As we were coming home from the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers retreat Sunday, my friend Shannon asked me a question that surprised me. “When we were asked to introduce ourselves, you said that you were a nonfiction author. Did you leave fiction off on purpose?”
I admit that I had to think about it a bit and that, yes, I did leave fiction off on purpose.
This weekend, for the first time in about a month, I found the time to work on my middle grade novel. I wrote about 3 really bad pages. Don’t judge! I hadn’t worked on this in a month.
The page that I submitted for the “First Page” session was a fiction picture book.
So why did I introduce myself as a nonfiction writer? It’s what I do well. I had several nonfiction books with my name on the cover to share with my peers.
When we were chatting at the end of the day on Saturday, I did mention that I’m working on a middle grade novel.
Them: What’s it about?
Me: I’m not talking about it.
Them: Come on. You have to tell us something.
Me (seriously, why do you think that): I’m not talking about it until I have a full draft.
Them: What genre is it?
Me: Science fiction.
Them: So what’s it about?
The thing is that I’m trying something new with this particular novel. I’m not talking about it. I’m writing it. When I have it drafted, then I can talk. I’m hoping that this will keep me writing because I have a really bad track record with fiction. Not only do I tend not to sell it, I tend not to finish it.
It just seems safer to introduce myself as a nonfiction writer. It saves me from having to answer questions that I don’t want to answer about my fiction and it really is what I do best.
So how do you identify yourself? The first step, even if you haven’t published, is to call yourself a writer. Only then will you consistently give yourself permission to write. If you don’t have permission, even from yourself, to write than you will never get your work out there.
Call yourself a writer! Maybe you want to say “picture book writer.” Or maybe you’d prefer, craft writer. Whatever — just call yourself a writer and then get to work making it so.