Writing Like A Professional

So, last week’s promised exciting-announcement-or-rant promise obviously didn’t happen. For reasons I can’t yet explain, I’m not ready to make an exciting announcement, leading me to my Plan B, which was to rant. But then I decided that I can’t really rant yet either, for many of the same reasons, as well as a few others. I suppose those few others largely come down to a question of professionalism. I’ve decided that ranting just isn’t professional, especially not in this case.

I am putting a decent amount of effort into transforming myself from a goof-about ne’er-do-well isn’t-this-fun writer to a real-live professional actual writer. I spent many many years as the former. I would like to become the latter.

To this end, I’ve made quite a few changes in my daily life, some more consistently than others. Now, I know I don’t yet get paid for any of the writing I’ve produced, but I still feel like I’ve taken steps toward becoming a person I can call professional, if only in practice. I can’t yet claim to be a professional writer, but I feel I can claim to have at least some habits that are professional. (Too much hedging?) On to my short list of pro attributes!

Writing Daily Barring illness, emergency, acts of God, etc., I write every day. I try to write for at least two hours every day and, on manuscript days, can usually pound out two or three thousand solid words. Sometimes I work on outlining, sometimes I fiddle with characters or situations or background or magic systems, but mostly I write stories. Sometimes they’re full length novels, sometimes novellas, sometimes short stories. Heck, sometimes they’re blog posts. (Hi, everyone.) My time is limited and I try to spend it as efficiently as I can. I don’t write when I’m inspired. I write whenever possible.

Maintaining An Internet Presence Well, I’m here. Granted, it isn’t a strong internet presence, but it’s what I can muster at the moment. I regularly update my blog, trying to fill it with writing tidbits that others will find useful or entertaining. (Feel free to tell me in the comments if I’m failing.) My biggest step in this arena this year was getting on Twitter. I’d been fighting it for years before I finally took the plunge. It’s actually been a lot nicer than I thought it would be and has made my cabin in the woods just a little bit more bearable when it’s fifty degrees below zero outside and I’m trapped inside with four preschoolers.

Building Up A Writerly Cohort This one has strong ties to the above one. As solitary an affair as writing is for me, editing is not. At least not any longer. I used to spend months (let’s be honest-years) editing the same stories over and over again, tweaking endlessly. Now I have buds who slap my wrists for me when I start to fester. This and daily writing are probably tied for the single most positive change I have made in my writing habits over the last decade-and-then-some. Some of these people I have to look in the face when I tell them why I utterly failed at writing that last scene. Some of them merely send me cosmic hate rays that eventually find their way around the globe and give me skin cancer. Either way, it’s been phenomenally good for me to be held accountable by people I trust.

Keeping Fingers On Industry Pulse This one may be known in other circles as “surfing the internet”, and comes with a warning label. Yes, it is important to know who’s looking for what, what’s selling, what’s sold out, what I can expect from a contract, and so forth. But this can also be a massive time sink. Who hasn’t fallen into a wikihole, only to realize you’ve been suddenly transported several hours into the future? Who hasn’t stumbled into YouTube link trap, only to emerge three days later, malnourished, suffering from a headache, and possibly missing a kidney? I spend some time every day reading articles about improving my craft, notices for agents whose submissions are closing soon, calls for writing competitions, openings for short story publications, etc. ad infinitum. But never more than an hour a day. Again, my time is at a premium. As important as this information all is, none of it means a thing if I don’t have a product to present.

At the end of the day, I’m not terribly bothered by the fact that I don’t get paid for my writing. (YET!) We all know that for every JK Rowling and Terry Brooks and James Patterson and Janet Evanovich, there are thousands of the rest of us, still struggling to make it into a tough industry. I honestly believe that I am a good enough writer to be a professional, but I need to remind myself sometimes why I’m cut out for it. You may note that I’ve said nothing about skill or style- merely about daily actions that are professional qualities. We’ve all heard about writing that was actually really good, but were produced by a difficult-to-work-with jerk who will never have a full writing career. And we’ve certainly all read low-quality writing that somehow became a New York Times Best Seller. Therefore it seems to me that becoming a professional is at least as much a matter of behaving yourself in a professional and consistent manner as it is about talent. So now I guess I just have to nudge the stars into alignment. I’ll let you know when I’ve figured that one out.

Anyway, as promised, here’s the next chapter of Driving at Twilight, and buckle up, kids, ’cause this one’s a long one…

Chapter Five

I couldn’t imagine a good outcome to trying to explain to my mother that I was now dating my driving instructor who was also in grad school, let alone a vampire. So I decided to skip swimming and just explain myself later. She worried too much about me already. I stared out the window, waiting. Winter was solidly in possession of the land now, a thick blanket of snow covering the brown earth that wouldn’t leave for another several months. But the tilting of the earth granted Edmond new freedom as the sun coursed the sky lower and lower each day. I’d never have seen in him the summer, but now…

Read More…

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