Q4U: A Fiction Author’s Job Description

I got this question in a blog comment a couple of weeks ago:

Would you write a job description for FICTION AUTHOR? Please include the qualifications (required or optional) and the job duties (required or optional.) I ask because I’m in a bit of turmoil about my suitability for the totality of this job. I love to write and I think I write well. However, the marketing aspect scares me a bit. Does this disqualify me from the job as an author?

So, readers, how about it? Write a job description for a fiction author. I’ll make a post out of the best ones (on some future undetermined date).

Make sure you write your description before reading those of other commenters!

Have a great weekend…

Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.

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  • Mary DeMuth

    >A fiction author:

    *has been known to spin a great story his/her whole life.
    *retreats into her head to chat with characters.
    *reads books on the writing craft, even improving.
    *needs to get more exercise (too much BOC–butt on chair–time)
    *takes criticism well because he wants to become a better storyteller.
    *has a good command of the English language and an infatuation with words.
    *understands the business of publishing.
    *has a willingness to be pressed and stretched, particularly in the area of publicity and marketing
    *has a web presence.
    *develops a lot of relationships within the writing industry–authors, editors, agents (particularly Rachelle; she’s cool)
    *is willing to pay his dues, understanding his first or third or eighth book might not sell.
    *knows how to join two independent clauses correctly (OK, this is my pet peeve, along with using weak verbs and not varying sentence structure)

    Whew! I’m tired. Really, though, what it boils down to is raw talent plus determination plus a teachable spirit.

  • JC

    >Added to Mary’s:

    *Hovers between normal and insane

    *Enjoys solitude, even better if reclusive

    *Can reach deep inside and pull out buried and repressed emotions, then transfer them onto the page as needed.

    *Has a love obsession with their characters, prefers their company over most people

    *Dreams about their characters

    *First thought that pops into their head in the morning is their characters

    *Willingness to rewrite, revise, rewrite, revise, rewrite, revise. And then do it all over again.

    *After able to devote 10-12 hours straight hours to writing, still feels like they didn’t have enough time.

    *Writes for God’s sake (if Christian) first, writes for the story’s sake second, writes for the reader’s sake third, then – and only then—writes for own sake

  • Nicole

    >Fiction Author:

    Will recognize the gift, purpose, and objective are from God and act accordingly.
    Will view life as a story and will write on any material if the right phrase comes along at any hour on any day in any place.
    Will know characters better than her family and friends—at least some of them.
    Will accept the fact that maybe conventional publishing might not be the ultimate goal—even if desired.
    Will write anyway. Will write anyhow. Will write.
    Will read and absorb the styles, techniques, preferences, means, and uniqueness of storytelling by exorbitant novel reading. And will know grammar and “the rules” well enough to supercede them.
    Will enjoy solitary existence with loved ones: characters in his/her novels.
    Will ultimately love the final work.

  • Kim Kasch

    >She’s an absolute Drama Queen, exaggerates everything. He’s a wanna be James Bond, who makes up ridiculous stories of womanizing and feats of superhuman strength, skill and stamina.

    She’s reclusive, he’s a loner. She is overconfident – even in the face of rejection. He boasts about the challenge.

    Together the two might be considered totally insane but they don’t care. They have a love affair with words.

  • Anonymous

    >GENRE/AGE SPECIFIC QUESTION

    I have a more specific question about fiction. I have written a 40,000 word fantasy novel for children age 8-12. This falls right in line with something like CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, or even Harry Potter – something for that age, but read by teens and adults alike. Would you call this a children’s book? Or, is this classified young adult, or even something else? To me, children’s book means picture book or something similar. I don’t want to give that impression of my book. I know you don’t deal with children’s books, but what do you consider to be children’s?

  • lynnrush

    >Job Description.
    Well, Mary, JC, Nicole, and Kim said it very well. I love the “Hovers between normal and insane,” JC. I can’t even begin to describe how accurate that is. LOL

    We may be a little insane, but many thought the fisherman who simply dropped their nets and followed Jesus were a little strange as well, right?

    Writing for an audience of One…that’s what it’s all about.

  • Lea Ann McCombs

    >In 6 words:

    A novelist:

    Connects two hearts using only words.

  • Kate H

    >This is a pretty big question for a blog comment. I recommend John Gardner’s book, “On Becoming a Novelist,” for a description of what it takes to WRITE a good novel. What it takes to SELL a novel is entirely different, and Gardner doesn’t address it; he was lucky enough to be writing at a time when publishers still took the responsibility for selling books.

  • Timothy Fish

    >Qualifications of a Fiction Author

    - Must be skilled in the use of his/her native tongue.
    - Must be creative.
    - Willing to spend many hours writing.
    - Must be critical of his/her own work.
    - Must take criticism well.
    - Should be an extrovert.
    - Should be willing to promote his/her own work.
    - Gracious in the face of rejection.

    Job Description of a Fiction Author

    The fiction author will spend many long hours writing, after which he/she will throw most of his/her work away and do it all over again at least one more time. Upon completion of this task, the fiction author will simultaneously repeat this task and begin promoting the first effort to agents and/or editors. This will involve attending conferences to meet with industry professionals and submitting book proposals. During this time, the fiction author will most commonly hear the words “it isn’t right for me.” If the fiction author moves out of this phase, he/she must work with editors to revise the book one more time. At this stage, the fiction author must be able to make changes that improve the work without losing the heart of the work. For any books that make it into print, the fiction author must promote his/her work through blogging, public speaking, book signings and anything else that will place the book in the public eye.

  • Timothy Fish

    >Anonymous 8:22 brings up a question that touches on one of my frustrations. If I tell a story from the POV of a twelve year old, it is likely to be classified as a children’s book, but if I tell the very same story from the POV of an adult, it is likely to be classified as adult. Some of the works of dead authors were originally written for adults and are now considered children’s books. Then we consider that adults enjoy some of the books targeted at children much more than children do.

  • Anonymous Gimp

    >Postion: Fiction Author

    Looking for an experienced Fiction Author for an exciting new company. We offer a wide range of benefits, including medical, dental, 401k, and daily use of communal salt-lick. Must have at least two years experience in the Fiction Author marketplace and the drive to author as many fictions as is fictitiously possible. Any experience in the Non-Fiction Author marketplace is beneficial, but not required. Attempts to fictionalize resume not recommended.

    Duties include, but are not limited to:

    -Fictioning
    -Authoring
    -Multi-Tasking, (which will include a combination of Fictioning AND Authoring)
    -Authoring Fiction Novels in a wide range, include Fiction and Non-Fiction (but only of the fictitious type)
    -Feeding of The Yak

    The ideal candidate will have dependable transportation, be able to lift 50 lbs, and have no irrational fears of yaks or other hairy mamals.

    -End-

  • Courtney Walsh

    >I want to ask also if it’s the general consensus that the writer writes for him/herself last after considering first God, then the story, then the reader…

    I’m not sure I completely agree with that. I forever remember reading “Letters to a Young Poet,” where Rilke says (and yes, I looked this up because my memory is so worthless this week) –

    Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity;

    Obviously there’s more, but I suppose because of this, I’ve always subscribed to the idea that sometimes it’s okay – even important – to write for yourself. Sometimes, you simply ‘must.’

    No?

  • Gwen Stewart

    >Courtney, twice this week I’ve come across this message, once in print and once in radio: God will not call us to do for Him that which we dislike. Where He places a calling, He places a desire to fulfill that calling. I don’t think that’s to say it will always be easy or immediately gratifying, but we will always yearn to pursue it if it’s God’s call.

    I think if God places in us a fervent desire to write, if it feels God-shaped inside, then the lines between writing for Him and writing because it gives us joy blur, delightfully so. Our exquisitely generous God is too loving to call us into a joyless existence–even if the road is hard, He gives abundant life.

    I have not much to contribute to the fiction author’s qualifications/requirement topic, because I’m a writer trying to figure this out one step at a time, but did want to second Courtney’s thoughts.

  • Timothy Fish

    >Courtney,

    We must write for the reader. As Christians, we are to put the Lord first in everything, but let’s step down a level and look at why we write. The reader should come first before our own enjoyment, the money we might make or the story. We shouldn’t write a phrase without considering the reader. Even the greatest story ever told is meaningless if the reader doesn’t understand. That is not to say that we do not write for other reasons or even write for writing’s sake, but if we intend others to read our work we must place them first.

  • Anonymous

    >Job Title: Fictional Author

    Reports To: Readers, Agent, Publisher, Editor

    Overview: The Fictional Author develops and writes stories that are created solely in their head. May encompass some personal experience.

    Pay Grade: $0 (maybe even negative) – ???.

    Working Environment: Stressful, foggy brain at times, writers block can occur, risk of losing personal sanity and developing low self-esteem.

    Job Duties (may include, but not limited to):
    1. Constant brain activity to create, develop, and edit a make believe story.
    2. Continuous typing, typing, and more typing.
    3. Use of a thesaurus when the right word just isn’t there.
    4. Endure many hours of reading and re-reading your masterpiece.
    5. Sales. Selling your book to prospective agents.
    6. Working the internet. For marketing your book.
    7. All other duties as assigned.

    Qualifications: Must be able to dream, eat, and walk as if your life was your book. Must be able to type, at least until you develop carpal tunnel from all of the typing you will do. Must have thick skin to deal with rejections, rewrites, edits, etc. Most importantly, must LOVE your job.

    __________________________ Signature
    ____________
    Date

  • Nicole

    >”I want to ask also if it’s the general consensus that the writer writes for him/herself last after considering first God, then the story, then the reader…”

    Courtney, the point is that you couldn’t write a simple stroke of the pen without God. The idea is to allow the inspiration He assigns to be fulfilled. The work is doing what He asks of you regardless of the outcome.

  • Lynette Sowell

    >Fiction Writer Wanted:
    Must have excellent observation skills and be a student of human nature.
    Knows P’s, Q’s, and where they go.
    Must be willing to be edited.

  • JC

    >Wow, I sparked discussion. Very cool. This is what I meant:

    For God’s sake — you right the story God has place on your heart and don’t add things in that you know don’t please Him.

    For the story’s sake — you don’t have your plot or characters do something that you want them to do at the rist of the story (Extreme Example: I don’t need a climax or to follow basic plotting techniques becuase my story doesn’t need it)

    For the reader’s sake — Timothy explained this very well already, but I will add this: anything of the attitude, “well, this is the story and my readers will just have to deal with it” has to go.

    For you sake: money, fame, bragging rights (I’ve got a book published! Go me, Go me, it’s my birthday!)

    Most writers can’t help but right. There is a story within them burning to come out. But it should go through God’s filter, then basic story structure filter, then ensure reader-friendliness. Then you have let the story out that was within you and have a chance of seeing it in print.

  • Pam Halter

    >To add to anonymous’s question about children’s books: if your audience is ages 8-12, then your book is considered Middle Grade.

    To add to the fiction author’s description: a fiction author goes to the mall to people watch instead of shopping.

    Another great place to people watch is the boardwalk. I love to sit on a bench on the boardwalk and simply watch people go by and wonder who they are, what’s going on in their lives and what would they do if a fairy or elf suddenly appeared in their bedroom? :) Yeah, I’m a fantasy author.

  • Courtney Walsh

    >I understand the idea about not writing for bragging rights or fame, etc. – that’s not what I meant. I simply meant sometimes the need to write is bigger than us. We have something that needs to get out – we have characters that need to be brought to life.

    As writers, we live in the world of imagination. Our imagination. And out of our passion, the stories ignite. Of course we hone them for our readers and for editors, etc. but firstly, I write because I love to write.

    Maybe that’s a given, but I think often people fall into jobs where there is no passion. Writing is likely no different. I’m not talking about doing it just for me and who cares if my readers like it or not – I’m talking about considering the message God’s put on my heart to bring and then figuring out a way to communicate that effectively.

  • David A. Todd

    >Timothy Fish said:

    “- Should be an extrovert.”

    I really hope that’s not true, for it disqualifies me, and maybe half of those who want to be fiction authors.

  • Timothy Fish

    >I did say should rather than must, but I believe I can support my claim. An extrovert is predominantly concerned with and obtains gratification from things outside the self. This is the opposite of an introvert who is predominantly concerned with his mental life. From my point of view, the desire to write shows a tendency toward extroversion. Sure, we are writing about our thoughts, but we all have thoughts, the thing to consider is what we do with these thoughts. An extreme introvert may have thoughts of an imaginary world and finds joy in exploring it. An extreme extrovert may have those same thoughts, but he does find as much joy in exploring it as he does in telling other people about it.

    A writer must be a student of human nature and conversation. An extrovert sits down at the mall and watches people. She makes eye contact with a passing stranger, she observes a young man with his arm around his girlfriend, she takes in the smell of the pretzel stand a few yards away. The introvert sits down and may take in some of that, but quickly becomes bored. Her mind drifts off into her imaginary world and she tunes everything else out.

    A writer must be willing to promote his book through book signings, public speaking and blogging. Many extroverts and introverts alike don’t enjoy these things because they place them in an unfamiliar situation. The real difference between the extrovert and the introvert here is that the extrovert is going to leave a public event after having met some new people and he is going to be excited and a little sorry it is over. The introvert is going to leave the even worn out from the stress of the event and glad that he can go home and go to sleep.

    I think you will find that extroverts, even shy or reserved extroverts are better suited for the activities required of a writer.

  • Angie Farnworth

    >Timothy,
    I agree whole-heartedly and enjoyed reading your comments. As a confirmed extrovert, I’m often shocked when writers claim that it’s the introverts who have cornered the market on writing. While I admit that it isn’t always easy for me to sit at my desk and write for hours on end day after day, that’s why God made Starbucks and laptops **tongue in cheek**.

    Also to play devil’s advocate with this following earlier comment:

    “…twice this week I’ve come across this message, once in print and once in radio: God will not call us to do for Him that which we dislike…”

    I have to respectfully disagree with this one. I think God very much can and does call many to tasks they dislike. Some are willing to dig deep and learn to enjoy where God places them. Others reject God’s plan and try to figure out their purpose on their own. Check out Eccl. 5:18-20 to see what Solomon has to say about that. And if you need further convincing, just come over to my house and look at my reasonably clean kitchen. Trust me, if I didn’t do tasks I disliked, it would have been condemned by the health board years ago. ;)

    And consider this: if someone wasn’t willing to do the disguisting job of picking up my trash every week…

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