Upping Your Level of Professionalism
By Jennifer Shaw Wolf
I started writing for fun. Yes, I’ve always thought it would be cool to be a real writer and have a book published, but when I wrote my first manuscript I wrote it for me. I wanted to see if I could do it. I didn’t join any writing groups, I didn’t go to conferences, I didn’t pour over blogs and agent interviews, or news from the publishing industry to see what was and wasn’t selling. I just wrote it.
When I was about half way through the story, I e-mailed it to my niece who was then 13, and ask her what she thought of it. She wrote back, “Is there any more?
So I kept sending her stuff. I would e-mail her a chapter or two as I finished them. She didn’t ever give me any critique or feedback, she would only say, “Is there any more?” or sometimes, “Write faster.” That’s how I finished my first full manuscript. I enjoyed every moment of writing it.
For me, this was a great way to begin. I was able to write without the fear of rejection or wondering if I would get an agent or if it would sell, or wondering if it was any good. I wrote for the sheer joy of telling myself (and my niece) a story.
But that wasn’t the manuscript I sold.
By the time I’d finished my third manuscript, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, (originally TIGERSEYE), I had joined SCBWI, I had taken a couple of writing classes, and I met regularly with a critique group. I still wrote for the sheer joy of it, but I’d learned a lot about writing and the process it took to get published.
The big change, for me, going from being a writer to an author is the amount of “work” I have to put in. Before writing was my hobby so I wrote when I had a spare moment or when I felt like it, (which, if you talk to my family, was all the time). Now, when I write, I’m writing to fill a deadline or to advance to the next thing.
I’m fighting the idea that writing is now a job, and I’m doing everything I can to keep it from being work. I still love to write. I’d still rather write than do just about anything, but when I write it’s not just about me, (or me and my niece), anymore. I have an agent who’s waiting to sell my next book. I have an editor who has to answer to a marketing department and a slew of other people about how my book is going to make the company money. Soon I’ll have readers, (fingers crossed), who are entertained and maybe even influenced by what I write. Hopefully they will be looking forward to reading something else I’ve written.
As an author, I have to think about things I didn’t worry about when I was just writing for fun. Things like contracts and deadlines, and blogs, and self-marketing, and whether my WIP is a good follow up to what I’ve already written.
So, my advice for an aspiring author is “Never Give Up.” I know this is a cliché, but it’s true. The publishing world is changing every day. There are so many opportunities for a writer to become published now, so if this is your dream, don’t ever give up.
That doesn’t mean the level of professionalism or the quality of your work should go down because anyone can be a published author. In fact, I think it means your level of professionalism and the quality of your work has to go up.
If you really want to be a published author, even if you self-publish, (especially if you self-publish), you need to take writing classes, you need to join a critique group, you need to get editing help, and you need to study the publishing market and know how to market yourself and your books.
BUT, above all write because you enjoy it. Very few people will make a bunch of money, or even enough to pay all the bills by writing. You have to do it because you love it.
I go back to where I started with my first novel, written in complete and blissful naiveté . I’ve learned a lot since then, but what I can’t forget is that ultimately I’m a writer and an author because I love to write.