Saturday, 1 August 2015

What Writers Want You to Know About the Writerly Life

I've got a head cold that's not going away. When I get sick, I get a bit ditzy, so the simplest things make me giggle.

I'm getting a kick out of the Twitter tag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. Yeah, it's awfully long for a tag, but writers are adapting just fine to the truncated tweet. Give it a read and have a window into our secret world...

Journalists are getting a kick out of watching their fellow writers moan about how their writing careers are perceived by non-writers: BBC has a good article, and The Observer was pasted all over the place.

So, here is my list of things that we writers would love you to know about the writerly life:

1. We write because we can't not write. That, and variants on that theme, are the primary reason we do it. Stories fill our heads. Characters natter in our ears. We are perpetually plagued by the question, "What if...?" Something in our souls yearns to be released, and it's through writing.

2. Money is not our meter stick. Granted, it's nice when we get paid for our work, and many of us aim to become financially independent, but it is not the primary driving force behind our career choice. (See #1) This is not a career you enter expecting to be well and equally compensated. But if you want to tap into the more lucrative side of writing, try magazine articles or copywriting. Just know that most of us are in it more for the love than the lucre.

3. We write more than novels. Early in my career I wrote short stories, non-fiction articles, screenplays and more. (If you're still stuck on #2 above, know that my biggest paying job to date was a non-fiction article for a popular parenting magazine. Less than a thousand words, more than a thousand bucks.) Writing covers all sorts of things. This is why writers squirm when, after telling you they're a writer, you ask, "So, what novels have you published?"

4. Publication is not the justification gold standard. Just because a writer is unpublished (or pre-published) doesn't mean they're a bad writer. It simply means they have not (yet) been published. That's all. Took me a few years.

A cold, hard, sad fact is that most writers have to put in some serious chops working and perfecting their craft before publication comes along. Also, publication doesn't automatically happen once you've finished something. It's a demand market, and often there are more really good pieces than there are publication spots.

That said, the deghettoisation of indie publishing has gone a long way towards giving many, many good writers an opportunity to reach readers. I've read some spectacular indie-published books. Don't let the fear of getting a dud keep you from picking up an indie book. Like agents and editors are the vetters for traditional publishing, your fellow readers vet indie works very well. Check out a book's ratings on Amazon or Goodreads if you want an indication of its quality.

5. Writing is a real job. Sure, lots of people have it as a hobby. But some of us make a career out of it. Because it takes time to go through our apprenticeships and journeyhoods before we are able to write a quality novel, we are putting in a lot of work before the financial payoff (if any) arrives. Until that happens, we need to source money sufficient for putting food in our bellies, a garret over our head and clothes on our backs.

Gone are the days of rich, titled patrons who sponsored us. Now, it's a tolerant spouse with a full-time job, or arts grants, or working what we fondly call, "The Day Job". So yeah, often we are working at least two jobs so we can pursue what we love and still eat.

6. Writing is not easy. Especially if its good writing. Heck, even slapping down horrible first-draft copy can be difficult at times. A novel is a complex piece of art with many components. Don't think that it's a doddle to write, and the first words that flow from our fingertips are brilliant works of timeless prose. It takes much effort to get it to the lovely stage you see in a printed novel.

Dear readers, we love you. We love you very much and we write marvelous stories to lift your hearts and take you away. A career as an author doesn't follow the same career path as a middle manager or an accountant or schoolteacher. We are the children of the muses and dance to a different tune.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Her Grace is a career author. She's got two novellas currently published, another novella coming out in February and a full-length novel out sometime near the end of the year, followed by a second in the new year.

Go buy her books. Otherwise, convince someone else to buy her books:

AS GOOD AS GOLD - historical fantasy romance - 4/5 stars
FOR RICHER, FOR POORER - SF/Fantasy romance - 4.5/5 stars

Out from The Wild Rose Press and available where all good ebooks are sold.

1 comment:

Melissa Sugar said...

Wonderful post and I agree with every one of your points. Thanks for the intro to the new hashtag. Yes, it's long, but I'm eager to check it out. I haven't quite caught on to Twitter. I'm doing what all the experts tell me to and I have followers, but I can't quite figure out how I'm supposed to stay connected with so many people. It seems like if I don't have Twitter at my fingertips all day long, I am certain to miss out on valuable tweets and conversations. I'm sure I will get the hang of it eventually. I enjoyed your post.