Writing Tips #3 – The Professional Writer

So, today’s tip is going to be a little different.  Today I want to discuss “writing” as a job or business.

I know grumble, because as a writer you are doing what you love so how can it be work?  And as the saying goes do something you love and you never work a day in your life.  But if you really do what to finish that manuscript, if your final goal is publication, if you want to be taken seriously by family and friends and co-workers, you must look at what you do as a job.

Therefore, let’s look at some of the aspects of writing as a business.

The place you work:  I can’t say there is any right or wrong place.  If you want to close yourself off in a small room with sound proofed walls and a do not disturb sign on the door, or you would rather sit with your laptop in a park with the traffic and children playing then so be it.  But the one thing I advise you to do is to make the place a place for working on writing.  Do not go to the park and spend the day browsing the net for shoe sales or golfing tours.  When you sit down and pull out a note pad or turn on the computer in your “place” write.  Even if you only get a few lines down while you day dream, write.  If you have to get up a hundred times to answer the phone, write.  Make that place your place to write because every time you go to that place and you write or think about what you will write you train your brain to associate the place with being creative.  And every time you take yourself to that place you will be able to fall into writer mode.  Personally I write in my basement.  I also have my bedroom in my basement so even when I am asleep I am in writer’s mode and if I wake up at 2 AM with an idea I get up and I sit down and I can write.  So pick a place and try to make it your place of business.

The equipment:  Now this is a matter of both personal choice and industry standards.  I think I mentioned I wrote my first several manuscripts in spiral notebooks, and then I used a manual typewriter and finally a word processor.  I have always been a bit behind the technology curve, actually I am still on the dirt road and technology has already left surface streets for the express way.  My advice here is to use what you are comfortable with.  If you like to carry a note pad and jot down a little bit as you eat lunch or if you have some pocket size super computer you can whip out and type a entire chapter into a document file and then dock that small device with a larger system well again whatever you are comfortable using.  However, make sure the equipment is reliable or you have a back up.  Remember that writers work for the most part on deadlines and there is not an editor or audience out there willing to totally forgive a writer who is late in delivery.  Computer crashes and printer malfunctions happen to everyone, they cannot “happen” to a writer.  And if they do they still cannot delay the manuscript.

Now while it is your preference where you start the story the industry will eventually require you to end on a computer with internet.  I will not say there are absolutely no publishing houses who will not consider a manuscript done in longhand on notebook paper, I believe even JK Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) started her writing this way, but the majority of agents and editors will want you to submit in a manner only possible through computer technology.  Many agents have even switched to e-mailed quarries and submissions only and editors have gone to requesting rewrites via e-mails and online “chats”.  So if you are an old fashion writer or if you are simply a technophobe (like me)  at least have a plan as to how you will get your manuscript into some type of word document ready for print and review by the people who will move you forward in the business.  In a later post I will talk about how to write a quarry, give a literary “pitch” and submission standards.

The Hours:  Well this is something hard to pin down.  Personally, I spend maybe 70 to 80 hours a week writing or editing on manuscripts.  I am also the kind of writer who can sit down for 2 days straight and complete a 150,000 word story from beginning to end AND I have a family and life which supports me doing this.  Now that I have added this “blog” thing I have decreased my writing time, increased my edit time and still not really adjusted the overall time I spend actually writing.

I guess what I am say is you have to MAKE time to write.  If you can only get an hour a day while the triples nap and the washer gets through the spin cycle then spend that hour. If you have one day a week when your mother in law will take the kids and feed your spouse then use that entire day.  The best way I can tell you to figure out how much time you will have to dedicate to your “working” on writing is to set a goal.  Tell yourself you will write 500 words (roughly 2 pages) every time you sit down.  When you find you are taking less time because your GMC is now nailed and the story is flowing increase that to 750 words (or 3 pages) and so on.  Set goals based on the plots and plot twists or character development, write through until you have helped your character or set the scene or finished a stretch of dialog.  But most important, MAKE time to write.

When to take time off of writing:  Well let’s see…. There are children to get off to school, the dog to walk, the bills to pay the laundry to do the plants to water, the neighbor to help, the church pot luck, the dinner and laundry (oh did I say the laundry twice… I should say it again as it’s my personal nemeses). Then there are the doctors and dentists and the shopping and the calling Mom for her birthday and OH MY GOSH the husband who would maybe like to have sex! Phew, now I am tired.

My point is there are a million reasons to convince yourself you do not have time to write, you can’t give your craft the dedicated time you would give any other chore or job.  But if you want to write, if you want to be a writer, you have to.  You have to set aside some of those other things or give them less of your attention and give that time and attention to your writing.  And know what it’s okay to do that.   There is nothing selfish or inconsiderate about giving yourself the time to do something you not only enjoy but something which could eventually earn you a living.  You may have to explain this to the people who expect you to do all and be all, all the time but it is still alright to take that hour or those 70 hours and do what you want and have to do as a writer

Writing is a craft but it is also a job, a business and if you want to make it in the business you have to treat the craft as you would treat any other job.  You have to have a work place, you have to have the equipment and you have to have the time.

I hope this gives you something to think on.  READ ON!