genre stuff writing & publishing

Some Interesting Things I Never Knew About Being A Writer

Or at least, not until I became one, anyway. These are just some casual observations.

1. You pretty much kiss goodbye to your social life. You have deadlines and you need to hit them. Doesn’t matter how long it took you to write the first book, you have a contract to fulfill, which means not as much going out as you used to. Getting a deal isn’t for those who don’t have the time.

2. Some people hate young writers. I was talking about this with someone recently. Yup, there are a few folk out there who hate the fact that a dude in their twenties gets a publication deal. Why? There are a lot of people who want to be writers out there, and to see someone relatively young succeed can piss them off. I was vaguely saddened by this realization, but hey, that’s life. (Don’t get me wrong, there are some people who think it’s cool too.)

3. Being a writer with the majors can send you into the industry’s inner sanctum. It’s not some boy’s club. It’s not the Free Masons. But getting the book out meant that others spent more time talking to me then they might have otherwise. People with prestige took a little notice. No surprise really, I guess; isn’t that how a lot of the world works?

4. You get sympathy for other writers’ bad reviews. A writer can spend a year or more on a project. It gets read, reworked, read by an editor, reworked. Teams of people are involved; effort and money goes into this. (Another blog post is needed on just who works behind the scenes, and what they do to make a book succeed.) Emotions are heavily invested. Being a writer, I know this now, and to see someone else’s book get pulled apart in a review that’s taken some wit half an hour of their life isn’t easy, no matter if you’re a fan of that writer’s prose or not. You understand the pain. But remember that…

5. There is no such thing as a bad review. Or to paraphrase a much better writer, you don’t read your press, you measure it. The best thing someone can do if they hate your book is not to mention it at all. No conversation kills a book. Just develop a thick skin and deal with what is said, because not everyone will like your work, and especially not everyone will like you. Just remember, you put yourself out there in front of people; you have to deal with it.

6. Science fiction and fantasy readers are the best readers. Why? They talk about books. They shout about them. Every one of them online thinks their opinion is right, and they’ll argue their point endlessly. They’re loyal readers; they’ll buy books year in, year out. When the rest of the publishing industry suffers, SFF is as stable as ever. These are the people you want reading your books.

7. Most people are absolutely fascinated when you mention you’re a writer. They want to know everything. Then they tell you that they fancy giving it a go themselves. “I’d love to be a writer too.” To which you say “Great, what have you written so far?” The reply is more often than not “Well, I’ve not actually done anything…” Do something. Write it down. If you want to be a writer, write!

8. Following the debate on forums and blogs only makes you tired. Of course you want to monitor what people are saying; doesn’t mean you should. Scott Lynch’s summon author spell seems to work for the most part, thanks to Google alerts, but it’s hard to know when to stop.

9. Luck matters just as much as talent. Kind of speaks for itself, really.

10. I knew this anyway, but getting a writing contract doesn’t mean you can give up your day job. Not that I’d want to, since mine is fun, but the money (for 99% of new writers) isn’t enough when you sign a deal. The initial advance is broken into smaller payments, for signature, manuscript delivery, publication in hardcover, paperback etc. Then you need to earn that advance before you get royalties, which takes time to accrue.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

20 replies on “Some Interesting Things I Never Knew About Being A Writer”

point 2 – well you are just a kid really.;)
point 7 – no way not ever. reviewing is just fine thanks. It is amazing how many people seem to have a novel on the go though.
point 9 – given where you work I wouldn’t wan tot give up the day job either.
interesting post.

All very true! People get this weird look on their faces when I tell them that writing is the most difficult yet fulfilling thing I’ve ever done (and I’m not even published!). 🙂 I’m still a bit in shock about the first-royalties thing, heard it a while ago from David Anthony Durham, but hey, it’s a career, not a get-rich quick scheme. 🙂

You’re the same age as me and when I discovered that after chatting with you a few months back, it was the final motivational push. I could no longer pretend that you have to be in your thirties to get published, so got down to it. So I maybe hate you a little but in a positve way 😉

The not being able to give up the job thing still saddens me though. Maybe I need to get some tips off Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer.

hagelrat – I wish I believed I was still a kid. It’s been too long since I’ve been ID’d.

Dave – That’s certainly true. Many people seem to think writers are wealthy superstars, but it takes years to even think about that position.

Damien – use your powers for good.

Neil – glad I helped somewhat! Hope the writing is going well. As for Brown and Meyer… Sigh. Don’t try to channel the dark side whatever you do.

Point 9: definitely.
Point 5: Ah, gee! I’ll try to believe that. I kinda ranted at an idiot who gave my book a bad review. All that did for me was make me look real weird and touchy. But who knows? One of these days, I’ll discover my seemingly unpleasant challenging of a twitty blogger probably brought be great sales. Loved this post. Thanks. -C

About …
1. Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – but I guess this was a luxury he could afford more than others. 😉 I found deadlines to be a motivator to make better use of my time, but creativity under pressure is where I get into trouble.
Which is also why (10.) giving up the day job would never really be considered an option by me, because it puts so much more pressure on – and I also imagine it to make the writer’s even more solitary of a profession.

On 2. I guess I could relate to the hate, which is probably rather envy born from a lot of frustration, if I was 40+, had written several complete novels and got a stack of letters of rejection from countless agents and publishers. – The cool people with their own interest in writing either fit under 7., are still in the process of getting their own thing written or acknowledge 9. and have a higher tolerance / threshold level of frustration.

I think being a young writer is great(: Many are not okay with the fact that at such a young age you do what many older folks couldn’t do! They think just because were young, we are unexperienced..! But there wrong! And you proved them wrong, that’s their real anger. At-least from my perspective. (:

I’m very young, but yet i dream of becoming a writer when i grow up. I’m very social, i wouldn’t mind leaving my social life to dedicate full time to my writing (:

I think young writer have a better um life setting going for them because as u know many young can writer about there past life of what they believe in its up to them

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