Writing Course: The Writing Industry and You

Today’s topic was quite long, as will be tomorrow’s. I thought about splitting the topic into two parts but decided against it.

2: The Writing Industry and You

Writing is a solitary process. Even those sitting in an office surrounded by people, work alone when writing. Some writers love this isolation, others feel it keenly. However isolated you may feel it is good to remember that you are part of a much bigger picture.

Your role as a writer

To say “I am a writer” takes confidence because the statement is usually followed by the question, “Yes, but what do you really do?”

Writers are largely undervalued and most people (non-writers) think the life of a writer is an easy one. Any writer will tell you it is hard work. It takes discipline, energy, is mentally draining and takes commitment and focus. For these reasons, it is important for writers to create an environment which nurtures the writing process.

Your role as an editor

To say “I am an editor” does not get the same reaction as a writer even though an editor is also undervalued. Most people see editing as a real job.

As an editor it is important to establish yourself within the industry and build a name for yourself. This is particularly so if you intend to work freelance.

Environment

Writers and editors need an environment to work in which will encourage their creativity. The environment should include:

1. Resources – Ideas, research, quotes and networking form part of a writer’s day so you need access to the following:

  • dictionary
  • book of quotes
  • thesaurus
  • atlas
  • internet
  • encyclopedia
  • style manual
  • writing and media guides

You can build up your resources over time. And it’s good to have access to your local library as well.

2. Space – Obviously, it is ideal to set aside a room where you can go and write/edit undisturbed. But not everyone has a spare room available to them, so it is necessary to create a space which needs to be respected by you and everyone else.

3. Equipment – You computer and printer are most important and must be accessible whenever you feel the urge to write. It is also important to have access to notebooks or a mini-cassette recorder for recording ideas, thoughts, characters, scenes and observations. And, of course, you’ll require a desk to sit at and a chair to sit on and maybe some filing cabinets, stationery, phone, fax and connection to the internet.

Successful writers are keen listeners and observers. They are also avid readers, great researchers and skillful organisers.

Observation

When observing, a writer does more than see. A writer looks with purpose, using all senses and is alert for details. These mental notes are often drawn on when writing.

Research

Every time a writer sits down to write, they will nearly always have to do some form of research. The better the research, the more satisfying their written piece will be. Yet a writer must learn to conduct their research in a fast, accurate and thorough way to be effective. One important thing to remember is to fully note the sources you are using.

Reading

Reading is crucial to writing. Through reading you gain experience and knowledge and that is passed on in your writing. Read within your topic of interest, but read other genres to stay informed too. Reading allows you to view the writings of other people. It will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t. It will allow you to see what other readers find entertaining and acceptable. This knowledge is essential. You will also be able to gauge the reaction of the readers of your own work. This information will influence what and how you will write in the future.

Writers often find the way they read is changed forever as they cannot help watching how other authors shape their characters, build worlds, construct sentences and they cannot help thinking how these things can be improved.

Organisation

It is important to organise your workspace so that it is suitable to your needs and writing habits. You will need easy access to your resource and research material. The space needs to promote comfort and efficient output.

Time management is essential. Writing can be done at any time but if you do not organise yourself and your time, no writing will get done. However, you must also allocate time for other “writing” activities, such as networking, reading, research and administrative tasks.

It is advisable to divide each project into workable parts (such as research, planning, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc, completion of first draft, first edit, redraft) and establish a timeline. Then assign a certain amount of time to complete each section of the timeline. For this to work, it must be realistic. There is no use assigning an hour for research when in reality it will take a week to complete. By doing this you will be faced with small sections of work to complete rather than a whole novel to write, which may (in the long term) help you complete the entire manuscript.

Feedback

Writers write because they have something to say, they have something to share. They write to be read. And to be read means the reader will have an opinion on your writing, which you may or may not like.

This feedback should never be ignored, even if you do not agree with it. Learn from the opinions, grow from them. Use the feedback to advance and develop your work. Perhaps the reader did not read what you intended to write. In this case, use the feedback and learn to clarify your meaning. Perhaps the reader just did not like your story. It might be personal preference, in which case nothing can be learned from the comments. Never, however, comment on negative feedback. You will do yourself more harm than good.

When your mother tells you you’ve written a great story, that’s nice but is it really the truth? Would she be able to tell you what she thought was truly wrong with your story? Surround yourself with people who will give you constructive criticism. Writers who refuse to listen to honest criticism will not prosper.

Collaboration

As mentioned before, writing is a solitary process. However, in reality its associated activities are far from solitary. Editing, publishing, designing and marketing require collaboration. And for successful collaboration you need to be tactful, understanding and you need to show respect and insight.

Some of the qualities you’ll need are:

  • be clear about the purpose of your writing
  • be open to new skills and suggestions
  • be adaptable and flexible
  • be co-operative and reliable
  • be able to work within agreed time frames

 

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