Today we’re linking to a guy my husband knows, Joe Brockmeier, a professional writer who’s written a great post on exactly what that job is.
Writing’s always been a fun idea for people who really like written language and telling stories (some folks call them “lies”), and lots of us out here have been noodling around with words and sentences and characters and plotlines for decades, enjoying ourselves mightily the whole while.
But suddenly in recent years there’s been this explosion of massive marketing aimed at people who don’t really know writing—most notably the latest rage to skip working on your writing skills and go straight for the platform—fueled by the very industry that feeds off the dreams of aspiring hopefuls. And it’s insane. You can’t be a professional writer if you don’t learn how to write! And you can’t earn money at it if you don’t like doing what you have to do to earn it!
Me, I don’t mind technical writing. It’s all about organization and clarity, translating complex ideas into simple language, which appeals to me. It also comes with a salary, so I don’t have to keep asking my boss over and over and over again to hire me back. Even now that I’m not working full-time in the industry anymore, I prefer contracting. It pays really good.
I don’t much like freelance nonfiction work. I don’t like competing with all the other freelancers over who’s got the best clippings. I don’t like the constant self-sell. It taxes my lily-white brain. So I pretty much leave it to the people who don’t mind that stuff, like my friends and husband.
Of course, I love fiction. I love working with fiction authors. I love reading fiction. I love writing it. However, as with freelance nonfiction, I’m basically lazy and don’t send stuff out all that often. I get busy. . .
The worst part of the publishing industry these days is the economy. Because, as more and more professionals in the industry get laid off and turn to freelance work teaching others how to do what they used to do, the more innocent hopefuls are pulled into the vortex. And the harder and harder it becomes to sell any writing, no matter how great, making the vortex that much darker for everyone.
My closest writer friend tells me I should stop saying things like that, since my own work feeds off your innocent assumption that if I edit your work you can get it published. It’s perfectly true that I can edit your manuscript to be not just publishable, but the highest quality it can possibly be. (That difference, unfortunately, gets bigger every day.) I do know how to do that. Really well.
But please, guys, understand what professional writing is. Understand what it isn’t.
Understand your dreams.