Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm A Writer

by Malena Lott
We live in a society of labels, so it's no surprise one of the first questions people ask upon introduction is, "What do you do?" Over the years I've "been" many things. Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth, The Power of Now) says he usually answers, "I'm a writer," because, "I Am" just doesn't cut it for most people.
Unlike a lot of answers, I suppose, "I'm a writer," typically gets a raised brow. A humph. Or an oooh/aaah reply. "Really? That's cool. What do you write?"
I usually start with the biggie. "Novels." Then add, "fiction," because there are still a lot of people that don't know that a novelist is an author of fiction.
I'd say 9 out of 10 times, the person goes on to say, "I could never write a book. Wouldn't even know where to begin." Everyone knows what a daunting task undertaking a novel can be. Especially those in the thick of it.
Then there's that 10% who say, "I've got a book idea," then goes on to tell you the whole plotless mess of it. No matter, I smile and tell them, they should, "just do it." It's not my job to tell them what a long hard road it can be. I believe if a person has a story in them, they should pluck it out. I keep the chuckle to myself when they say they want to write to "make a lot of money." Again, let them dream. What if they are one of the breakout successes?
Being a writer in a day and age when technology rules supreme and everybody who has a computer can be a "blogger," makes the occupation/hobby/passion a bit less glamorous than years past. With book readers overall diminishing and the harsh realities of the publishing world, it's harder than ever to write and get paid handsomely for it. Read this very long, very dramatic piece about the end of book publishing in New York magazine if you have a half hour to spare.
The bottom line is: the storytelling industry will constantly evolve. My guess is every newspaper/magazine/TV show/movie/book will merge more into a multimedia format. We want what we want when we want it, and if that happens to be on our iPhone or laptop or big screen at home, then that's where we'll get it. Eventually. I think fewer authors will be published in print and the quality of ebooks (and its authors) will improve because the public will demand it. Print on demand will probably become more the order of the day, which environmentally and economically, will save a lot of waste of book shredding when a book has run its course. Of course, I could be wrong. There are publishing pundits and insiders who probably know a lot more than I do.
What I know and care about at the end of the day is this: I'm a writer. I prefer to write fiction, and stories about women's journeys and relationships, but I'll write non-fiction, too. I write articles and TV and radio commercials and web copy and yes, blogs, too. I'd write for any format, so it doesn't matter if my "book idea" morphed into TV or movie or whatever the next "big thing" happens to be, but there's something very special and unique about the book.
I still believe in the book industry, in the power of a great story and the beauty of the written word. I don't believe books are dead, and the publishing industry will find its way. While advances or royalties or the structure changes, what won't change is that it all begins with the writer and the words.
NOTE: Photo is Sourcebooks publicist Danielle Jackson with author Malena Lott.
If you're a writer, what's your favorite part of the writing process? If you're a reader, how has your entertainment consumption changed with advancements in technology?


  1. Malena,
    This is a great post and one all your Casa sisters will relate to. It's funny you should raise this point right now because I had this very thought the other night at my launch party for Line of Scrimmage. I'm a writer. While I'm also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and the communications director for a nonprofit, I'm also a writer. I've always been a writer. And from the time I was 22, I've made my living writing in one form or another—newspapers, magazine, websites, promotional pieces, and now novels. Since many of us know and are friends with other writers, we probably lose sight of how special our "gift" is and how many different ways we can use it. Thanks for reminding all of us that WE ARE WRITERS!

  2. I'm a writer, and I usually tell people right up front I write romance. I have so many favorite parts of writing romance, it's hard to choose one.

    One thing that distinguishes romance from other genres is the extensive use of deep point of view. My most favoritist thing is to mine deep point of view so that the reader sees and feels the discrepancy between what is going on outside and what is going on INSIDE the characters.

    Playing with POV is most fun for me when humor arises for the reader because of the discrepancy. For instance, the reader knows the heroine is lying through her teeth--by telling the truth! In one of my favorite scenes in SEALed With a Promise, Emmie has an awakening of her personal power and evens up several old scores by telling the truth so that it's a lie. It's like the reader and I share a little inside joke.

  3. My husband is a big Eckhart Tolle fan and keeps telling me that the "now" is all we have. If that were true, no book would be written, because writers live in the "what if" mode most of the time.
    The part I like best about writing is to be firing off a dialog and one of the characters says something that doesn't seem to come out of my head, it comes out of theirs. Cool stuff!

  4. Hi Malena.

    Great post.

    As a writer, my favorite part of the process is the actual writing. When I'm in that creative zone, totally 'there' with my characters, when hours in front of my computer seem like minutes.

    Like most of us, I have a day job of course. And yes, it's always interesting to see someone's reaction when they find out I write.

    Since we're dealing with 'words' I'm always surprised how many folks think anyone can write a 100 000 word book. People who would want to draw or paint or sculpt would consider taking classes first, but when it comes to writing... hey, anyone can string together a few sentences, right?

    I always laugh when someone says, "Oh, I've always wanted to write a book, too." to which I always respond, "So why haven't you?" and of course, my question is brushed aside as they quickly respond "I just don't have the time."

    Funny, because to me, when it comes to writing, I MAKE the time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Rising to her feet, in the library conference room, she looks around the small circle of individuals of various ages all looking equally sheepish.

    "It's all right," the group leader says, with an encouraging nod of her graying head.

    She takes a deep breath, smiles and voice quavering recites, "My name is Michele Ann Young. And I am a writer."

    Then she grins. "I am so excited," she yells. "I never thought it would happen. All those late nights and weired people in my head. I thought I was going bonkers. But I'm not. I'm being paid to do what I love. Like basket ball players and hockey players."

    Subsides into her seat with a smug smile.

    The room breaks out in applause.

    "Welcome," says the group leader and NYT best seller. "Who is next?"

    Can anyone tell? I'm just about finished the next book and I am soooo happy I'm a writer. The End is the favorite part of my process. Until I start with, Once upon a time. Then that is my favorite part.

    Love it all.

    Malena, what a great post. Made my day.

  6. ACK! I checked the blog and I see my face! At least you look cute, Malena!!

    Really great post. One thing I have to do as a publicist is pay attention to how things are changing in book publishing. Things are constantly changing and we (meaning Sourcebooks) are always looking to the future--what can we do that is going to be different?

    As a reader, I immediately head to the web for input when it comes to what I will buy. I like to read reviews from the smallest blogs all the way to huge review sites. I also like to look at authors sites, publisher sites, etc.

    Especially now, though, that I work with authors, I try to get various perspectives.

    Great blog Malena!

  7. Hi Malena,
    Great post!! Now for the other side of the coin, I'm a Reader!

    As a reader I delve so far into the book that I am the heroine. I feel what she feels, I taste what she tastes, I see what she sees and I think that is what makes me a truly devote reader.

    The thing that I really get from all of my reading is a look into the authors personality. I believe each book an author writes is in itself a part of their being and personality. For instance, Kendra Leigh Castle has a fairy tale personality, Aunt Cindy has a mysterious personality aching for a bit of folklore, Michele Ann Young has every bit the regency period in her personality but with a love for the underdog, and Cheryl Brooks, hmm......what can I say, her personality purrs about weeping roses, LOL, and Linda Wisdom, lets just say she has just a head strong wild crazy gotta have fun personality.

    I Am A Reader because I get to be anyone and everyone at one point or another.

    As far as writing, nope nada! I can put a bunch of words into sentences, possibly a paragraph but that's the extent of my ability. I have about as much creative imagination in the literary world that you couldn't even fill a thimble with it. Nope, not me. I do however have tons of respect and admiration for You The Writer.

  8. Danielle,
    I have to say I really like the photo. Malena looks sweet and innocent and you are sitting there with a look of plotting trouble while trying your hardest to maintain the air of "Not Me"! LOL! It really is delightfully fun.

  9. This is some thought-provoking material, Malena. I've written all my life but hesitate to call myself a writer because I don't make a living at it . . . yet. As to the changes in technology and the new varieties of storytelling media, I asked myself this question a few months ago. If I had to give up all sources of entertainment save one, what would be the one I would keep? My answer: books. Nothing will ever replace the pleasure of holding a book in my hands.

  10. We had a discussion at my chapter this past weekend. The difference between an author and a writer. Some said you can't say author until you're published. I disagreed. Whether someone pays you for it or not, if you write it, you authored it. I do like being able to add the "published" part before the author, but first and foremost I am an author.

    And I proudly say "Romance novels" whenever someone asks what I write. Sure, you get some raised eyebrows or chortles, but that's okay. When someone says he/she is a proctologist you get the same response. LOL.

  11. I love the whole process of writing, from that first nugget of an idea that blossoms into a full-blown story to the writing of the story itself. It would probably be easier to say what process I don't like as much and that would be ending because then you are done with those characters and that is sad. I hate endings.