Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So you want to be an author?

So you have a "good idea" for a book? So people keep telling you that you should write a book? So your friends LOVED your manuscript?

Until recently, I believed that everyone could be an author especially with support services like those found on Guru. Now, I'm sorry, I don't believe this any longer.

Why? Because it has recently come to my attention that some people (self-proclaimed authors) do not know their limitations and are surrounded by people who will not point them out to them. Not everyone can author a book. The End.

Now, for those of you who feel the limitations of your craft and who seek out people to increase their knowledge and refine their craft - yes, you can all be authors. If you have never read a book and failed Freshman English (the second one applies to me - it's a long story) but you have a really good idea for a book and want to pay someone to ghostwrite it for you (who is qualified) than you will make an excellent author.

You don't have to follow the "rules" to write a book, but you have to know all the rules so you know when and where to break them. I do not expect every book I read to be excellent or even good. I understand that your first novel will probably not be your favorite. But please, if you are writing a book, get objective help.

I loved The Princess Bride. That book breaks the rules. The author knew exactly when to insert a "meaningless" excerpt from his life to build tension and show how his life (or a fictionalized version) was a mess compared to the happily ever after in the book. Genius.

However, the reason I am writing this is because I have read a published book by someone who did not know how to write a book, who submitted it and published it through a publisher who knew nothing about the trade, and who made a bestseller list with reviews that were by people who either didn't finish the book or were paid.

Imagine if I gave you a book to read about a two trolls who needed to be together to save the world. They were together in the beginning of the book then one decided to leave and fight in a troll war. During the troll war he was captured by lizardmen. [Imagine an image of my family geneology is inserted here.] Ryan and his family lived in Australia with his favorite dog. One day his dog got lost and Ryan travelled down my family tree to find it. At the bottom was an inter-dimensional tear to the troll world. He went through the tear and help the troll escape, but the other troll had already come looking for the captured troll. Ryan died, but the lizard woman he married there was carrying his child. The lizardwoman and the captured troll travelled to the trolls home and met the first troll along the way. The end.

Sadly, this story that I just made up is better than the book I just read. This is why you need objective feedback. I asked my husband, who loves me dearly and thinks I am a good writer, his honest opinion of the story I wrote. His first words were "What do you mean?" After much prompting, he finally said, "It's short" (nervously). I had to tell him he would not get in trouble with me no matter what he said before he finally admitted, "It's terrible." If you think your loved ones are telling you the truth about your work, write something really awful (make it short - they are your loved ones after all) and see what they say. If they are still saying you should be an author and it's wonderful, you might want to find a new source of objectivity. Please.

It doesn't take much to be a good author. Even those without writing skills can write wonderful stories with objective, constructive criticism (or a good ghostwriter). But you have to be humble enough to ask for help from the right people.

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