–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads
You’ve been beat over the head with the advice, “Writers should write.” The prescribed amount varies from writing routinely to writing every day, but vagaries abound. What should you be writing? Why should you be writing, besides for practice? On particularly bad days, after rejection letters or late bill payment notices, the answers to those questions get stark. Write what sells and write to sell.
In other words, journaling, vignettes and random scribblings don’t count for much. (Something we all know is untrue. Monetary value is not the best marker of importance. Ever. Remember that.)
When I switched over to ghostwriting for a living, I suddenly knew exactly what and why to write. I had my outlines, and the dollar signs drove the word counts. I could hammer out as much as twenty-five thousand words a day—working nonstop from sun-up to sun-up—but this pace wasn’t sustainable. It was showboating.
I wanted to get paid big money and drive up my ratings on Elance. I succeeded, managing to deliver high-quality content with a rapid turnaround (God knows how), but it was at the expense of my sanity. All those four- and five-star reviews meant nothing when I was dead tired, and my kids hadn’t seen me all week because I’d been locked in a writer cave of horror.
So, I made another transition, this time from doing predominantly ghostwriting work to taking on more freelance writing jobs and delving into indie publishing through Wrought Iron Reads. Let’s be clear, I had expectations when I went indie with Calypso, Reatha and Arsen. We all did.
Personally, I thought I’d make a lot of money because obviously that was what other people were doing off of me when they paid me a modest flat rate and bought all rights to my ghostwriting work. Surely they were flipping those books and making bank!
Let’s be equally clear, to make bank in this business requires serious capital, business savvy, an extensive network, expansive author platforms, marketing genius, regular genius, luck, a voodoo spell or three, prayers, fasting and supplication and probably a deal with the devil. Honestly, I’m not sure how they do it, but I did figure out if I was writing my books, shorts and blog posts for the money, I should probably go back to journaling. At least journaling offered peace.
I discovered the rigid self-control and dogged hard work I was able to deliver when the payments were in the thousands didn’t translate over when the payment was resume-building or learning the indie craft, which was pretty much all I was getting. And, the question I had to ask myself was no longer just thoughtful rumination. I needed to have the answer to keep going.
Sondi, Sondi, Sondi…Why are you (still) writing?
Here’s what I figured out. It has to be love. I love what I do. And, since I’ve been pretty foolishly, blindly in love before, this feels familiar, so that makes sense. But, seriously, the real reason I and most writers persist is because we truly believe we can do the work. Let me explain.
- It takes work to be a freelance writer. A quick Google search will yield you the same job listings it’ll give up to millions of other writers like you. Wading through forums, subscriptions, content mills, etc. eats up time. Creating sellable content takes time and ability. Learning how to do this is not something that happens overnight.Here are 9 Things You Should Know About Freelancing Full-Time.
- It takes work to complete a novel. From idea to The End, you’ve got your work cut out for you, and then you have to edit. You have to squeeze writing in around every other demand of life. You have to accept that this brilliant work you’ve slaved over might only reach as far as your meager social circle of friends and family. And be okay with that. And, don’t forget these 25 Things You Should Know About Writing a Novel.
- It takes work to submit to publications and accept when you are not accepted. Because just like you, there are others competing for a spot. Being a great writer isn’t enough. Submitting to a few magazines or anthologies isn’t enough. Entering some competitions isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how fantastic you are as a person or a writer if you can’t accept that the odds of you seeing success are mediocre enough for you to give EVERYTHING your 100% best. Start by learning these Essential Steps to Submitting an Article to a Magazine.
- It takes work to find an agent and go the traditional publishing route. Not only do you have to be a fantastic writer; you have to be a smart professional. You have to invest in yourself and your craft. It will do you well to take courses and attend seminars and conferences to brush up on aspects of the industry that may be unfamiliar to you so that when you are ready to find an agent, you can present a proper query, resume or pitch. Contrary to popular belief, traditional publishing is not elitist for the sake of elitism. Publishing is business. Get serious about it. Traditional publishing is ‘no longer fair or sustainable,’ says Society of Authors, and you need to read why.
- It takes work to indie publish. See above where I mention you’ll need a voodoo spell or three. While that is stretching things a bit, the same amount of gaining familiarity with the industry as you have to do for traditional publishing exists in indie publishing. You’ll be your own boss, which means you have to know how to do that. You also have to know this isn’t a hobby. It’s a career, and dedication comes with the job. By the way, Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here: How Indie Authors Can Survive and Thrive.
- It takes work to build a platform and market your book. If you’re an introverted writer like me, the hardest thing about being a writer is the need to connect with other authors, editors and industry execs, as well as the social savvy necessary to build a readership. Social networking makes it easier than ever for readers to contact you personally. One wrong interaction can make or break your career. So, not only do you have to know what you’re doing as a writer, but as a marketing and as a brand. Remember how tough it was to become one of the in-crowd in high school? Yep. More of that: The Dirty Secret of Author Platform. (Hint: It’s Difficult)
- And, it takes work to keep going when life isn’t something you can edit in a happy ending to. Listen, I’d wave a magic keystroke and fix everything in my life if I could. I’d (Sims reference) Motherlode my finances, write my family into a bigger house and type up the vacation of a lifetime. Since things don’t work that way, I have to put in the work to get where I want to go. I have to know that whatever isn’t quite good enough needs improvement instead of excuses and justifications. Whatever obstacles I encounter have to be overcome. When I discovered merely being an indie author wasn’t a sustainable financial plan, I adapted to that news by picking up other writing work.
It’s time to ask yourself why you’re doing this. Not because you’re in a weepy place trying to make ends meet—although you might be, I was—but because defining your purpose helps you structure your writing goals with a target in mind. Then, you won’t write just because some faceless entity commanded, “Writers must write.”
I’ll leave you with one more motivational thought to keep you going. Humans of New York made a Facebook post in which President Obama explained how not to think in order to keep going. He went on to say: “If you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path.”
Hit me up on Twitter @WIRUniverse and tell me why YOU write! #WriteEntertained.