Am I Really An Author?

creative writing

NaNoWriMo may be just the thing to turn you from a writer into an author. You just need to overcome the internal demons and distractions, turn on your creative writing motor, and get your story written.

As I sit here, taking the NaNoWriMo challenge, sorting through the ideas in my head with the intention of turning them into the story I want to tell… I realize I don’t know the entirety of what the story is.

I’ll have to let the story reveal itself to me.

I suppose I shouldn’t wonder or worry if other writers’ concepts are as vague as mine at this point in the process, but I can’t help but think they aren’t. Maybe that’s part of the nagging sensation I’m fighting, that I’m not really an author. And until I finish my first book, I guess that’s true. What makes an author? Having a great story to tell? Having the ability to craft the words and descriptions to make it come alive? Sure, that and a finished manuscript.

Jeffrey Lebowski: “What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski? Is it being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost? Isn’t that what makes a man?”

The Dude: “Sure. That and a pair of testicles.”

I’ve always been a writer. I always scored well on essays and writing projects in school. I’ve been published in magazines, blogs, websites, guides – I’ve written all sorts of copy and even some journalistic pieces. I’ve written more than one hundred songs, and through that I recognize that part of the art of creative writing is the simple act of finishing an idea. Even if you feel likes there’s more to it, that it can be refined further, there’s a point where you have to release the work and move on to the next.

I find I’ve been thinking of the writers I’ve read most in the past year – the past four years really: Lawrence Durrell and J.K. Rowling.

I’ve read the Harry Potter series twice in recent years, once for myself, and another time aloud to my son. What great life lessons, great characters, great stories. In particular, I’m such a fan of the long arc of Snape’s secret commitment, his complexity, and his ultimate sacrifice – all for love.

And Durrell is one of the more difficult writers I’ve ever read, but I love the way he tells a story from one point of view, then reveals nuances, even completely new facts about a situation, by revealing the same series of events from another character’s perspective. Masterful. Any of my attempts at the same will no doubt seem hackneyed and unrefined.

But ultimately, whether my finished book is considered a great work or not is hardly my biggest concern. The story will be the story. The writing will be as good as I can make it. If it’s awful, very few people will read it, so what is there to worry about? I’m not writing because I want to impress anyone. I feel like there’s a story brewing in me, maybe a multitude of them, and I somehow need to tap into them and they will flow.

I think the fear is more a fear of failure to complete the story with a degree of competence. To create a story arc and produce something that takes the reader on a journey that starts out as interesting and sustains a consistent level of imagination and continuity, and that ultimately makes sense within the constructs of the world I create.

I’ve got the characters, I’ve got the setting, I’ve got a definite beginning and know how I’ll introduce the characters and get the story rolling. But there are a number of plot questions for which I have no answers. There are character motivations I am not completely sure of, situations I expect to create with no clue as to how they’ll resolve. But if I wait for all this to come together, all these strands to make perfect sense, I’ll never start writing. If I never start, I’ll never get to the finish line.

That’s one appeal of NaNoWriMo. It’s starting now, so get to it!

I am taking solace from this piece of insight from Warren Adler: “Honestly, if I ever knew the ending of a novel in advance, I wouldn’t write it. The way in which I write is to let my characters come alive in my head and interact with each other, create conflict with each other, and work out their own destinies. I know this sounds out there but writers will know what I’m talking about.”

In a month, I’ll discover if I know what he’s talking about. Maybe by then I’ll get to call myself an author.

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  1. This makes my 7th year doing NaNoWriMo. I am behind right now because I had decided NOT to do it this year because I am recovering from a total hip replacement on my left hip. On Day 4, I realized WHY I had been getting more and more depressed since November 1st — everyone was talking about NaNoWriMo, and I wasn’t and I wanted to be. Therefore, I am hitting Week 2 with an awful word count deficit, which I am trying not to think about. One thing I have learned through reading the forums on the NaNo site is that everyone writes in a different way. Whatever that way is, whatever works for you — just DO IT! The first draft will be crap — but you will be able to revise, rewrite — even decide that this is all backstory for the story you are really needing to tell. If you have trouble sitting down to write, poke at the forums and see if there is any wisdom there for you. I have gotten several wonderful pieces of wisdom over the years. Good writing!!


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