Writing: A Labor of Love
Overview of Developing Your Craft
Shane P. Carr
Shane P. Carr
is an art form. Most folks who choose fiction writing as a career do so because
of a compulsive need to write. Others choose writing as a way of expressing
themselves. I was drawn into writing at an early age. It was one of the few
things I enjoyed in school, and the only thing in school I wasnt intimidated
by. I felt it was the one thing I had control over. I could create any story I
wanted, and the only rules I had to follow were those of English grammar.
At the time I was a voracious reader of anything from vintage science
fiction and fantasy to literary classics. These stories would help spawn ideas
for stories of my own, and I would write them in my spare time. As I moved
through high school, guidance counselors tried their best to focus me on a
career path, but I found none that really sparked my interest. One counselor
finally asked me what I was interested in. I was stumped. I really had no idea.
I told her I would think about it and get back to her the next day.
night I went home and thought about what career I would enjoy in life. I liked
to help people, so I considered the emergency services field. It seemed exciting
enough. I sat down that night after thinking about it, and began writing a story
about a mystical healer in some far off land. I went to bed with the characters
and world I created for that story dancing in my mind.
When I got to school the next day I told my counselor I was interested in
the emergency services field. She was happy to hear that and helped guide me
toward my goal.
point I am trying to make is that I never actually thought of writing as a
career. It was something I did to pass time and escape a rather mundane life. It
was something I enjoyed immensely, but I never considered actually making money
from it. It wasnt until I was in my late teens that I discovered people could
actually make a living from writing stories. I had read an article on Stephen
King in which he mentioned that a publishing contract had been signed that
included a six-figure advance. Even though I had read Mr. Kings work and
considered myself a fan, for some reason the thought never entered my mind that
he made a great deal of money off these fantastic stories.
was ready to beat my head against the wall. I had been making up stories for
years and never once thought of selling one. It was at that moment I first
considered writing as a long-term career goal. I immediately found a creative
writing workshop to fine-tune my skills. On the first night of class, the
instructor asked us why we wanted to write. I explained how I had been writing
my whole life, and just discovered that I might actually make money doing it.
She seemed impressed with this statement, and asked me if I knew for a fact I
would never make a dime, would I continue writing anyway? My answer was that I
always have been writing anyway. She smiled and told the class that I had the
most important quality needed to be a professional writerthe simple desire to
is the real key to becoming a professional writer. You must sit down and
seriously ask yourself what your reasons are for wanting to be a writer. If it's
money and fame you are seeking
forget it. Choose another career, because to be
honest ninety-eight percent of us will never see that six figure advance Stephen
King receives from publishers. In fact, even if you do manage to get lucky and
publish a novel, you may still have trouble paying your rent on your studio
if you're like me, and have been writing anyway,
and think that a royalty check will be a nice fringe benefit, then maybe
writing is for you. Writing is a labor of love, and as with any loving
relationship, it involves a strong commitment and some sacrifice. The first step
is to make sure you have a reliable day job or career to help keep food on your
table and coffee in the coffee pot. The next thing is to schedule time around
your job, family, and friends to actually sit down and write. Chances are, if
youve been writing for the fun of it, you already have this time set aside.
Now comes the really fun part-ญญญ- write something. Whether it is a short
story or the first chapter of a novel, start writing it.
you have a tangible piece of work, you can move on to a more humbling
experience: getting your story critiqued. You can go to just about any
bookstore, college campus, or library and find a writers group. You can also
find about a million or so such groups on the Internet. These groups consist
mainly of people like you who like to write and are trying to fine-tune their
skills for publication. Basically,
you trade pieces of your writing for critiquing purposes. You read each
others work and discuss how to improve it. It is a very humbling experience
but is also very enlightening. Since most writers are avid readers as well, they
are perfect for finding flaws in your writing. They can tell you if your story
is paced too slow, if the characters are boring, or if your grammar is horrible.
Listen to the advice no matter how brutal it sounds, even if you dont agree
with it. Nearly all critiques are useful, and you will get to see how some
readers might view your work. Although the critique might sound rough, most
fellow writers arent being malicious. So take all critiques into
consideration, and you may even find something useful in the one you completely
disagree with. Trust me -- it is better to get a harsh critique in your writer's
group than to hear it from a new agent, editor, or publisher.
you begin getting some feedback in your writers group, considering taking a
class to help improve the areas fellow writers keep pointing out as weaknesses
in your work. There are plenty of places on the Internet that offer free
workshops, as well as paid classes in all aspects of writing. You may also find
some great classes at your local community college, and some of the major
bookstores often have seminars or workshops to help you fine tune things.
educate yourself with books about writing. As with any subject, there are good
books and bad ones. Read as many as you can. Even if its a bad one, you may
come away with some good advice that you havent found elsewhere. I have
numerous books I have read that cover every aspect of writing and publishing., I
have always found something useful in each.
also found that reading author biographies and memoirs is very useful and
enlightening. They give you a first hand view of what the writers life is
like. Most also offer advice to aspiring authors. In fact Stephen Kings On
Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a fascinating look at the writers life
that also offers a section full of advice on writing and getting published.
you have compiled the mass of advice from your writing group and books, and
fine-tuned things with a writing class or two, you will be ready to type out
that final draft. Next, you have to take that plunge and actually submit it to
an agent or publisher. (If its a short story for a magazine, it goes directly
to the editor. Check the magazine for submission guidelines). Ironically, for a
lot of writers this is the hardest part. I have countless stories I have never
submitted anywhere, mostly out of fear of rejection. This fear is something that
is most frequently encountered by writers considering submitting for the first
time. The fear of rejection can be almost paralyzing. Yet you will never get
published if you never submit anything. The best thing you can do is to be
persistent. If one editor doesnt like your work, submit to as many others as
you can find. If you end up with a huge stack of rejection notices for the same
story, maybe its time to consider that this story isnt going to sell. Maybe
you did everything right, but it just wasnt the story that was going to catch
an editors attention. The best thing you can do now is start writing the next
story. You are a writer; chances are youve already started that next story.
Remember, you write because you like to write, not because you want to sell.
Selling is only a fringe benefit. As long as you keep that in mind youll be
real key is to keep yourself motivated to sit down and write the best possible
story you can each time. Convince yourself that each story will be your best.
Pour your heart and energy into the story; love it like it's your child. If you
can do this each and every single time, eventually you will achieve publication.
Editors can tell when a story has that much devotion. It comes across in the
writing. It will make them look deeper into the story and find what brought out
such devotion from the author. When the editor finds it, you will get published.
So go on
and give it your all.