When do you start calling yourself a novelist? Is it when you type that lame ass working title across the very first page and then insert those two little letters: “b” and “y” before your name? Or do you wait until the very first time you crack the spine of a fresh-out-of-the-shipping-carton book, look up into a stranger’s face and ask: “To whom shall I write this, hmmm?” Maybe you wait until Matt Lauer introduces you: "Next up, wife, mother, novelist and now convicted killer--”
Or, better yet, you find yourself on Fresh Air with Terry Gross and she asks, “So, you’re a… novelist?” with that going up inflection on the last word that says: I’m-charmingly-befuddled-and-not-quite-sure-I-used-the-right-…word?
My feeling is that I became a novelist when I finished my first manuscript or, rather, novel, now that it’s done. I met a writer the other day and as we talked I identified myself as a novelist. He snorted at me and said he would not call himself a novelist until after he had actually published a novel. But, I find the act of writing and the process of trying to getting published to be so completely unrelated that I can’t quite accept the causal relationship. Writing and pursuing publications require vastly different skills. They are diametrically opposed ambitions and while one requires you looking deep into yourself for validation, the other forces you to seek validation from strangers.
What I’ve kind of figured out is that the way to get published is to claim that your work is just like all other work in that particular genre while simultaneously claiming that your work is totally creative, unique, and different from anything else ever written, ever, really, for real, plus it’s just like that best seller from last year.
Anyway, what do you guys think? What makes a person novelist? When do you feel it’s appropriate to claim that title?