It was one of my favorite jokes when I was a kid: “Here we come – me, myself, and I.” (I always walked the border between silly and slightly insane.)
But recently, I’ve realized that I do have three selves in this profession: 1) the author-writer, 2) the author-editor, & 3) the author-promoter.
Her head is full of stories. The characters talk to her constantly. They won’t let her sleep sometimes until she gets them on the page. She doesn’t think about anything except the story. She sits at her computer, the playlist she made for this chapter thudding through her headphones, and she types and types and types. Or she grabs her notebook and her favorite pen, and she watches gleefully while the lines fills with her handwriting. The hand she writes with is always stained with ink.
Her goal is to string words together on the page until she reaches The End. (Yes, that’s it. Even making it good isn’t a priority.)
She has this draft in front of her. She shapes it the way a potter shapes clay. She untangles the plot snarls one by one. She lops off unneeded scenes and unnecessary characters. She polishes the dialogue until it snaps, crackles, and/or pops. She throws in a few more descriptions and takes them away if she decides that they don’t work. She watches over her characters like a micromanaging director, and she makes sure that everyone follows their cues exactly. She is obsessed with different colored pens, post-its, and outlines. She kills her darlings and buries them in word file called “Excess (use later).doc”
Her goal is to make each draft better than the last one, to make the book as good as it can be. On her very best days, she has no pride – only determination.
She blogs. She tweets. She holds contests. She sends out postcards with her novel’s cover on the front to booksellers and librarians. She updates her website regularly. She might even have a business card with her website, blog, twitter handle, email, and book covers on it. She is a social butterfly in the online literary world, knowing and greeting everyone. She is a master about talking about her book…and getting other people excited about it.
Her goals are to strengthen her platform, reach out to her readers, and market her book(s). (Notice that she is the only one who has more than one primary goal.)
As an author these days, you’re responsible for the first two. The last one is strongly encouraged.
Authors once weren’t expected to handle all three of these, but now that’s the norm. I don’t mention this to bemoan the past. (I wasn’t writing back then. It’s hard to feel nostalgic for something you never lived through.) But it’s worth bringing up, because being such a new situation, there’s no grand tradition for me to follow – there are no set rules. Everyone is still working out the details as they go along.
I find that incredibly comforting when on the days when I have no idea what I’m doing.
One big challenge: each of these roles could easily be a full-time job (by which, I mean, a 40 hour/week commitment). It’s incredibly easy for one role to overpower the other two. Which means that you have to be really disciplined and really creative with your time to perfectly fulfill each role.
And y’all, I have come up with a magnificent plan – both disciplined and creative. (And clearly, I’m modest about this plan. :-P)
You’ll find it here tomorrow.
(No, really – you will. I already scheduled it.)