

As you write more, it just so happens that the "good" ones start coming a lot closer together, and the bad ones become fewer and farther between. Instead of promoting, especially in the new world of indie publishing, it's far better to write to not only improve your craft, but also to get more stuff out there. Writers are notoriously bad judges of their own products, so why not just get it out there and let the market decide?

When I first read his blog, I was struck by how much sense he made. It explained why writers like Stephen King come out with books so frequently, while so many other "authors" are left tooling around on their keyboards for 500 words a day or so at Starbucks, wondering why no one has recognized their genius as of yet.

But more than that, it hits at a central idea that I even used to harp about on this blog back in the day; the idea of not letting fear control your life. Too many "authors" are paralyzed by fear; fear that their book isn't any good, or that, even if it is, then the next one surely won't be.

Dean is all about getting over that fear of rejection, sending your stuff out, and meanwhile, "What the hell--why not write another story?"

It's so refreshing compared to a lot of the walking-on-eggshells, corporate-minded, "afraid-to-be-fired" attitude that's so damned pervasive nowadays, and so utterly simple in its elegance.

Write. Send it out. Write some more.

Another reason why I buy into it so readily is that I had to do the same thing during the football season. Every day was a new article, six days a week. There was no "I'm afraid people won't like it so I won't put it up today!"--I'm sure Tim would have really enjoyed it if I did that. It simply wasn't an option.

That doesn't mean that I didn't have those thoughts and doubts; I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't worried about the reception that some of my columns would get, but that didn't change that I had to get a column done daily, and drown out that voice with a good amount of bourbon courage sometimes to just write something and put it up.

I'll get back to that schedule eventually, I'm sure, but right now, I'm having too much fun writing this book. It's really starting to take shape now, and I'm excited by the progress.

But whereas before I may have just finished it up, then agonized over proofreading it line-by-line before sending it out to agents, and beginning the long process of going the traditional route, now I'll make my edits, have a few friends read it over, and put it up on Amazon (and iBooks, and Smashwords, and every other means of consumption I can think of). Though I want it to do well, and be a good read, it's not "my precious baby;" there will be (I hope) plenty of other books to write, plenty of other stories for me to commit to...uh...pixels and magnetic tape.  I already have two more projects that I'm "writing" mentally as I work on my book, and countless other ideas down in my notebook. 

Write. Send it out. Write some more.

So simple.

So wise.

Thanks Dean!

Days (spent working): 21
Words: 53,084
Pages: 183

D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for, and is an aspiring author.  Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here).  E-mail him at  You can also listen to his podcast (Bottle and Cans) here.

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