This past November, I started writing a novel as a part of National Novel Writing Month. I had my idea and plot about a year before that. And I’ve wanted to write a novel for the past four years or so. The funny thing is, I’ve never really considered myself a “writer”. But writing always came easy for me. I could crank out an "A" paper for school in a few hours. I could journal for hours. I could write sappy love letters and express my feelings, no problem. But the label “writer” never seemed to fit. I even won an award for English excellence. I write almost daily for this website, and English is part of my job. So why is it hard to declare myself a writer?
On the other hand, I have always considered myself a reader. Ever since I was a baby, I loved books. I can judge a book no problem. I can praise and critique books for days. I can admire amazing writing and shame bad writing. But actually being able to put stories on paper is challenging.
When I started my novel, it was for myself. I had a story in my head that I wanted to be told. So I wasn’t worried about what I said or what anyone would think. Somewhere in the process, I decided that my end goal was to have a tangible copy of my book that I can hold in my hands. Maybe that means self-publishing, maybe that means trying to get published traditionally [not likely to happen]. The point is, now my story is not just for me. It is for an audience. Which means that I will be critiqued and [hopefully] praised as a writer, as an author. Now that I've been writing a novel, I think I judge books a little differently. I see the person on the other side of that book. They put their heart and soul into what they wrote and they put themselves out there to be judged. Writers are brave.
Now that there’s the possibility of other people reading my book, I find myself looking at it in a different light. Will people judge me as a person for what I write? I am now holding on to my manuscript like a life jacket, not wanting to let go.
But I did get brave and let one person read my story. She did give me a lot of suggestions for how to make it better and to where to add more details to my story. But she also appreciated my story. She got it. She told me, ”I think even if your readers aren't into this kind of story...they'll want to read it to see where it ends up... All the while they'll be getting mad, upset, sad, angry, frustrated, and still be thinking about it once they've finished reading it.” I always say that if a book can evoke emotion, it's doing something right. I feel better now that someone else has read it, and that I can accept criticism of it. My book is like my child. A mom wouldn't want someone to tell her that her baby was ugly, right? But I critique books all the time. It is my right as a reader. And most authors accept that. So whether people love or hate my book, I think I can accept it.
For now, I just need to create several more drafts of my novel before I can work on the publishing process. It is still scary, and probably will be for a while. As long as I am happy with my final book, it will all be just fine. And I now feel comfortable calling myself a writer [and I'm damn proud of that].
o Amber Gregg o