March 15, 2010

The definition of success

A few definitions to ponder*:
 Book -  a written or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers.
 Novel - a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.
 Writer - a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., esp. as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.

 Author - a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.
When I was creating the graphics for my blog, I got stuck on the wording for my header. Is 'published author' redundant? Are you only an author if you are published? If you aren't published, are you 'just' a writer?

The definitions are above, but what about the connotations?

Personally, it makes me a little uncomfortable to say that I am an author or that I have written a novel. I imagine one of those cartoony bad guys like Snidely Whiplash saying in an obnoxious, cultured voice:

"I am an author and I wrote a novel."

By calling myself an author, I'm afraid I'll mislead people into believing I am published. By telling people I've written a novel, I'm afraid they will think I'm being snobby or condescending. The words just sound so academic and formal.

But then I started reading agent blogs. Agents, of course, make a rather large distinction between a novel and a book. A book is published. A novel is not necessarily. I got more involved in the online writing community and noticed that no one else had a problem calling themselves an author.

I've come to realize that what I call myself isn't a matter of snobbiness. It's a matter of professionalism and confidence. Before it occurred to me to look up the definition of the word, my friend Mark made an excellent point - regardless of whether I am published, I am still the author of my work.

And my work isn't published, so it's not a book, it's a novel.

Informally, I still throw the words around synonymously. But on this blog, I try very hard to be an author who wrote a novel - not a writer who wrote a book.

If you are a writer, how do you refer to yourself? How do you refer to your work?



Anonymous said...

I am a writer who wrote a novel. It's just easier that way for me and no one asks any follow up questions.

Well, except for "so what's your novel about?" Very hard to not say "read it and find out" to the fifteenth person.

Debbie Barr said...

I've gone through similar complications myself. I actually very rarely refer to myself as an "author" and usually just call myself a writer. You do have a point, though. Maybe I should be more confident. :)

Myrna Foster said...

I say that I'm a writer (if I'm feeling brave) and let people ask what I write. Calling myself a poet always makes me smile because (to me) it sounds pretentious. However, children's magazines actually buy my poems; I've done readings and taught workshops for teachers and librarians. I'm on solid ground there. I've never sold (or even completely finished) a novel.

Amber Forehand said...

Regardless of the cartoony bad guy you imagine saying, "I am an author, and I wrote a novel," the truth is that you did actually write a novel. Writing a novel takes extreme dedication and time. It's something that a lot of people aspire to in their lives and never accomplish because it's such a daunting task. So, to me, it doesn't matter whether or not you've been published yet, you deserve the "author" title.

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