The career writer?

July 8, 2018

I'm a member of a Facebook group (I won't name it because another member may actually, by some act of God, come here, read this, and get pissed) that's all about making a career of writing.  I can't disagree with the premise...unless I understand what being a "career writer" means to you.

 

I'm a teacher, and I enjoy it.  I suppose that's my career.  However, I am a writer, and I wear that hat seriously.  I wouldn't mind each of my books selling very well, wouldn't mind it one little bit.  But until that happens, I'm serious about the writing.  And for me that equates to a list of titles that a fan could memorize, if he or she wishes to, relatively easily...because each of those books was written with care.  Extreme care.  I want to create stories that stick in the reader's craw, characters whom the reader knows, a style that flows smoothly and sounds good when read aloud.  I write the book, then rewrite it.  And rewrite that.  Then rewrite that.  Usually, I'll finish the first draft or a later draft and start working on another project for a month or two before coming back to re-read the former work with fresh eyes.  It takes time, and I find myself worrying about not just passages, not just sentences, but even about individual words.  I hear that what poets do, but I've never considered myself a poet.

 

Back to this group of writers on Facebook.  It seems that the priority of the consensus is the business (advertising and selling) of writing.  It seems that the overall belief is that you (the writer) should produce an enormous list of titles, crank out dozens of books.  If you have thirty titles and each title is selling a few copies or units but doing so regularly, you have a steady, decent income.  More titles than that, even better.  The administrator of the group has a list on Amazon already in the nineties, and will soon go into three digits.  He's been at it for about six years.  Think about that, do the math.  It's an average of a book written each three weeks.  It may be possible for me in some future retirement from teaching to write a first draft in a month or two.  I said possible, but I don't believe it would be very probable.  It's just not me.  However, after that first draft would come several revisions.  Now, the writer I'm mentioning may be able to send his work to an editor so that he (the writer) can start on the next book.  Even so, I wouldn't trust an editor if I received back what I sent him or her after only a week or two.

 

For me, that's a business model of writing and not (can't possibly be) an artistic model of writing.  Back in early days when television talk show interviews were about things that matter, Dick Cavett told Truman Capote about a writer who pumped out three or four books per year.  Capote said, "That's not writing, that's typing."  In previous posts, I've mentioned one of my heroes in crime writing, especially psychological thrillers, Thomas Harris.  I wouldn't hesitate to call him a writer, and even a "career writer."  But his entire list on Amazon is five titles that span several decades.  I won't reach his level of greatness, but I would prefer, like him, to have a small list that readers can know, and know deeply.

 

Members of that Facebook group are obsessed about managing their ads on Amazon (which I can't yet fathom).  "Key words," bid prices per click, and so on.  If all writers were obsessed with the art of their writing instead, there'd be far less crap for sale on Amazon, and those of us who write with care could then be "career writers" who earn enough money to make a living with the few titles we've posted for sale.

 

My present work-in-progress is now at 46,000 words, first draft of course.  I may finish this first draft in calendar year 2018.  But I know there is no way it will be publishable until sometime in 2019 and possibly later.  I simply care too much about it.

 

Well, enough for now...There's a word that's giving me fits.  Time to take the dogs for a walk.

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