When is a Book not a Book?
Startup Stock Photos
When it’s a manuscript
Boom boom. Not much of a joke is it? So how’s the book going? That was the title of my last blog post and it posed another interesting question and one that has troubled me for some time. What can I call my cherished 77,000 words lovingly saved in a special folder on my lap top? My friends call it my book but is that right and proper? It hasn’t been published so technically it isn’t what most people would regard as a book. So what is it then? It tells a story, it has a structure, characters, a theme, a moral dilemma, three acts, beginning, middle and end. It has all the ingredients of a book. But no one can buy it. It hasn’t been printed and bound with a glossy cover. There’s no blurb or supportive quotes and reviews.
Is there an interim term, a holding pattern for those would-be books circling the publishing runway waiting to be called in to land? I think this is also linked to a similar question – when can I call myself a writer?
My job is in communications for a charity. That’s how I pay my mortgage and put food on the table and it is what keeps me in gin. Writing doesn’t do that. Writing is something I enjoy although I would dearly love it to be the thing that keeps me in gin. Reading blogs from other writers the advice seems to be that we should call ourselves writers if we write regularly, regardless of whether or not any cash changes hands. The thinking is that if we say we are writers to family and friends and random people we meet in bars then we will take ourselves seriously, write regularly, put effort into it and create things that will have more value than if we just dabble, call it a hobby and don’t give a project the focus it deserves. That makes sense. My experience of life in general confirms that the more effort one puts in the more one is rewarded at the end. Diddling about delivers little.
But I still find myself embarrassed. A Sunday league footballer who works in a bank calls himself a banker and not a footballer when he is at a party. So is it the intention that makes me different from my footballing friend? He has no hope or expectation of making it to Wembley yet I want to make writing my job and maybe what currently pays my bills is just a temporary measure whilst I wait for someone to be bowled over by my book/manuscript and for the big bucks to roll in.
Which brings me back to the initial question. What do I call this thing I have written? My fear is that I will sound too grand if I call it a book. “Where can I buy it?” would be the natural response. “It’s not published,” would come the answer whispered shamefully. Embarrassed glances all round would then follow.
So am I a writer with a book or do I enjoy creative writing in my spare time and have completed a manuscript? Who knows?