You wanna be a writer? What to expect

From the time we learn how to write until we are pushing up the daisies, we want to express ourselves. From the five year old just learning how to create letters to the centenarian barely hanging on in a nursing home…they all want to write and tell people their feelings.

Even those who are disabled, in any form want the same thing. Some only want to inform others in the family or their own retrospective. Others want to be a paid full time author and become world famous and rich. This post is here to deflate your dream balloons. At the very least let the air out of grandiose and glamorous ideas, to a certain extent to be more realistic.

There are innumerable issues that arise from wanting to be a full-time writer. While the internet and computers have made things slightly better for us, it hasn’t solved the main problem or question. How well do you write? If you don’t write well with compelling information or a story…then you are stuck.

Rejection slips in the mail are part of a by-gone era. As is the idea of having to wait weeks or months to hear from a magazine or publisher. Now rejection is almost instantaneous. You submit it via the submission on-line and within a couple of days you receive a note that says “Your writing stinks, submit to us no more!” probably in a much kinder soft tine but…

I racked up rejection slips by the hundreds back in the day. I kept all of them until moving when I lost them. I have to conservatively figure that I had more than 5 or 6 thousand slips from hundreds of magazines, some fiction others non-fiction.

Going along with that are the whims of the internet and your provider. If they lose their servers or the phone lines go down, for any reason…In that case you are also sunk. If you’re on a deadline you will be even more stressed. During a thunderstorm, or snow/ice, you may be without your computer for minutes, hours, days, or in extreme instances, weeks.

Another thing you have to expect is to work outside normal business hours. The writing life is not like in the movies. Writers don’t have a 9 – 5 schedule. You will write whenever you can or when the muse smacks you upside the head, which may be at 1 AM after a night of binging.

Every full-time writer I know works a minimum of 60 – 70 hours per week. My good friend works, usually, from about 4 AM to well after 6 PM before she takes time to have a glass of wine to unwind. Sometimes when she gets that cement block in her head, commonly known as writers block, she can get literally only a couple of hours of sleep per night.

Of course not all of this time is spent on sitting at the keyboard. She has research to do, clients to meet, going to the office supply store and other sundry items that a writer needs to complete to keep themselves financially afloat.

Most books being published today are not done so by traditional publishers. The proliferation of self-publishing, small specialty, and university presses brings about a whole new set of problems. Which ones do you trust and which ones do what you need them to do? Back in the day, there were a few vanity publishers that charged in excess of $5,000 to publish your book. No editing, cover design, no book store placements, and no publicity, leaving everything up to you with a living room full of boxes filled with your creation.

Of the hundreds of thousands of books published yearly now, less than 5,000 will hit the best seller charts, of which there are dozens. Just as unfortunately, is that less than 1% of these books will sell more than a thousand copies. Leaving nearly a million books to sell less than 1,000 copies if any at all.

That in and of itself can be disheartening to the newbie writer. That’s why you need to be able to write clear, concise, compelling prose. No matter the type of writing you do you must make it compelling…without faking it in non-fiction. With fiction the sky’s the limit when it comes to making things up.

With that you must also realize one thing. Editors don’t have the time to devote to editing your work, unless they specifically requested something from you. When I started writing for publication back in the mid-80s the editors I worked with did the editing for me. I wrote they edited. With the publishing field becoming so narrowly focused and downsized they don’t have time for that anymore, despite the proliferation of on-line only sites.

One last point to think about as well. If you are not an editor and need to hire one for your books, articles, or other creations… the waters are full of sharks. Hundreds of people will claim to be editors out there but in reality they are looking to take your money and the same goes for publishers of your book and some literary agents.

Do you research and ask for referrals. I asked a colleague that I trusted about my first book. He referred me to a publisher who he was very happy with. On the other hand I got shall we say… screwed.

Again I will reiterate. I don’t want to discourage you from writing. Who knows you may be the next JK Rowling, Clive Cussler, Jackie Collins, or John Jakes. The chances are remote but someone will break out. Through, luck, perseverance, hard work, or possibly you get Oprah, or another celebrity, to read and pass it along. All I can tell you at this point is good luck and follow Ernest Hemingway’s advice “Write drunk and edit sober”. or Twitter: @robertsollars2

                                I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear

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