Servant Authors See Success Differently

This is a follow-up to my previous post on What is a Servant Author?

Servant Authors Have a Different Definition of Success

When I talk to people about being an author, and about the amazing things happening in my author journey, inevitably the conversation turns to imagining what could happen if my books take off. “Could you imagine what it would be like to get a $1m advance?” “Do you think that movie deal is going to go through?” “How much will you make if…?” And I’d be lying to say those things didn’t cross my mind. But there’s something else that crosses my mind more than all that.

How can I keep doing what I’m doing?

People sometimes wonder why I’m not more excited about the prospect of movies and becoming a bestseller. But there’s a reason I temper my excitement. At the end of the day, I know the most important thing is that I’m establishing a foundation from which I can help and serve others. I’m not trying to sell manuscripts–I’m trying to build a platform. I want this career to benefit the world; not just me.

Therefore the central story question in everything I’m doing right now is, “How can I keep doing what I’m doing?” The pie in the sky dreams of fame and fortune can be alluring, but for me they’re an albatross. If I’d been overly worried about making a fortune on my work, I wouldn’t have gone with a small press. My career would be on hold. In fact, if I were to focus on those monetary measures of success I probably wouldn’t make it in the publishing world at all. Because contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t a lot of money in being an author.

Selfishness Is a Servant Author’s Weakness

I’m reading Brandon Sanderson‘s Reckoners series right now (yes, Brandon Sanderson fans, I’m WAY behind…he’s just got too many GREAT books for me to keep up), and one of the concepts there has really been poking my mind lately.

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

In book 2, Firefight, people with super-abilities have taken over the world and rule as malevolent super-villains.There are ostensibly no superheroes, because the use of super-abilities corrupts the user’s mind, making them prone to evil and murder and all sorts of general nastiness. The power these people possess can ruin even the best people, turning them into monsters.

This is also true in my upcoming book The Outs. An honor student allows himself to take a step down a destructive path, and before he knows it he’s dragged kicking and screaming into America’s Most Wanted, becoming a different kind of monster entirely. And it’s all because he embraced selfish thoughts.

Selfishness is at the heart of pain. It destroys people, in both fiction and real life. And in the end, it destroys more than it creates. It’s humanity’s weakness, and I’m not prepared to give in.

What a Servant Author Values

If I’m to stay on the path I’m on, I have to angle myself away from selfishness. I’m a creator, not a destroyer. I want my words to bring life to the people who read them, and that can only happen if I’m setting my eyes on the good goals. In the words of Dumbledore, I need to “choose between what is easy and what is right.”

Publishing is a high-risk, high-investment, low-reward profession. I have to always remember that, or else I will get discouraged. And I can’t get discouraged and quit, because if I really believe I’m a servant author, then I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing it for something more important. Something greater than me. And that something is more valuable than million-dollar advances.

What Do Other Authors Have to Say?

If you’re an author and this resonates with you, good or bad, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment down below telling us all what you think.

What does it mean to be a “Servant Author”?

Servant Author?

I’ve started adding something to my bio lately that is important to me, but might seem a little confusing to everyone else. That’s okay. Sometimes a little confusion is good, because it gets people to ask questions. But I want to go out of my way to answer those questions now and set a tone for what I hope to do in the coming years.

How Did I Come to Call Myself a Servant Author?

Image copyright Natalie Collins

Image copyright Natalie Collins

I struggled with how I wanted to communicate my goals for this whole writing adventure, but I need to make sure I’m clear with myself now that The Outs is moving forward with publication. There’s a really deep well of thought that’s gone into this career path for me, and none of it involves ideas of fame and fortune. In fact, anyone who thinks being an author is the road to wealth and fandom really ought to start running the opposite direction, because “Here be dragons.”

Instead, my goals for this whole writing gig are, at least in my mind, a kind of service. My background is in serving and helping people. My Masters degree is in education. I spent thirteen years of my life working with teens–counseling, teaching, coaching, and mentoring–so for me, it’s always been about people.

The Power Behind a Servant Author

There is power in the written word. Words can bring whole worlds to life and crush them just as fast. Words can show the world the truth of a person, or spread the most damaging lies. And words can heal broken hearts and start a movement to bring good to the whole world.

I want to use the power of my words not because I think it will bring me something special. I want to use it because words have breathed life into me when I thought I would be broken forever. Others used their words to give me hope when I was hopeless. Words helped me see myself for what I am, and set me on the path that has led me here.

And now I want to use words in the service of other people’s lives the same. I want to serve the author community and build it up. I want to use my words as a service of encouragement for people who feel hopeless, and help them find the hope they need. I want my words to serve as guideposts marking the road I’ve been on all my life, giving guidance to others along the way.

A servant author doesn’t write for himself. A servant author writes because the words are in him, and they beg to get out so they can serve others.

I want to be a servant author.

The Power of Words

The Power of Words–even a in small numbers–astounds me.

As an author, every once in a while I get knocked flat by the mechanics of what I do. It’s a very nuanced profession, full of aspects that I’ll never fully understand. One of those aspects I always come back to is the power one or a few words have to create and destroy worlds, determine how you feel, and breathe life into the lifeless.

Right now I’m working through revisions on one of my most recent works based on feedback I’ve received from a few wonderful beta readers. Some of the biggest feedback they gave me on this manuscript was that my character was missing his motivation in a few places, and that at times he felt “whiny.”

So I’m hunting down these problem areas and realizing what happened to cause this, and I’m realizing that very often my errors boil down to word choice. Sometimes I jump too far into my character’s perspective, and let him say things in narration he’d never say in real life. Like saying something is “stupid.” It’s amazing the power that word holds. We might think something’s “stupid,” but the moment we say it out loud, people think we’re jerks. The same is happening with my protagonist. He can be a little dramatic, but I have to watch his drama, or else he says he “hates” something, and alarm bells go off in the reader’s head that this character is hateful.

In some ways it’s like God. In the Christian Bible, God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence. In that story, he formed everything into being with a word. His word had unimaginable power to set a tone for everything that came after. But if the story said something like, “he looked at what he’d made, and saw how bad it was,” everything that came after would have been tainted. The same is true with my stories. The words have meanings that need to be as true in my readers’ heads as they are in mine. Communication requires two parties, and if the communicator is saying the wrong things, the recipient will balk at what they’re hearing.

And I think about the power a single word has when directed at someone. The moment you say something negative about another person, there’s a shift. A line is drawn between you and them, and between you and those who like them. I don’t want to draw lines like that unless I’m certain I want the lines to be there for a long time. Because they will be.

Words have more power than we admit most times. They have meaning. And sometimes they can do more damage than we care to admit, too.

THE OUTS is coming in 2017 from Curiosity Quills Press!!!

I’m happy to announce that my YA speculative thriller THE OUTS is scheduled for publication by Curiosity Quills Press in 2017. YAHOO!

So that’s it! The Outs has found a home, and not too long from now I’m going to have to get started on book two so we can keep the world spinning. It’s crazy to think about, especially right now that I’m so deep in revisions on a middle grade fantasy adventure and finishing up the first draft of another YA sci-fi at the same time. So much to write, so little time.

But now we’ve got a trajectory. The Outs is moving forward, and so much improved thanks to the awesome mentorship I received from J.A. Souders through Brenda Drake’s #pitchwars. Continue reading

Statistics: How weird are the #pitchwars authors?

FYI: The amazing REBECCA MCLAUGHLIN has put together graphs! Many of the Pitch Wars mentees got together and shared our vitals and our not-so-vitals, giving Rebecca the ammunition to make these quirky graphs.

So hop on over and check it out!

Main #PitchWars Statistics Post (Brenda Drake’s site)

#PitchWars Supplemental Statistics (Rebecca’s site)

And look forward to more #PitchWars news soon!