When I was young, before I had written a word of fiction, I believed that all writers lived a glamorous life. Ernest Hemingway in particular seemed to embody this image – traveling on safari, sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, drinking whiskey as if he were a fish himself – doing almost everything except writing.
Now that I am older and wiser, I know that Hemingway wrote for hours each day, making him one of the more disciplined writers of his time. But the larger-than-life Hemingway was a more appealing character to imagine, and therefore the one my younger self gravitated towards.
So, I am writing this post to the new breed of writers out there to let them know some of the disciplines they will find useful in their writing lives, and leaving the catching of Marlins to Salt Water Sportsman Magazine.
What Writing is Really Like…Computer Programming
Computer Programming is all about language and syntax, and so is writing. I know something of this as programming is my day job. I have often spent hours debugging some code, only to find that a misplaced semi-colon or comma was the culprit. Writers also will find themselves laboring over the usage and placement of punctuation, understanding that punctuation in the wrong place can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
What Writing is Really Like…Project Management
Project Managers track task and project status, in addition to schedule, budget and other project elements. As your writing career grows, you will quickly find yourself in need of a spreadsheet, database or other tool to know what you’ve submitted where, when to send a query letter, relevant contact information for publishers and publications, etc. You will also need to track readings, book fairs, online interviews, etc. on your Outlook or Google calendar. These demands will intensify as your writing becomes a fulltime occupation, and as you began to spend more time collaborating with others.
What Writing is Really Like…Marketing Executive
While the big publishing houses have marketing resources of their own, new writers trying to make a name for themselves in small independent presses will find themselves on their own to promote their work. You will be faced with questions like which social media channels reach the biggest (or more importantly, the most relevant) reading audiences, and does it make sense to subscribe to marketing service to promote your books. Additional considerations involve creating your own author’s website and blog, all of which may require you to acquire new skill sets. Your ability to effectively promote your work becomes even more critical if your work is self-published.
What Writing is Really Like…Accountant
While writing is an art and not a science, sooner or later you will be focused with financial decisions and issues related to your writing. These may be simple decisions such as whether to enter a writing contest that charges a fee, or whether to hire an independent designer to design your author’s web site. Other more complicated issues will involve reporting any book sale royalties on your income taxes or tracking the sales tax to be submitted from cash sales at a book fair. And when you’re finally ready to take the leap and go fulltime, the big financial question: how much will I have to make on my writing to make a living?
What Writing is Really Like…Lawyer
Finally, you will be faced with legal issues during your writing career. I’ll give you a real-life example. Unbeknownst to me, a designer at one of the publishing companies used an image on my book cover that was copyrighted. Several years later, I was contacted by the copyright holder demanding a correction, and I referred him to my publisher. The publisher finally admitted the mistake, and at their expense, corrected the cover. Other examples include understanding reprint rights for your previously published stories and interpreting contractual agreements with publishers when you begin to get your first professional sales of your stories and novels.
So, there you have it – instead of being glamorous, the above disciplines can be tedious, if not downright boring. However, these skills will propel your writing career much further than your ability to bait a hook.