Wednesday, May 17, 2006


So last week I got an e-mail from one of the women in my book club. A few months ago I had announced I was having a short story published. This woman, I'll call her Xena, has apparently always wanted to write a book and so finally worked up the nerve to ask for my advice. (I say worked up the nerve because it did take her a few months to contact me, after all. And it's a big leap of faith to tell people you want to be a writer.) We're meeting for drinks and dinner tomorrow night. On one level I feel like I'm the worst person she could ask--I'm a publishing-world rookie, what do I know?--but on another I feel like I've got some good advice to give a newbie. I'm thinking of swinging by the bookstore before we meet so I can pick up a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing" to give to her. In my mind I can picture us as writing buddies, like we'll meet once a week at out-of-the-way coffee shops to write and inspire one another. That would be very cool.

Which brings me to my next musing. To someone like Xena, I'm a writer. I've written three books, I'm having a story published, my current goal is to submit a story a month to various places, I'd like to have another book written by November. In my mind, though, I don't feel like a "real" writer. How do I know this? I'm trying to decide if I should apply to have a reading during World Fantasy Con in November--maybe the story that will be published, maybe something else--and the rookie in me says that I'm not qualified yet. I don't have enough of a resume to give a reading. Why would an agent want to hear my words? I'm nobody. But then I tell myself that everyone starts somewhere, that an agent would come hear what I've written because I'm a nobody and he's looking for new talent, that the only way to be a "real" writer is to act like one. I keep oscillating between the two. Maybe after dinner with Xena I'll be so jazzed that I'll apply for a reading slot before I have time to question myself. The margaritas will grease the way, probably.


Innuendo said...

dudette, honey, you're a writer. you've proven yourself to be dedicated to this endeavor of writing and you are passionate about it and look forward to sitting down to write. you are building your resume, but just because starting out is a struggle, i wouldn't say you aren't "a writer," you're just not professional yet, right? and that label comes with being published multiple times and having it be a career. you are working on those things and talk of those things as goals, so it's just a matter of time, but all this is just my opinion. as a non-writer, i see you as a writer. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly X,

Saw your post on being a writer and had to respond. It's something we all go through on the road from wanting to write to publishing a book. I'm with your blogger friend on this one, you're pretty clearly a writer. The line from wanting to be a writer to being a writer is one you crossed long ago, with your second completed story, whether that was a book or a short. The next line is between amateur and pro, or if you want to be haughty about it, maybe between writer and author. You're already more than half way there, at least in my opinion. Once you start submitting your work, you've crossed the biggest line short of a book sale. The short story sale comes about midway between those two.

Quick mataphor to put it in perspective: For every short story that goes to a pro market like your anthology, there are between 500 and 1,000 submitted, probably twice that number written but never sent out, maybe ten times as many started and never finished, and who knows how many ideas by people who really want to write but don't ever get there. So, if you think of it as a foot race, you're already out in the front ranks of a crowd of tens of thousands, probably more. Just in F&SF there may be as many as two hundred thousand people who think of themselves as being in the writing race. Sure, there are folks in front of you, but most of them are the hard core pros, and there are less than two thousand of us in that group. That means that you're ahead of about 98% of the other runners, and you just have to run a tiny bit faster to get into that front rank. In short, if you've gotten this far, you rock!

On the readings front. Go for it. You've got nothing to lose and things to gain. Chances are low that you'll find an agent that way, but you might make a fan or two, and that's how you build a career, one reader or listener at a time.

Kelly Y