Sunday, July 16, 2006

Professional vs. hobby writing

This is a subject that comes up quite often with all writers, whether it’s your part-time escape, or the job you love most in the world. In my experience, two writers seldom ever work in the same manner, let alone view what they do in the same way. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to make the jump to professional writing as my full-time job. It took a long time, and a lot of perseverance, which is the one word I would suggest you etch into your brain if writing is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Talent is only a small part of the package, which is something most people tend to not realize. The real test of your skill is not always going to be in how you craft your words, but how you then deal with them afterward.

Early on, talking to my editors, I discovered there’s a real disparity in how even pro writers approach their work. Some are still more hobby writers than driven professionals who value the opportunities that precious, and often elusive, book contract offers them. Instead of working with the editor, (who is the one person who doesn’t lie to you for the sake of your ego, I assure you), some authors take offense to the suggestion that their words are not in perfect order. BIG mistake that one. No one writes a perfect story, and if you think you do, you’re not likely to last long in the “pro” world. I was very lucky with my first editor, she took the time to point out my consistent mistakes, and helped me to a very large degree be aware enough that I’ve made those errors less and less often. I’ll always be grateful for her patience and guidance.

One of the other things that I’ve noticed is greatly appreciated by publishers is that you take this job seriously. They’re not there to wait on your “moods”. If you’re in the middle of edits or galley proofs, then do the work you’ve committed yourself to for the publisher. Don’t make them wait until your cosmic aura is in tune with the world and you feel up to working. Writers work on weekends and holidays, it’s the nature of the business. Honour the agreement you make to work on a timely basis with the folks who are willing to invest their business time and money into your dream of reaching an audience. Professional authors write, they don’t really have the luxury of waiting for the “mood” to strike. If you do, then you’re obviously not looking at this as a job, but an enjoyable and amusing hobby.

And, of course, there’s the audience who is reading your work. Don’t EVER take them for granted! When a writer starts to establish a readership base, every book is about luring in the reader who will really enjoy sharing your vision. You’re winning them over and tempting them back with each and every book. If you’re lucky, they’ll return to your websites, publishers, and blogs on a regular basis and support your career. That’s when the stories have to expand a little further, and as a writer, you then accept the responsibility for entertaining your readers and honouring their trust and faith that you’ll give them the story they want and expect. Contrary to what a few of my friends have said, that really doesn’t mean writing the same story over and over. It means growing, letting your creativity explore the endless realm of possibility, and respecting your readers.

Inspiration comes in many, many forms. For me, it’s always been random chance. When I wrote fan fiction, it was an actor or a character he/she portrayed. When I write original fiction, which is what 95% of it has become in the past few years, then inspiration hits anywhere. My Greek fantasy novel (80,000+ words) was born when I read a piece of ancient poetry. An image will spark an entire story some days. Or the way a certain actor looks in a specific role will inspire an entirely different kind of story. Don’t ever discount the power of a glimpse of something beautiful, or even something profoundly disturbing, because that’s often where your greatest stories can be found.

Ultimately, this is the most wonderful job in the world. You get to express your inner dreams, live your fantasies, and be everything you know in your honest heart that you will never be! Writing is not only cathartic, it’s a gift the Almighty gives us so that we can reach beyond ourselves and touch the hearts of others. Personally, I think that’s a privilege and I hope I can always entertain my readers, and leave them feeling a little bit “up” at the end of the tale. If that happens, then I’ve done my job right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.