Nobody teaches you how to be an author. This was something I learned twenty years ago when I took a creative writing class in college and had my little short romantic story about two teenagers sharing a phosphate and opinions on women’s suffrage lambasted as “genre.” Honestly, I was baffled. “Genre” was what I was aiming for. “Genre” was what I devoured when I wasn’t forced to read “the classics” (side note: many of those classics I enjoy now–it’s just a lot different to read ’em for a grade than for pleasure). “Genre” was where my superstars were. Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Laurie McBain. A rising star named Nora who wrote the most charming Silhouettes. But when it came to someone teaching me how to be like these titans of genre…i might as well have been asking them to teach me what purple smells like. Writing was at the opposite end of the spectrum from “crass commercialism,” and I was at the wrong end of the rainbow.
Like most writers, I ended up having to learn on the job, so to speak. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been working at this forever. In any other profession, if you haven’t “made it” in ten years, unless you’re crazy, you find something you’re better at. In writing, ten years nets you enough XP to make it out of Level 0 to apprentice stage. Writing is one of those crafts that’s a long game. You spend years honing your craft, and years stomping around in the bush leagues while you not only learn craft skills, but you explore facets of the art in ways that only experience can teach. And yes, you can spend years learning up a skill tree that essentially leaves you in a vertical silo with as little knowledge about the other branches of the skill tree as a layman who’s never rubbed two thoughts together about wanting to be a writer.
Put that long-arc trajectory up against internet time, lightning-strike phenomenon, and celebrity, and you can almost hear the aneurysms. It’s not that hard for a writer to lose heart or worse, make bad decisions about publishing too early or in a stream that’s not the right choice. But even those mistakes, in the long arc of the writer’s journey towards mastercraft, become learning experiences. In any other profession, sticking around for nearly twenty makes you an industry joke. The intersection of crazy and pitiable. Fortunately for some of us who are as stubborn as we are demented, in writing, that second decade is where your armor class finally achieves a toughness beyond tissue paper, and you have enough hit points to start taking on a dungeon or two.
My short contemporary romantic comedy, Forever Material, is about a Dating Diva who meets the right kind of Mr. Wrong. It’s on Summer Sale for $3.49 at the major retailers.
She’s absolutely sure he’s not the marrying kind…
He’s absolutely sure she’s right…
But he’s still going to prove her wrong.