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“10 & Half” Things Aspiring Authors Do Wrongly

Great books are written everyday of every year. I have found out that no year passes by without witnessing a great piece of literature. These stories are mostly written by renowned authors, and at times by authors coming out with their debuts. Publishers announce various books, and media houses release reviews of the books they find most interesting. A few writers, who feel they have all it takes, go ahead to self-publish their works. Amongst these self-published authors, only a few enjoy wide readership, because they either lack the funds to promote their works or their works are just not good. A few of the self-published authors succeed in gaining acceptance, and even do better than traditional authors. Myne Whitman, the author of A Heart to Mend, is a self-publisher and promoter. Her book has also won a few awards internationally. She is almost out with another self-published work of romance literature. It seems to work for her. She enjoys wide readership, mostly from Nigerians in Nigeria and abroad.
My opinion is that nothing is as good as publishing traditionally with a publisher, who signs a book deal with the author, publishes his book, promotes and markets it, and pays the author some royalties. But this is a dream most aspiring authors find difficult to achieve, either because most publishers are interested in established authors, or because aspiring authors find it difficult to be patient while grooming their skill. Most young writers tend to give up, and a few move on to self-publishing. Self-publishing allows the author the liberty to edit his work himself, or employ an editor. A self-publisher chooses his cover designs, buys his ISBN, and instructs his printer on when the book is ready to go into print. He then moves ahead and employs various strategies to market his book. It is a good form of publishing, but demands energy and cost on the part of the writer. You would admit that it is more difficult write, edit, design and publish at the same time. That is why it is my dream to see every young and aspiring writer turn into a traditionally published author. Everyone may not be as successful as Myne Whitman.
In this brief piece, I would try to explain a few things that an aspiring author fails to do along the line. And these are the reasons why most writers end up not being published, or gaining readership at all. I must say that it feels good to know that someone in Bahamas is busy reading your work while you are far away in Nigeria watching the English Premiership Soccer Matches on SuperSports.
  1. Young writers talk more about how they would want to be authors than they write. This is common with aspiring authors. They have little works to show for the many times they’ve been heard bragging about how they would one day write the best novel that has ever been written. Hey, I support you if you really want to be the best. This is how you do it. Keep writing, and never stop. One day, you’ll write that story that you have always dreamed of writing. Only talk about your project (or book) with a fellow writer, or someone who understands creative writing and would want to offer a few advises to help your craft. If you keep bragging more than you write that book, you may end up not being published or even writing it. And that is bad.
  2. Young writers write for the bin. Most of the aspiring writers refuse to share their works with others. They write for themselves. Most of them feel their works are not just good enough. So, they throw these works into the bin, after a few days of completion. A few of them send their works to other writers and readers, who look at these works. At the very end, no comment from anyone about your work should kill your spirit. It they critique you constructively, go back to your desk and improve. After a few days, go back to that critique and show him the edited work. He may always send you back, until he is tired of seeing that work. Always have an alternative. Someone else may have something to say too. But you must listen to professionals only.
  3. Young writers want to be alone and not locate other writers. Each writer must associate himself with other writers. Find a book club close to your area. Identify with that club, and never miss a gathering. Always go with your pen and jotter, and keep your ears open. Ask questions when you want to, and show them your work. Everyone has to share his opinion concerning your works. No matter how bad this stage may look, it’s the start of a soon to become writer of all time. You never know, they may marvel at your works. Even when they tell you that your writing is bad, never drop your pen. Work on improving your craft.
  4. Young writers do not enter for literary events and festivals. Literary events are so boring. An old professor comes on stage to talk about a book he wrote over two decades ago that never sold outside his neighbourhood, and those that bought it, bought it based on their long term relationship with the old man. Then, after that, a weird dreaded young lad comes out to read some boring verses, and he calls them poetry. Aspiring writers don’t like being tutored. The truth is that no matter how boring other peoples’ works are, it’s important we read or pay attention to them. This takes me to the next topic.
  5. Young writers do not just read any book. He reads only bestsellers. He thinks he can only learn from big names like Wole Soyinka (WS) or Chika Unigwe, or even Dan Brown. If you’re not known, forget it. They make wrong decisions. The truth is that for one to grow creatively in writing, he needs to read widely. My advice; read books. While attending a club meeting, discuss each book you have read. Try to critique these books on your own. No matter how big the author of that book is, try to find where he or she forgot to add a comma. Try to find out clichés. Also know when a book is flawless. There is yet to be a flawless book.
  6. Young writers want to be famous. They dream on being talked about on the media. They dream of signing autographs and honouring interviews. They see their fan base even before they start writing their first books. They think everyone will see them as special beings, with a kind of special ability. I have information. No one sees you as one genius, and no one bows to worship you because you are a writer. You may just be celebrated. No one celebrates an unpublished writer. So, you must first dream of a book, find a desk, and start writing it. Fame comes by surprise, and sometimes without wealth. So, when you settle down and write that story, someone must read you. Someone must be your fan. Someone celebrate you. You have to dream of your work before you dream of your fans.
  7. Young writers overlook competitions. They do not send their works in for prizes. They feel they either are too good for these contests, or that they are not up to it. These are two bad feelings. Keep sending your work of poetry and prose in for contests. This is how you get to know how well your craft is appreciated amongst credible judges. The internet it a very reliable source. It provides us with information on contests and prizes, with their deadlines. Check for their eligibilities. Enter for one if you’re eligible. Any award or prize is an added asset.
  8. Young writers hate editing their works. I have said it before now, and will still say it. The hardest part of writing is editing your finished work. No lazy writer can do this. And when an editor asks you to do so, wrinkles form all over your face. A young writer feels his works are perfect, and doesn’t understand why an editor must keep referring him back to the same line over ten times. Rome was not built in a night. There is time to mould the bricks. There is time to mobilise for labour. There is time for the excavation of foundation trenches. There is time for laying bricks. In creative writing, the time for editing is the most important time. A manuscript could be thrown into the bin, or into the market, after the editor’s rounds. My latest collection of short stories, The Water was Hot, was on its way to the press when a renowned author called me and put a stop to it. She had seen something that was not meant to be there. I felt discouraged, because I had already gone through over thirty rounds of editing for just eight stories. I had the choice of continuing with press, but I adhered to her words. We went through five more rounds of editing, picking out and inserting words. I read the stories over and over again. They became boring at a point. I had to publish. Now, I read those stories, and I feel good.
  9. Young writers see authors as gods. Authors are gods; so also are writers. This is because they create characters that breathe and live. This is an ability that is rare. Achebe’s Okonkwo became human after Things Fall Apart was launched fifty years ago. Adichie also created a few characters that are breathing today. My best of all her characters is Ugwu of Half of a YellowSun. We see them in and around all of us. This is why aspiring authors see established authors as special beings. To a certain degree, this is healthy, if the young writer can emulate the former, and create his own voice. It is only harmful when the young writer sees it as a very difficult or impossible battle to try to attain to the height of the author. Nothing is impossible. It is more healthy you see your models as celebrities; achievers of the art. It is also important to google them. Try and know one or two things about your models. Do this, bearing in mind that you must do better than they have done.
  10. Young writers sound like Shakespeare. They do not own their voice. They want write of things that have been written before, because they were written by renowned writers. Simplicity is their last word. Then, they end up sounding like fake Shakespeare or WS. Creativity is an honest craft. It does not imitate. It is original. No one can perfectly sound like Soyinka or Marquez. An author can only sound like himself. Though the early stages are exceptional. This is when you emulate your favourite author and his style. Every author must be able to evolve a new voice and style from his imitated tone. He must be able to bring forth his characters to his readers in an unbelievable and awesome manner. His narrative strength must be unique. That is why every writer keeps writing and researching.


0.5 Young writers can’t wait to google themselves

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