GUYS!!! I am so excited to bring you (yes, a day late, but there was a mix up in scheduling and a rush for an author.) this month’s guest post from the every so lovely Taylor Bennett!
Taylor Bennett is a dandelion-wishing, world-traveling lover of books, words, and stories. Based in the PNW, she dreams of seeing the world and writing stories set in unique locations.
Although she dreams of traveling to many different places, her favorite destination thus far (aside from her charming hometown in Oregon) is Lahaina, Hawaii. Her love for this tropical hamlet led her to write about it, hence her debut YA novel, Porch Swing Girl, the first in a series of books set in Hawaii.
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Already an Author
How does a writer become an author? When will my book get published? How can I write words that really matter? These are questions that I used to ask countless times—at least once a day, usually more than that—as I was growing up.
Ever since I knew what a book was, I dreamed of writing one of my own. Before I could even read, I dictated stories to my parents or sat at the computer keyboard, typing pages and pages of gibberish. As soon as I had a (very loose) understanding of spelling and grammar, I started scribbling my own stories down in notebooks. When I reached middle school, I attempted my first novel.
Sadly this first novel wasn’t much better than any of my previous attempts at storytelling—I was thirteen, after all, and though my writing mechanics had improved, I was sorely lacking in my knowledge of plot and character development.
But I didn’t know that.
I queried publisher after publisher, hoping to find one willing to take on my story…and they all said no. That’s when I truly began my quest to publication.
I knew that my middle-school attempt at a novel wasn’t selling—so what would? Burying myself beneath writing craft books, I began to learn what I’d done wrong. Turns out, to be a writer, you can’t just dump a bunch of people, places, and situations in a bubbling cauldron; stir them together; and come out with a well-written book. (Who knew, right?)
Throughout my high school years, I attended writers’ conferences, studied the writing craft, and connected with other writers online. Finally, after much plotting, pantsing, and pulling out my hair, I stumbled upon the book of my heart.
As it turns out, I can begin writing a story without first having well-developed characters and a plot, but I absolutely cannot write anything if the inspiration isn’t there. In fact, when I started writing what became my debut novel, I had no idea where the story would end up. All I knew was the title: Porch Swing Girl. With those three words, a sudden longing to visit the island of Maui, and a playlist of fingerstyle ukulele music, I set off on my first great writing adventure.
This time, I knew what I was doing—at least, I thought I did. The first draft flowed out of me as I got to know my three central characters through what us writers call “pantsing”. Basically I wrote by the seat of my pants, without plotting out or even considering the overarching theme of the story. When I was done, I was sure that—this time—I had a bestseller.
Turns out that high-school-aged NYT-bestseller-wannabes have a lot of self confidence! After my book was “finished”, it took over a year’s worth of extensive editing and computer-keyboard-banging before I signed a contract with my publisher. Though that year felt long, it was necessary. Working with a professional freelance editor, I learned more about the writing process than I had in the years since I became committed to growing in my knowledge of the writing craft. When my debut novel finally released the summer I graduated high school, I knew that I had completed my own hero’s journey. I was an author.
But, as it turns out, I was one all along.
It’s something I learned only after my book hit store shelves, but it was true all along. The second we put pen to paper—the second we write something that touches one single heart, be it our own or that of someone else—then we are authors.
I struggled for years to crack the mystical code of publication, to grasp that enchanted, elusive title of author, but really I was the only one holding myself back. We don’t become authors the second we finish a first draft, sign a publishing contract, or hold a book with our name on the cover in our hands. We become authors when we put ourselves—our hopes, our dreams, our hearts—on the page.
Our journals, thank-you notes, and “just because” letters are just as powerful as a “real book”—sometimes even more so! If you are a writer, then you already are an author.
Your words are real. They are yours. They matter.
That’s all for today, and I really love this guest post (almost as much as Taylor’s books two of which I read this morning!) make sure to stop by next Friday for a GIVEAWAY (U.S.A. only due to shipping) of Taylor Bennett’s Porch Swing Girl!
Check out Taylor’s books here!