Many people think writers spend all their time sitting at their computers typing away, filling page after page with their thoughts, feelings, and stories.
As Lex Luthor once said, “WROOOOOOOONG!”
Anyone can jot down their daily thoughts and activities. That’s what a journal is. I’ve known many people who’ve written short stories or even whole books that remain unpublished. Plenty of “non-writers” participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every year just to take on the challenge.
No, there is much more to writing. And honestly, I feel like that’s the part that eats up more of my “writing time” than actual writing. Writers have to promote their work, often on their own. They search for literary agents and query them. They research publishers and submit work to them, which requires writing query letters, among other things. Networking is a huge facet of writing, so writers must stay in touch with those they know in the industry, always looking for new opportunities.
In other words, writing isn’t just a craft. It’s a business.
A profitable business.
A needed business.
An annoying business.
While I’m a writer and a shameless self-promoter, I find the business side of writing frustrating. Marketing is difficult in this age of bad economics and constant noise. I’ve run into several walls along the way: 1) (Perceived) Inexperience. 2) Being told my stories aren’t “trendy” enough (I’d rather be a trend-setter). 3) I don’t have an agent. Agents and publishers want material that they think will sell. They want to make money. I have no problem with that. But I think the bad economy has made them less interested in taking risks on something and/or someone new. That’s why, for instance, you saw lots of vampire novels in the young adult section of bookstores and hordes of zombies popping up in the sci-fi section. Those are “hot” now. My stories, though I think they’re good, don’t seem to necessarily fit the trends.
Even if one gets past those walls, new ones crop up. Depending on the size of your publisher, your (perceived) marketability, and the current economy, publishers’ may or may not be able or willing to invest the money in promoting your work. This means you’ll have to do much of it yourself. In this age of the Internet, the possibilities for promotion are nearly endless. But it’s also saturated the world with noise. Ads flare up on every website. Countless authors are starting blogs, going on blog tours, and appearing on podcasts. While many people “live” on the Internet and read webfiction, there’s so much of it out there, it’s overwhelming. If you want to get noticed, you must first have a quality product. The cream will always rise to the top. You must also distinguish yourself from all the other voices shouting in everyone’s ears. Either that or yell louder. Personally, I think the former is more pleasant. But what makes the Internet work to your advantage is word-of-mouth. That’s always sold anything—especially books—better than anything else.
I think I’m rambling a bit now.
All this to say that while I wish I could just write all the time and instantly have it read by millions, that’s not the case. Writing is a craft and a business. If you want to be a writer, you have to deal with both aspects, whether you enjoy everything about them or not.
But as Michael Stackpole said at Gen-Con, “Now is the best time to be a writer.”