Who hasn’t asked themselves this question? I’ve struggled with it since my first short story was published. Anyone who writes can be called a writer, but is there some special right of passage for becoming an author? I wrote three short stories for anthologies before my first novel came out. Did that mean I was an author? Some said yes, others no.
When I submitted my first manuscript, To Protect and Serve, to Bold Strokes Books, my editor said, “You have the bones for a good story, but they’re strewn all over the road.” Not encouraging words. I worked through the grueling editing process and when the book came out, I was sure I wasn’t an author—too much to learn.
The one liner for my second book, Suspect Passions, said it all: the truth is rarely pure and often painful. This was my first, and to date only, romance without an intrigue component. Writing two characters falling in love without a suspense driver to help them along was daunting. I developed a greater respect for romance writers and further convinced myself that I wasn’t an author and might never be. Strike two.
Books three (Fever), four (Justifiable Risk), and five (Haunting Whispers) were exercises in what not to do when writing a novel: unnecessary point of view shifts, passive verbs, long introspective passages, telling the story, clichés, filtering, repetitive words…you get the picture. So did I. It was becoming clear that I might never be a real author. After book three, I chose a nice round number as the final gauge of my skill—number six.
In mid-August my sixth book, Exit Wounds, will be released. As the time draws nearer, the less certain I am about reaching my goal. What’s so magical about six? Do I feel any different, any better qualified to tell my stories than I did at number one? Maybe my craft skills have improved (I sure hope so or all that painful editing and my editor’s hard work would be in vain), but I don’t feel any more capable.
So, I’ve decided to put yet another carrot out there on a stick—I’ll be a real, honest to goodness, bona fide, qualified, certified author when I receive an award for my work. For some reason I now believe the measure of my success lies in outside validation. Will it ever happen? Who knows? Maybe I’ll finally get it that none of these things really matter; it’s all about belief in myself. In the meantime, the struggle for excellence in my craft continues.
Anybody else struggle with this question…or is it just me?