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A term I found myself facing this week was 'wannabe writers' - and not in a good way. Wannabe writers don't want to wait for a traditional deal and put their work up, via self-publishing, before they're good enough. Or writers who haven't caught fire with the public (regardless of review ratings), ostensibly because they're not good enough.
(Now you've finished spluttering your coffee, either in agreement or disbelief, I'll go on.)

At first I blustered at such a label. I'm not a wannabe. I’m about to release my third book. I’m getting great reviews. Loads of people have said nice things about my writing.

And then I stopped. In fact, first I got to the ‘Oh, will you just stop’ point, and then decided to take my own advice and go off and muse on why that term felt like one of disrespect.

What’s wrong with being a wannabe writer? What’s wrong with trying to chase your dream? Who are you harming if you want to bring out a kindle book (or pay for some paper copies to have on your shelf)? The vast majority of people who start a novel never get to the end. 80,000 words – even bad ones – is a big undertaking. If that’s your dream, go for it.

But, I also pondered – at what point do we stop being wannabes? Where does that line get crossed?

Becoming a full time writer? Many writers I know – good writers, traditionally and self published, with a good following, don’t write full time. Writing income is low, it’s erratic and doesn’t easily take the place of a reliable job. (Plus, whisper it, some of us have jobs we like that get us out from behind the screen and meeting people. Which is good since some of us like to write about people. Although not the same people. Just to be clear and non-stalkerish about that.)

Is it having a traditional publisher? But what size of publisher? Are we talking big 6, or middle-sized? Small presses, do they count? What about author-mills?

Having multiple books? But are they selling? Are they good?

I’m not sure there is a line. (Although I’d accept that George Martin might be above it. And that Rothfuss fellow seems to be managing just fine. Whether or not they’re writing depends on which fan page you read that day, though….)

Somewhere, every day, another writer is doing better than you. They’ve had a better review, or more sales, or a blasting new contract. That’s the key to this business – there is no end of the path. There is only going forwards.

So, actually, I think I’m okay with being a wannabe writer. I think that’s a term to be embraced and not taken as an insult. It means I’m on a journey to something I’d like to be. It means I have something to aim at. It means I had the guts to follow my dream and give something I wanted my best shot.

I wannabe make a living out of writing. I wannabe able to have a coffee in my pyjamas while musing on the next chapter (although the school run becomes a bit awkward.) I wannabe the best writer I can be.

Maybe, in fact, we should all wannabe.


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