Monday, April 11, 2011

It's a Job

I don't really remember what I thought writing would be like. The desire to be a writer was specifically forbidden, never to be mentioned, and definitely not to be pursued when I was growing up. So I didn't have many daydreams about what a writer's life was like. I didn't dare. Since I didn't have many expectations, I can't say that there's much that turned out different.

I have the great fortune to know Michael Thomas Ford - one of the few truly professional writers I've met. I don't mean only professional in his attitude, but professional in that he makes his entire living from writing. He produces several novels a year in many genres including humor, young adult, romance, and I suppose that Jane Bites Back and Jane Goes Batty may be classified as horror, although there's romance and a lot of humor in them. What I've learned from Mike is that the life of a professional writer is hard work. It means sitting down to write every day, even if he's not feeling it. It means not writing on spec, but only writing what he's already sold via queries and then delivering quality work on time. No diva tantrums, no excuses, just dependable work.

I'm not sure that I'd want that job. Don't get me wrong, I love to write and would love to have more time for it. The pesky day job eats up a lot of my writing time. When I do write, while it may be to a call for submissions, my story is on spec. It may sell to that anthology, or it may not. I never query publishers before I write a novel. While I've been lucky enough to sell a few novels, there's no guarantee that what I spent the last six months working on will ever be published. That's not a good use of my time from a professional viewpoint, but it's satisfying for an amateur (in the original meaning of the word, meaning one who does something for the love of it).

Being published isn't every writer's aim, and it doesn't have to be. But for those who want to be published, I can offer a few tidbits I've picked up. The business side of writing is just that - a business. If you're going to enter that world, you can't be unprofessional. That means that you are responsible for fixing your own grammar and spelling. Period. End of discussion. Every time I hear someone say 'that's the editor's job,' I know that person has no future in writing, because they aren't willing to work at the basics. And it is work. I always knew that it would be, because to discourage me from writing, my parents always made sure to emphasize how very difficult it is. Maybe they did me a favor. At the time it felt like dreamkilling, but at least I'm not sitting around waiting for a muse to bestow art on me. I'm too busy working for it.


  1. Thank you for highlighting the real meaning of "amateur". The observation makes me feel much better about my own work.


  2. If we didn't love it, we would walk away. There are saner ways to spend our time.

  3. Hi Kathleen

    Tough sane advice. In recent months I' ve been thinking about some of the things your friend told you about, and I realise, as you say, writing for a living is not for everybody. You;re writing for a market and that narrows your options down. I think in a way the luckiest writers are the ones who are able to meet that middle ground between their obsessions and what people will buy.



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