Everyone has his/her own mental image of the prototypical author. What one looks like. How one acts; personality. Usually, authors are portrayed as reclusive individuals who lack social skills, wear thick glasses, and sit in front of their computer creating their masterpiece for days on end. Someone who writes thousands of words per day so he/she does not only hit deadlines, but overproduces as creative juices flow. A person with so much confidence in one’s writing, he/she risks his/her own livelihood to write for a living.
It all sounds nice, but this isn’t the case with many, if not most, authors.
I have worked with countless authors and there is one commonality between them. No matter how great the story is they seem to always be very critical of their writing and often disappointed with the finished product. It’s weird, after reading a great manuscript that contains very few grammatical errors, along with a great storyline, to hear an author completely criticize the story he/she spent months creating. What I have to realize is when an author reaches this stage of criticizing his/her own manuscript to the point of seemingly hating the novel, it is probably ready for print. They have meticulously typed, retyped, and reread their story so many times that they just want to start another project. They love their story so much, they end up despising it. Ironic.
Moving on to the idea that authors sit in front of the computer for hours at a time typing away to get their ideas on paper; that is partially true. Yes, authors have to be dedicated to writing to even complete a manuscript, nevertheless to put in the work necessary to make it publishable. Many times, though, they stare at a blank screen for hours at a time afflicted with a publisher’s worst nightmare; writers block. They simply can’t transfer the story from their head to paper or have just run out of ideas. For a publisher, this is impossible to understand. We have strict deadlines and every second an author has writers block or is just unmotivated to write is another day a release, an event, or a print date is set back. Even worse, the authors expect you to deal with it as they think we should understand that, like art, a masterpiece takes form by itself, not by timed deadlines. Okay, no problem, I’ll just tell Barnes & Noble that the masterpiece isn’t ready and to hold off on the book tour. No need for schedules, this is art.
One prototype I will agree with is the quirkiness of authors in general. There is nothing more humorous than to talk with an author while he/she is in the middle of writing. I called an author last week during one of his motivated writing sessions and it was like talking to an alter ego. His tone of voice was different, his rhetoric had completely changed and I was receiving one word responses for every question I asked him. I immediately asked the question, though I already knew the answer, if he was writing at the time. He replied, “Yes,” and then hung up the phone. Talk about quirky; just spend 24 hours with an author and you will end up talking with a shrink.
Then a miraculous event takes place. The author submits the final draft of the manuscript and all this ‘baggage’ that comes with authors is immediately forgotten. They are no longer weird individuals who don’t know the meaning of the word deadline, but are now geniuses in their own right. A great story seems to erase all frustrations that publishers must face with authors and I get to enter a new world and forget about reality for a few hours. I guess that’s why there are only a handful of people on the face of the planet who have the talent and dedication that it takes to write a novel, regardless of how many books he/she will ever sell. While it can be a pain-in-the-you-know-what to deal with authors in a business sense, one must respect and applaud anyone who has the qualities that are necessary to be an author; the good and the bad.
On that note, I need to talk to an author right now about another deadline that was missed and, oh, it happens to be during his writing time. Got to love them.