Not to be confused with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 🙂
In one of my first blog posts, ‘So Am I an Author Yet?’ I discussed what I felt the distinction was between being a writer and being an author … and my conclusion was that it really seemed to simply boil down to self-confidence. When what you have achieved as a writer, on a personal note, makes you feel like an author.
After all, it’s really just semantics. As I explained in my response to one of the comments, when I was a law student at university, I was called ‘a lawyer’ and yet I was years away from practicing law. And so by the same token, ‘author’ is a word, which can be applied to a variety of stages of writer – we simply have a tendency to attach considerable creative weight to it, and so as a writer, the privileged term ‘author’ is a state you hope to attain.
In the various comments made about the post, many people suggested that you only become an author when you are ‘published’. However, a number of people also noted that because of the role the internet now plays in our lives, being ‘published’ is a far easier and less meritocratic feat. You simply have to click a button, to have your work out there in the open. I did so a matter of minutes ago, when I copy and pasted a chapter of my most recent book – The Dream Navigator – into a blog post.
And so, whilst I might be rather liberal in my awarding of the title ‘author’ – in that I personally feel it embodies a personal state of mind rather than being a metaphorical rosette pinned upon your writing, I have to admit to still being rather conservative with the distinction between writing on paper and on the internet.
I know the world is changing. I know a Kindle can be a thousand books in one, and that words don’t have to physically be inked onto a page to ‘count’. However, I guess I’m rather romantic in my distinctions between the different classes of writers. Between bloggers, and journalists, and authors.
Don’t get me wrong – all three are valid disciplines. As a new blogger, a trained journalist, and a wannabe-author, I clearly appreciate all three.
What I am, however, trying to make clear, is that they are all very different things and shouldn’t be confused. A lot of people seem to define ‘author’dom purely through publication. But if the internet is a valid source of publication, then the term ‘author’ loses all of its exclusivity.
Maybe I want the best of both worlds. I want to be able to call myself an author, whilst waiting idly on my hands for a publishing house to acknowledge my talents … but I don’t want anyone who has ever written a word on the internet (does Facebook count? 😉 ) to call themselves authors too!!!
And so, as a writer (the term which I thing encompasses all of the disciplines) I think it’s important to adopt the multiple ‘hats’ metaphor I used in my article ‘The Pen Name’. It’s not simply a question of recognising exactly what you are writing, but approaching that type of writing with different ambitions, and with a different mindset.
When I write fiction, I write as an ‘author’. (Or if you don’t think I’m an author yet, because my books aren’t tangible entities, then call me a fiction writer). I plan methodically (The Secrets to Finishing a Novel), think about the story as a whole matrix, and keep careful track of character development, chronological order, themes and imagery. As I progress through the story, I feel as if I am carefully tying together the various tassels of a mop, until piece by piece the entire story has intricately come together.
When I write fiction, I am a perfectionist. I dwell on every word, sound each sentence aloud, and go over and over each and every section. When I begin a new chapter, I take time to read and edit the chapter that comes before it, and when I eventually send off a ‘first draft’ of a novel to my agent, it has perhaps been edited as many as ten times.
When I have my journalist hat on, my approach is very different. My word count is normally stricter, and my classical training makes for a more rigid layout. I focus carefully on my first sentence, rather than my first chapter, and approach each article with a very formulaic need for a start, middle and end. Whilst these things are obviously just as necessary in a novel, with fiction I am more concerned that the story is constantly moving, rather than rigidly shaping these developments into three clear sections. I think carefully about words, and keep my tone erudite.
And then there’s blogging. Now the ‘wordy’ in me, sees the word ‘blog’ and thinks it says it all. Blogging isn’t an elegant word. If it conjures any imagery, it’s a little clumsy and unrefined. And I guess that’s my approach to this discipline of writing. It’s experimental. As Carol Rives commented yesterday about my blog post ‘The Writers’ Network’ she uses her blog to develop her writing.
If writing is a sport, then blogging is the training phase. It’s gym time. Where you practice that sport outside the comfort of your own home, but still with the safety net of a ‘delete’ button. You can try out something, and if it doesn’t work, or doesn’t conjure the response you hoped, you can adapt it. It’s the crash-test dummy phase of writing.
And so my approach to this phase is very different. I write my blog how I talk. Obviously I have a slight plan when I begin each post … but generally it’s more just a notion of what I’d like to talk about, and then as I begin to type, my argument, or lack of, begins to form! Quite often my post names change as the article progresses, and I’m fully aware that none of my entries are overly sculpted or edited. They are fresh meat in writing terms. Fodder for debate.
And for me, well I think that’s the perfect use of the internet, and of blogs. The very nature of a blog allows for change and for constant update. If you spend too much of your time editing, then you lose out on the immediate nature of it as a form of media, and of the readership you will reap, should you sew enough seeds of wisdom on a regular basis.
I only really noticed the change in my attitude to writing, and acknowledged the reasons for it, when my agent Lucy asked me to adapt my blog post ‘So am I an Author yet?’ for use in a newspaper. As I copied and pasted my rather spontaneously-written post into a word document, and frowned at the various coloured lines which appeared under the words and sentences, I realised I would never have sent such a document to Lucy if it were fiction! I wouldn’t let one person read a fiction draft in that state, let alone hundreds or thousands. And yet the blog post had been read by 5,000 people in 24 hours! Over the course of an hour I changed the blog post into a newspaper article, reigning in the personal anecdotes and conversational tone, and making my words more precise and efficient. I turned from blogger to journalist, and thus my words took on a completely different shape.
And so, as if to illustrate my point, this is where the blog post ends. Not with a neat summary, as if it were a newspaper article, but with the natural course of conversation, as if I were explaining this all to you out loud!
Let me know what you think – is writing a ‘sport’ made up of different disciplines, or is the writer of a blog post as bona fide an author as he who pens a 600 page novel?