The New World of Publishing: Writer vs. Author

Just recently I had a local here in our small town who knows I am a writer walk up to me and ask me how “my book” was coming along. I get that question a great deal and have no idea how to answer it.

None. Zero. Zip. The reason I can’t answer the question is based on the problem in the question and the problem in what I know the questioner knows.

The problem with the question is obvious. It assumes I only have one book and am taking a vast amount of time writing it, making it perfect by working it over and over and over. That’s the unspoken assumption in that question. Otherwise, the person would have asked something like, “Which book are you working on now?”

If that person knew I could finish a new novel every two or three weeks if I wanted, they would be shocked and more than likely not talk to me anymore.

I also know the local friend just doesn’t understand the difference between me being a Writer and me being an Author. And honestly, most people don’t understand the difference. They think that once a book is written, the Author is done for a long time. My friend thinks it takes a very long time to write any novel. My friend thinks that books are special things, to be put up on some high pedestal and worshipped.

These assumptions my friend makes about my writing are not worth my time to try to correct in a quick social interaction. So often I just play along with the assumption by saying, “Coming along great.” That answer makes my friend happy and all is well and the topic is changed.

And since new writers come out of that same basic training as my local friend, new writers don’t understand the difference either. And they think the same things about novels when they start writing them. It takes time and training and discovery and education to get past the myths our culture puts on writing novels. Most writers, sadly, never get past the myths and thus remain authors instead of writers.

What are the Differences?

— A Writer is a person who writes.

— An Author is a person who has written.

Sounds like the same almost, doesn’t it? Nope. Those two are very, very far apart in reality and only cross in one main way: Writers are Authors as well, but Authors are seldom Writers.

For example: I am the Author of two original Men in Black novels. They took me about three weeks each to write. And I moved on and have written seventy or eighty novels since. And I am still writing all the time. But I am the AUTHOR of those two books.

If I had stopped writing new work after I finished those two novels, I would still be the Author of those two novels. But I would no longer be a Writer.

Let me put it this way:

— A Writer is always focused on the story they are writing at the moment, always focused on the story coming next to write.

— A Writer is always focused on the future.

— An Author is always focused on what they have written.

— An Author is always focused into the past.

Indie Publishing and the Author

— How an indie AUTHOR thinks:

When a person who is an Author at heart finishes their “master work” known as “their novel,” their attention turns at once to making sure all their work on “their novel” isn’t wasted.

Most of the time, even though “their novel” has been rewritten into a bland paste, they still fear it is not “good enough” and give the book to an “editor” who then makes it into even more white paste. And don’t forget all the copyediting because “their novel” must be perfect. (At this point the Author has so lost track of telling a story it’s sadly funny. “Their novel” is nothing more than pretty writing, made perfect in grammar and spelling. Story and voice and character means nothing. Only pretty writing done in what the Author thinks is a perfect manner.)

So now the Author has two choices. Send it to an agent, as is the myth, or indie publish it. Most Authors go the traditional route because of a thousand reasons, all silly, such as “My book will get more attention.”  Or, “I want the publicity team on my book because it’s special.”  Often these Authors will run into a new agent who will play into their need for perfection and have them rewrite “their novel” a number of times more, turning it from white paste to pure nothingness.

Or the Author can indie publish, but this brings on other issues such as silly needs for “editors” and “cover designers” to make sure “their book” doesn’t get hurt.

And then the big day when the book is published on Kindle. (Forget all the other places, right??? Only Kindle matters, or so the Author has heard…) Now the Author watches “their book’s” sales numbers every hour, getting discouraged when there are no sales in two hours.

And then the Author starts the promotion on Twitter and Facebook and so on and so on and so on. Promotion is now all the Author thinks about day and night, because after all this is their “master work” and “their novel” so it deserves their respect and time and promotion.

— How an indie WRITER thinks:

Story is done. Cool! Get a few friends to proof it while the Writer gets started writing the next story.

Proofing is done, Writer spends a little time learning how to do a cover and blurbs, gets the story up on all the sites, all the while working on the new project, annoyed that the last project is taking his time away from the next project.

Book is indie published quickly and Writer goes back to work on next project, finishing it and getting it proofed while he starts the next project.

And so on and so on.

Writers, besides announcing a book or publication on a web site, don’t do promotion like Authors do. They can’t, because their focus is on writing the next book and the next story. They don’t have time. Writing time is more valuable than promotion of an old book.

Writers tend to believe that their own writing is the best promotion.

A Better Distinction

So maybe a better way to define Author and Writer these indie publishing days is this:

— A Writer is a person who writes the next story.

— An Author is a person who spends their time promoting their last story.

Yet maybe yet another way of looking at these two diverse camps is this:

— A Writer gets feedback from the simple act of writing and finishing stories.

— An Author must get feedback from external sources such as reviews, sales, promotions, editors, workshops, and so on.

The Reason for All This

We are headed into 2012 right now, a year of transition for the publishing industry. Writers are going to be hit from all sides with new information and new myths and people saying, “You have to do it this way or that way.”

Actually, a Writer doesn’t have to do anything unless they want to move over to the Author side.

It’s the Authors who are making up all these rules.

All Writers need to do is write the next story and when it’s done, get it to readers and continue on writing the next story and the next and the next.

And that’s the point I am trying to get to. Each person must decide why they write.

Is it to be published and get acclaim? Then you are more than likely an Author.

If you write because you love to tell stories, love the fear and the joy and the excitement of entertaining yourself while telling stories, then you are more than likely a Writer.

This world of indie publishing has opened up vast opportunities for Writers. But it is also going to really, really divide the Authors away from the real Writers. I’m watching it happen.

But… Aren’t You Teaching a “Promotion” Workshop?

Well, sort of. When we scheduled the workshop last year, we couldn’t come up with a better name. Scott William Carter and I are teaching it and we both are Writers. In fact, we both pretty actively hate and laugh at all the people who spend all their time promoting their past books instead of writing new ones.

Both Scott and I believe completely that the next book is the best promotion for the last book.

So we are officially calling the “Promotion” workshop “The Toolkit for the Indie Writer” workshop.  This will cover a ton of things indie Writers just need to do in the process, such as web sites, cover design, tools to be more effective, writing better cover blurbs, linking, getting your books easily into bookstores, and so on.

Not a bit of it will be about how to use a social site to drive your friends crazy with your constant promotion.

And trust me, if we do it again, the word “promotion” will not be in the title.

Summary

A Writer is a person who writes.

An Author is a person who has written.

Check in with yourself and see where your focus really lies. It’s one thing to be afraid to not start the next story or novel and use “publishing” as an excuse for a short time. But if that short time turns into weeks and months and your focus is only on your sales of your published work, you are an Author.

And if you want to be an Author, that’s fine.

But just realize one thing. Authors are missing the best promotion tool there is for their old books.

Their next book.

————————————————

Copyright © 2011 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
————————————————–

This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery.  I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Thanks, Dean

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93 Responses to The New World of Publishing: Writer vs. Author

  1. Thanks for this article, Dean. Just the kick in the pants I need to make sure I’m a writer in 2012! (Can’t wait for that class, BTW. I got into this biz to write, not to promote, so I’m thrilled with the focus you and Scott share.)

  2. Frank Dellen says:

    Dean, I basically agree. But when my first novel is published (soon!), I will allow myself a week or so being an author, totally smug about having written “MY novel”.

    “… web sites, cover design, …, writing better cover blurbs, linking…”
    That IS promotion, isn’t it? I’d add sending out some review copies and generally being sociable to readers (= being nice when they send an email) and you’re done.

  3. “Writer spends a little time learning how to do a cover and blurbs, gets the story up on all the sites, all the while working on the new project, annoyed that the last project is taking his time away from the next project.”

    Damn right. This is so spot-on, it’s scary. I’m even kicking myself right now for taking the time to respond on your blog! I’m getting to the point where I resent my day job because it takes time away from my writing. I finished a novel last week that took me a year — twice as long as I planned — because I had to spend so much time starting my publishing company, getting old product up, learning how to make covers, etc. It was necessary, but it was a steep learning curve, and I resented every moment spent away from the keyboard.

    When I finished, I set the novel aside (because, seriously, it needs editing. ONE edit) to cool and picked up a novel I’d already started two years ago. I’m now 50,000 words into it and impatient to finish it because I have five more unfinished novels clamoring for my attention. I have seven short stories dancing in my head (not counting the idea that came to me last night). Who has time to design websites, covers, promotional campaigns, and all the rest? These are the moments where, in a distant corner of my brain, I wish some agent or editor or publisher WOULD come along and “take care of me” in those respects. I’d love for someone else to do the covers and promos and the tedious formatting. But I accept it as part of my responsibility. I just wish I could figure out how to set up a PayPal shopping cart on my website…

    As for the question you started out with, I have no trouble educating my friends. When they ask, “How is the book coming?” I always answer “Which one?” Just one more blow struck in the fight to correct misunderstandings about the work of a Writer.

  4. I love this very timely post. The writer camp is definitely for me and has been for the past twelve years. Last night I finished my latest manuscript, passed it on to my editor (since I don’t have time to do the crit partner thing), and immediately started plotting my next story. While it’s nice to have it out of my hands and in some else’s, I don’t agonize over getting her email with her edits. I don’t agonize over my book rankings. I don’t agonize over anyone selling 10K or 50K books. I agonize over trying to figure out where my next story starts and where it will go. That’s the way I like it.

  5. Ya know, you make it hard to read Writer’s Digest. I was given a bunch of issues as a gift and, well, I have a better understanding of how myths get codified now. It’s a little strange to be reading a feature about a “first time author” who’s been working on their ‘second book’ for most of a year. Just sayin’.

    • dwsmith says:

      Big Ed, yup, Writer’s Digest takes a lot of careful picking and searching to find real writing information. When Lawrence Block and then Nancy Kress were doing the fiction column, it was worth buying for their columns alone. But Writer’s Digest was also the main reason that from 1945 to 2008 the self-publishing aspect of this business was looked down on. They had so many scams in their pages for “vanity” presses, it was disgusting. I imagine they still do, but haven’t looked at an issue in a number of years.

  6. James A. Ritchie says:

    Dean,
    Once upon a time, long, long ago, I got sent on a couple of book tours. I hated them, and the biggest reason for my hate was that while on tour I was an author. I could not for the life of me find time to be a writer while I was an author.

    I said no to the next tour, which did not make my publisher happy, but which also did not lead to a drop in sales. I went back to being a writer, and I’ve been one ever since.

    Writers write. Authors talk about what they’ve already written. I’d rather write.

    Well, I’d rather spend a long, leisurely weekend with Reba McEntire, especially since my wife says that if Reba ever knocks on the door, and simply begs to take me away, I’m free to go, and free to come back whenever I want.

    But since Reba, for some unfathomable reason, has not yet knocked and begged, I’d rather spend my time writing something new, rather than talking about something old.

    • dwsmith says:

      James, LOL. Luckily, I have always managed to avoid tours, but my wife was forced out on one and swore to never do it again. And hasn’t. Biggest waste of a “Writer’s” time there is or ever was. But “Authors” love them for the ego. Right up to the mall signing when no one shows up. That tends to make an “Author’s” ego take notice. When that happens to a “Writer,” they just sigh in relief and say, “Thank God, I can just sit here and not talk to anyone.” (grin)

  7. Lee McAulay says:

    “when no-one shows up” – time to do some writing.
    Two years ago I volunteered to be sole steward for a niche exhibition on the weekend before Christmas. Best idea ever – I got 4,500 words done in three hours!

  8. Lyn Perry says:

    “I graduated from school. I am a Graduate.”

    We don’t go around boasting we’re graduates. That’s past success, a wonderful accomplishment for sure, but not something we continue to revel in (at least most people don’t, lol).

    graduated : graduate :: authored : author
    (I’m teaching analogies to my 6th graders)

  9. Mark says:

    Just to offer a different POV about writing, I got this “Daily Kick” email from writer David Farland (Runelords). He was writing about what he accomplished in 2011 and these stuck out:

    “Wrote the screenplay for “The Runelords” movie, taking it through 8 drafts.

    “Wrote Nightingale drafts 2-9″

    The guy is quite successful and has about 50 published novels, so he’s no slacker. Yet he’s doing multiple drafts of his work.

    • dwsmith says:

      Hey, Mark, what have you missed when I keep saying every writer is different?????? If you rewrite and have sold 50 novels, you know how to rewrite in creative voice. It’s a learned skill and Dave has learned it. However, when a writer is rewriting, making things worse, because an English teacher told them they had to, or some myth that ALL WRITERS MUST REWRITE, then it’s time to question and find the way that gets books done and selling. Many professional writers don’t rewrite, many only do one or two drafts. EVERY WRITER IS DIFFERENT.

      Sigh…How many times do I have to repeat that??????

      • dwsmith says:

        And Mark, I have sold over twice as many novels as Dave has. And I don’t rewrite. Make something of that…..

        And by the way, when I wrote scripts for Paramount and other places, I often rewrote them five or six times as well. Scripts are a different animal completely. But of course, why would that count to you?

  10. Ramon Terrell says:

    Now that’s funny! I remember going from dreading my first booksigning, (first time writer fantasizing before being published) to looking forward to doing my first signing. I remember reading an article about how authors can’t just sit and write and not be bothered, but that they must get out into the world, do signings, and interact with their readers. Now while I still wouldn’t mind interacting and have a good time with my (future) readers, I can’t imagine spending a month on a tour while trying to squeeze in time to be a writer.

  11. ari says:

    I am a nail- file waving, bon-bon eating, sweetened-wine swilling e-mail socialite. I read your blog, and then told my friend the sorts of things you were saying, and she up and wrote a book, got it illustrated, and it went live yesterday. Praying, by Jody Shine.

    And she’s just about plotzing every which way that she’s wroten a real live book.

    So, you made someone who doesn’t even know you exists, day.

  12. I just found your blog and read the last 10 or so entries. All I can say is THANK YOU!!!

  13. Do people actually rewrite these days? I mean, really *rewrite*? Start from a blank page and write the same thing (ish) from scratch?

    And, if so, why in hell would they do that???

    My novels go through 3-4 drafts before I release them. But those drafts aren’t created by rolling a clean, blank sheet into a typewriter and starting over.

    No. *Hell*, no.

    I open the document, save it with a new draft number, and then go through that “new” document making the changes that seem necessary/useful. Fix a typo here. Adjust a transition there. Maybe add some missing dialogue or stage direction. Sometimes I even take the drastic steps of rearranging paragraphs or (shudder) cutting.

    That’s what I think of when someone says they wrote “8 drafts” of something. They didn’t write the damn thing 8 times. And certainly not from scratch. At least, I hope they didn’t.

    Write something again from scratch? In this day and age?

    Who does that?

    -David

    • dwsmith says:

      David, what you are describing, starting from scratch on a story is “redrafting.” Rewriting is when you go into a document and tamper with the story. Fixing typos and mistakes is a form of rewriting and I do that. But I call it a fix draft.

      The only time I ever “redraft” meaning starting from scratch on an idea is when I feel, or my readers feel, I didn’t get the story the way I wanted it. Then I just run at it again, but I often sell the first run at it as well. That’s why I have thirty-plus sold Jukebox stories now. I keep running at the same idea.

  14. allynh says:

    dwsmith on 11 Jan 2012 at 12:22 am
    “….EVERY WRITER IS DIFFERENT.

    Sigh…How many times do I have to repeat that??????”

    Oh, that’s an easy question to answer. Not many people have taken the time to read your entire blog, including the comments.

    Place a big red button, on the right side, just above your “Dean’s Short Bio”, that says START HERE, and have it link to the first blog entry.

    Welcome
    19 March 2008
    http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=11

    Six months later, they will be all caught up. HA!

  15. Ha! This post put a smile on my face. I have one ms. that was accepted by an Indie publisher–8 months ago. People keep asking me when my book will be published. And I keep answering, “Still editing it.” I have reached the point of embarrassment. All I want to do is write. This other stuff is distracting, and…well, unpleasant. I find myself telling people–when they inquire about my writing, that I love to write; it is a blast. But everything else is zero fun. What I so enjoyed has turned into a job–and I already have a 40+ job. Thanks… I feel sort of liberated now.

  16. M T McGuire says:

    I think there is a bit of a suggestion here that it’s a bad thing to write slowly. So I’d like to set the record straight on behalf of slow writers everywhere!

    Yeh, I write slowly and I have a lot of time to spend marketing my book but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on the next one.

    Some writers are prolific – ha you lucky lucky so and so – some aren’t. Some are able to write full time, some can’t swing that right now. Some write books on as little as 40 minutes a week. Clearly they’re going to take a long time.

    I suppose my point is that while a person may be able to get to a lap top or a phone quite a lot of the time, the kind of quality time required for actually writing may be thin on the ground.

    As a stay at home parent with a 3 year old kid. I envy you beause Real Life gets in my way a lot. In your book I’m probably an author. I have one book out and some short stories. My second book is out in April. I’ve sweated blood to get the second book done in 18 months.

    I join forums and chat to people about my book, I drop postcards about it wherever I go, I slide them into similar books in bookstores (boy that’s a naughty frisson if ever there was one). I do those things because I have a lot of time when I can market my existing book but there is too much going on in room; films, kid’s tv, loud toys, a 3 year old shouting “look at me” etc to do any serious writing.

    Writing, to me, is like a crack habit. It’s a bad time in my life to try and do it right now so if I could stop or write less, I would. I’m an authorholic though, so I can’t.

    It’s all a question of interpretation I suppose but I just want to point out that slow isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes it’s all you can do.

    Before I had anything ‘out there’ I considered myself a writer. Now I have published a book I consider myself to be an author working on my next one… well, two actually.

    Bizarre, exactly the other way round. It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? The point is we write stuff.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • dwsmith says:

      M.T., I get confused. Do you mean you type slowly? Or with the family time can only find small amounts of time. But yet you find time, as you put it, to do all the promotion you described. So I am wondering what you mean by “quality time.” To me, over the years, that always shouts that the next sentence out of the person’s mouth is “I wish I could find the time.”

      To everyone: Folks, sorry, but if you are using “Quality Time” as an excuse to not write, yet still find time to promote, your focus is out of balance. A person can write on subways, in waiting rooms, while riding in the car with someone else, when kids are asleep, and so on and so on. “Quality Time” is an excuse. Thank heaven’s John Grisham didn’t believe that excuse. He wrote most of his first two novels on legal pads, sometimes sitting in a rest room to get away for a few minutes from his duties in the government or with his law firm.

      If you really want to be a writer, folks, all time is “Quality Time” and any time is writing time.

      I know, blunt, but alas, true. I had three jobs when I started writing seriously. One was owning my own bookstore. I sat my little electric typewriter up on the desk and wrote a line or two between customers talking with me. Only way I could get a story done. Thankfully no one taught me about needing “quality time.”

  17. Paul Clayton says:

    I really enjoyed this piece and found it really encouraging. I guess I’m schizophrenic about this. Do I have to put away my pipe, my silken author’s smoking jacket and get out of the wing chair? Sorry, couldn’t help it. Maybe I wasn’t sure which of the two I was. However, I can safely say that I’m always working on the next one. The one area where I differ greatly from Dean is how long I’m working on something. Three weeks to write a novel… Maybe I could do it, but not with my current situation. But, wow, that would be quite a challenge.

    Anyway, this article made me want to work harder, write faster, and that’s a good thing.

    Thank you, Sir!

  18. Jeff Ambrose says:

    @ Mark –

    I took a workshop with David Farland this past summer, and you have to know something about his rewriting method. (I’m talking about novels, not screenplays.) In each draft, he targets one thing he wants to focus. So one pass might be focusing on sharping one character’s dialogue. Another pass may be on making sure descriptions use active verbs. And so on. With each draft, he has a set goal. Nine drafts simply means he had nine or ten things he wanted to do to his story to make it better. It doesn’t mean he revised the entire thing nine times.

    In fact, I learned more about how a professional writer rewrites at that workshop than I have anywhere else. And Dean’s right — it’s not like what you learned in high school English class. It’s very different, and at the heart of it — and Dean has said this on this blog, too — is understanding story on a deep level. You can’t do the kind of rewriting that David Farland does if you don’t have that deep story understanding.

    I pretty much hate rewriting and strive to make my first draft the final draft. Yet, I’ve used some of Dave’s techniques, and for the first time ever I found rewriting enjoyable.

    That being said, I still try to do as little of it as possible.

    • dwsmith says:

      What Jeff said. And in reality, that kind of rewrite is what editors ask for. They will say in a rewrite letter (after book is purchased of course) that a character seems weak or passive in this area of the book, so with that focus, that is all you go after in that run-through. And then if the editor has a second issue, you do a second run-through with that focus only. Just as Jeff explained Dave’s method. But trust me, unless you know story as deeply as Dave or I do, you can’t do this on your own without outside direction. And even I don’t try it on my own unless outside directed by an editor I trust or a reader I trust.

  19. I had to sit down and analyze this a bit to find where I really fell in the categories. I was initially convinced that I was a writer, but then I read a bit further, and I’ve got a bit of that author in me, too.

    It’s funny how that works.

    One thing I love, though, has got to be the part about writers thinking the best promotion of their work is their work. It’s so key to who I am. I can’t wait to get the next one out there and let it do the talking. Meanwhile, I can just keep writing on more, and that’s where I want to be. Writing.

    I think the author part of me comes in with the perfectionism and wanting everything just right before publishing and wanting to know how others enjoyed what I wrote. So there is a bit of gray area, as you pointed out. Writers can be authors. I’ve got that little bit in me. I’m just glad I’m mostly a writer.

    I also enjoyed the myth part you pointed out in the beginning. I was just discussing how no one really gets being a writer yesterday (and I wish I’d come and read this then), arguing over it, even because the people I know don’t see what I have been doing as work because it wasn’t out there published yet. They don’t understand the process. It’s scary to think of writers buying into the myths, though. I almost did, thinking there had to be something wrong with the fact that I didn’t need seven years to complete something and that I didn’t have multiple drafts of things.

    I published a book written in less than a month and edited over the next year, and that did a lot for demolishing the myth for me. Still, I find myself agonizing over the editing process and wondering if any of the novels I’ve completed lately are ready for publishing.

    But, as a writer, I find myself doing that, get annoyed, and proceed to ignore it as I write on something else instead. :)

  20. Tom Simon says:

    Sir:

    Your definitions of ‘writer’ and ‘author’ hit the nail on the head exactly. In fact, while I was out running errands today, before I read this post, I was cogitating on exactly that distinction. The way I expressed it was only slightly different:

    ‘Writer’ means someone engaged in writing. ‘Author’ refers to the specific relationship between a person and a particular work. Shakespeare will always be the author of King Lear, but Shakespeare isn’t a writer anymore.

    The rest of what you say, which follows neatly from that distinction, cheered me immensely; which may not be altogether a good thing. (I’m the sort of person who regards it as a holy obligation to look gift horses in the mouth.) After all, you know what they say: ‘Great minds think alike, and fools seldom differ.’

  21. Tom Simon says:

    @David Michael:

    Do people actually rewrite these days? I mean, really *rewrite*? Start from a blank page and write the same thing (ish) from scratch?
    And, if so, why in hell would they do that???

    I’m known to do it on occasion. If I have a scene or a chapter that isn’t quite working, I may simply torch the whole thing and rewrite from memory. Then I find that my mind retains only the bits that drive the plot and make that part of the story interesting and memorable. The rest of the stuff I wrote (which is always, always the source of the problem) simply doesn’t come back. My fingers are smarter than I am, and don’t want to waste their lives typing that stuff twice.

    I learnt to do this back in the Lower Cretaceous, when computers were single-tasking monstrosities with these flaky things called floppy drives. It was all too easy to lose half a day’s work because the damn fool machine didn’t save when you thought it did, or — worse yet — crashed while saving, wiping out the whole disk as it went. On such occasions I would curse the computer with the curse of Ernulphus, and go back to work in a blue-hot fury until I had restored the missing section from memory. It always resulted in a punchier and more readable draft.

    I don’t recommend doing that routinely, but it’s a handy tool to have in one’s kit.

  22. A couple of thoughts:

    Quality Time: I read MT’s situation as more of a “life roll.” There are times in your life that you set aside writing to do something else. And you may cling to writing in spare moments as a mind-saver — but that’s for you, not for the writing. When you don’t have time to devote to your writing, your writing is on hiatus.

    It’s not the quality time with the kid which is the excuse here… it’s the promo and online stuff. If you have limited time, Kid comes first, writing comes second, and because both of those deserve your attention, promo and social stuff gets nothing. UNLESS that is also a sanity thing. Then again, it’s for you and not for your book. It’s like playing a computer game.

    The other thing MT might have been saying, but I wasn’t sure… sometimes a writer wants to be a hobbyist and has not interest in writing more, even if the “excuses” were out of the way. And that’s fine. You’ve just got to recognize that blogs like this are not aimed at you.

    Redrafting: I’m going through a stack of stories which were interrupted by life rolls a long time ago, and some of them may be better off redrafted from scratch, but I’m finding that with most of them, the first few chapters really set up what I want to do, so I don’t redraft… I re-TYPE them, from scratch, to reacquaint myself with the voice of the story.

    I find this to be much better than trying to intellectually recapture the plot or anything like that. Oddly enough, the original story I’m doing now was supposed to be a novella, and I’m expanding it. When I think logically of the plot, I move too fast. By stopping and retyping what I’ve got — on a shorter story — I find myself getting into the slower pace of the characters.

    You never know what is going to work for a particular story.

    • dwsmith says:

      I have no problem at all if a writer wants to walk a different path. Hobbyist writers are wonderful and some of my best friends are fantastic writers and only do it as a hobby, with no intention of ever making a living with their work. That’s wonderful. And another track is the literary track, with only a few publications, being an author, and making a living teaching in Creative Writing programs, training other authors to be teachers. Nothing at all wrong with those tracks and other ways of doing this.

      But Camille is correct. This blog is aimed solidly at commercial fiction writers who want to make a living at their writing.

      Every writer is different and I love that, actually. No one walks the same path. My aim here is to just help along the commercial fiction writer is all.

      Thanks, Camille. I have to repeat that regularly, of that I have no doubt, and it had been some time since I had said it.

  23. Cindie says:

    I took a workshop from Dean and Kris a few years back (Master Class). I think I psychologically bristled at every piece of advice they had. But I had won a fellowship and a grant in my state and had used the money and taken off work to take this Master Class and improve my writing, so, dammit, I was going to stay open to everything — even when I was sure I knew better.

    I learned to bristle and let it go.

    I also learned that when I bristle, I’m probably hearing something I need to hear — and change. When I hear bad advice, I just ignore it. I don’t bristle and feel the urge to justify what I’m doing.

    But I still didn’t buy into several of their ideas. The one I doubted the most was being able to write well without a ton of rewriting. Well, I was wrong. The workshop absolutely proved that my writing was better when I didn’t do a lot of rewriting.

    I also knew I couldn’t write as fast as they said. I didn’t even think I could type that fast. But the workshop proved to me that I could. Easily, in fact.

    And of course, I couldn’t make any more time than I was already making (virtually none). Go figure, I learned I could make the time if I chose, that I could have an incredibly busy life and still be producing new writing on a regular basis. While knowing this hasn’t led to doing it (regularly), I know that’s all my fault.

    Now I know that if Kris or Dean say something that puts my back up, it’s dead-on.

    So for the people who doubt the advice: Try it.

  24. Honestly? I don’t give a damn what they call me as long as I can make a living doing it. Pen-whore? Bring it on. I write, I have written, I am an author. I am a writer. (But not I author).
    I wrote for 20 years or more without feeling the need to send my work to publishes. But when my life changed, I did and I was fortunate enough to find publishers. Same stuff. Same dedication. Same writing. Same person, come to that.

  25. Sotirios Fox says:

    Wait, was Scott Pinzon’s comment removed? Or am I just commenting on the wrong post?

    In either case, now I feel kinda silly. Ah well. I guess this comment can be removed as well, in that case. Allons-y!

    • dwsmith says:

      Yup, I removed Scott’s post and my two responses to it. I just decided there was no point in walking that path again into the myths. I’ve dealt with them before. But thanks for the great comment Sotirios. Appreciated. Just sorry I couldn’t let it through. But I liked it. (grin)

  26. Great reading. I am BOTH a writer and an author! Thanks! Tweeted your article.

  27. Frank Coles says:

    Hmm, when I became an author three years ago, it killed the writing career I’d had for nearly two decades before that (even though I hadn’t realised that’s what it was the first ten years).

    Anyhoo, I’ve taken back my site from my former publisher and have rebranded myself as a word-pimp on my new site (will launch end of week).

    Back in the days of my money-making-writing the subject line of my intro emails to new clients was always ‘pimping one’s arse’. Clients always got the point and liked it.

    After two sub-5k offers from publishers in the last two weeks, screw that, I’m going back to being a writer and making some coin, living mad adventures and being proud of what I do instead of feeling like a fraud. I may even write pro-bono now and again because you know what my old maxim was ‘write every day’.

    Just write. Nuff said.

  28. Julie Kolb says:

    Enjoyed this at 2 am when questioning my sanity, and the daring ego that uttered the words, ‘I am a writer’. What kind of fool am I to make such a statement? I am a bad writer, and I am ok with that. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  29. Dennis B. Boyer says:

    This is great. I was wondering what I should label my new facebook page as – author or writer?

    This article nails it for me.

    I have three self-published works.

    I have four current works-in-progress.

    I am a writer.

    Thanks, DWS.

  30. Jules Taylor says:

    Well Dean, I’m stumbling on this post a year after the fact, but I’ve got to say finding it is really timely for me. I love to read young adult paranormal romance books and have been secretly writing for years now. It’s sort of been a “vice” for me, because as a graduate student studying “capital L literature,” I was surrounded by people who completely looked down on it and were stuck up and proud of their literary works that were “really published,” even if they were only published for a run of 100 and will probably have no more than 150 people ever see or read them.

    I ended up leaving that graduate program and am getting ready to indie publish my first novel. I don’t plan to stop there and see myself writing what I love and putting them out on my own terms while I teach high school English to pay the bills. Your post was really inspiring. I’ll be following your blog from now on.

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