Romance and Glamour of the Writing Life
by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
I’m always amazed that so many people think writing books is not only an easy way to get rich but that it is a glamorous profession. Trust me – the majority of the time it doesn’t come anywhere close to either.
If you want to write a book, there’s always so much to do, such as the first set of basics like getting your skeleton plot together, doing enough research to see if your idea will not only hold together but if it is even reasonably possible in the world you have created. Pretty much the same goes for your characters. And your locations. Then – and only then – can you start to string the words that will hopefully become the story.
Then it gets more difficult – you have to actually write the book. Sitting down for long periods of time doing nothing but putting words one after another into a cohesive whole is tiring. Believe it or not, this is where most would-be writers fail. Why? Because writing a book is work – fun work, enjoyable work, creative work, fulfilling work, but still work. Some would-be writers prefer to talk about writing and endlessly rehash their story with friends than to write. Writers spend many hours over many weeks or even months in a room staring at a computer screen (though some still write longhand on pads), all alone except for their invisible friends. Invisible friends who sometimes seem more real than the flesh-and-blood ones.
Once the story is completed and destined for publication, then begins the unholy circus of editorial combat where the writer must listen to an editor tell her what mistakes she made and how – in the editor’s opinion – she must change it to make it better. Sometimes it is good advice and sometimes is it is not, and often the success or failure of the book depends on that decision.
But all of that is simple by comparison – believe it or not, writing and editing are the easiest parts! It’s all the other stuff that gets in the way, like fixing dinner every night, cleaning the house, getting the oil changed, calling the furnace repairman, dealing with the taxes, seeing that the laundry and the dishes are washed and put away… things some people have as full time careers. Even more people not only do all this but have full time jobs. Then there are the families, the husbands and the children, the extended families, the community and the church and Heaven only knows what else – even pets – each one wanting something only the writer can provide.
If the writer is self-publishing, the work doubles, because she must take on not only the duties of writer, but also of publisher – finding editors, formatters and cover artists (or learning to do them all herself). Self publishing is – for many authors – so much more lucrative than traditional publishing, but it is also so much more work.
Add to this the necessity of publicity and visibility. The writer must tweet and keep up a facebook page, blog regularly and maintain a website or two. She must interact with her readers and, if she is lucky, appear and speak at meetings, conferences and conventions, This can all be very princessy at the moment – sometimes – but every moment thus spent is a moment spent not writing. Unfortunately it doesn’t make much difference here whether you’re trad or self pubbed. Unless you are on the level of a Stephen King or Nora Roberts trad publishers depend on you to do most or all of your own publicity.
It doesn’t do any good to have just one book out there, either, no matter how wonderful it is. The market is thick with books good and bad, and the secret to visibility is to have a lot of books. No one, though, can tell you how you’re going to find the time to write all those other books with all that is going on. You will, in spite of all if you’re a writer.
With all the distractions it can’t seem to get any worse, but like any good black moment, it does. Alongside the everyday problems and distractions without warning there will appear the super-duper sudden out-of-the-blue disaster. The air conditioner blows up. The car throws a rod. Your mother in law falls and breaks her hip. Your child or husband or parent is stricken with some sudden and dreadful illness. Your computer blows up.
I speak with painful personal knowledge on the last. My workhorse of a computer – an 11 year old Dell laptop – suddenly decided to have a nervous breakdown, taking my work and great chunks of my life with it. In the flurry of overlapping deadlines I had let my cloud backup lapse –with full intentions of restoring it after the current push was over, of course. A couple of days… what difference could it make?
A lot. Suddenly I was unable to access the manuscript – marked by my editor – on which I had been working for the last week. (It totally disappeared, necessitating the humiliating chore of calling my editor for a re-send as well as starting over from scratch with my own edits.) My obligations list also disappeared, so I had to reconstruct from emails and scribbled notes when I was supposed to blog and for whom. My to-do projects went, as well as my nearly-completed work in progress, along with years of assorted files. I cried.
At least I did have email, through either a tiny ancient purse computer or my telephone. They worked, but each with annoying quirks that made the experience more labor than pleasure.
Fortunately I am blessed to have a wonderful computer guru who worked his magic and got most of my data back – data which is now ensconced on a new(er) computer and redundantly backed up both in the cloud and on an exterior hard drive. Lesson learned. Never go without at least one form of back-up. Never.
I stand in utter awe of those writers who have full time jobs that aren’t writing, have husbands and children and families, and yet still write marvelous books, interact with their fans and face disasters with fortitude. They are an incredible bunch.
Writing may be a fulfilling, aggravating, exciting and occasionally wonderful way to make a living, but glamorous? I don’t think so…
About the Author
Normally not so curmudgeonly, Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes in mystery, romance, horror, children’s and scholarly. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.
...always a good story!
...committing crime with style!
The Hollow House
Available at Publisher
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