Thursday, November 8, 2018

ONE WRITER'S JOURNEY @kathleenlawless

I’m writing this from a conference in Las Vegas with over 700 authors in attendance, many of whom have just hit “publish” to launch their very first book to the reading community.  I share their excitement and their thrill with some trepidation.  In most cases they have no one to tell them if their book is publishable or not. 

I am very glad I started my writing careers decades ago, when authors had to learn their craft and improve their writing skills, often for years before getting contracted by a publisher.  If Amazon had existed back then, I probably would have enthusiastically self-published my first, extremely dreadful attempt at crafting a novel. Which would not have done myself or the readers any favors.  I still have those early efforts “under the bed” so to speak, never to see the light of day.  They’re not good.  They can’t be fixed. They are unpublishable.  I consider them my apprenticeship.

I recall my first major conference back when I was young and shiny and new to the industry.  I looked up to the veteran writers whose work I followed, hanging on their every word at a workshop.  They were who I wanted to be when I grew up.

I won’t say I don’t feel old here.  I’ve seen eyes glaze over when I say I’ve been publishing for over 20 years or mention the ‘trad’ word.  I was writing before some of these new authors were born.  The youngest published author here is nine years old.   

The more seasoned successful authors here have been at it four or so years.   And guess what?  They might be the same age as my children but I’m hanging on their every word as they talk about marketing and readers groups and algorithms and exclusive versus wide.  All kinds of fun things we didn’t have before.   Are they who I want to be when I grow up? 

Not at all.  I’m glad I came up through the ranks the way I did.  I’m happy I have the writing skills to engage the readers and win them over into fans.  And most of all I’m very happy to have this opportunity to write what I want, when I want, the length and subject matter I want.  And I have my new young writer friends to help me out with the ups and downs of the indie-author journey as I reinvent myself in a brand new trope.  Something I never could have done in the old days.

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  1. We all thought our first efforts were wonderful. Thank God there were gatekeepers back in the day so we didn't humiliate ourselves. For me, I got my first book contract -- with a $5K advance-- nine years after I went to my first writers' meeting. It was four years after joining a generic group of authors and critiquing that I got the sense to join RWA, which really taught us about the publishing industry. It still does. It has just as much or more articles and workshops for the indie author as it has for the NY published one. It's a pity so many young authors spend all their time learning to market their inferior books and don't think they need to be instructed in the craft of writing.

  2. so true, Cheryl. A lot of them are coming from either fan fiction or a marketing background. No one cares about craft.

  3. I've about given up conferences. The schmoozing was always my favorite part anyway--once I got my nerve up to talk to people--and it's not as much fun (for me) as it was way back when. My friend Nan and I have said we need to have an AARP chapter of RWA with our own conference. We wouldn't learn anything (that we would remember, at least), but what fun we'd have!


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