It’s Work, Not Disney

Many authors come against a wall, eventually, when they start working to get published. This wall is called the “oh my God, this is actually work?” wall. Okay, well maybe it isn’t the official title, I’m sure I’ll think of something snappy later.

Most writers think about how great it would be to be the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling (I know I have) but very few of them actually consider just how much real, grueling work it is to get there. I don’t just mean learning how to write and sprucing up your grammar, I mean rewriting your story so many times you never, ever, want to see it again when it’s finished.

“But it suuucks!” Yes. Yes it does. Unfortunately, writing isn’t a trip to Disney land. While it’s a labor of love, or even a hobby, it’s still a kind of work. You can’t just set it like a cruise missile and assume that once you type “the end” and save your document that the process will be over. Even after your work has been published, it’s still not over (you need to drum up readers, for a start).

Many authors I encounter sum up things in a simple “that’s too much work”. I have had people send me “queries” that are simply their manuscript attached to a blank email and when I responded, asking that they follow the query process, they said, succinctly, “It’s too much work. I can’t be bothered.” If that’s the attitude that is common, then I’m sad to tell you that you’ll never be published outside very small lit. journals or maybe Publish America.

The reality is that the hard part comes after you type “the end” and close the document. Why? Because you have to edit it. And editing, my friends, is miserable. Before anyone else (except maybe a few trusted individuals) even see your work, you should be proofreading it for grammar mistakes and other such problems. However, it won’t be until you have someone reading it that is able to see your flaws (“this plot has a hole the size of Canada!”, “why do you kill BobJoe off in chapter two and have him come back in chapter seven?”) and then, what’s worse, is that you have to go in and correct them.

Once that’s all been done, and you have a publisher say “hell yes” to your manuscript, you have to go through yet another round of editing, this round almost more grueling than the last because this editor knows what they’re talking about. Theoretically. If you’ve got friends that are professional editors and willing to assist you then that’s grand and dandy, you might escape the worst of this “round two” because you’ll have caught these errors ahead of time. There is, of course, also the possibility of hiring a freelance editor (like yours truly) to do work on your manuscript and help you out in this phase, too. But most writers don’t go that route and instead have their friends try and weed out the worst of the mistakes.

The unfortunate truth is that being an author is like any other job, in some respects. You have certain duties, you have certain responsibilities and if you don’t maintain a degree of professionalism and quality in what you’re turning out, you will be “fired”. Of course “fired”  has different forms, like being dropped from a publisher or never being published to begin with. It’s also not a very high-paying job unless you’re Dean Koontz (don’t we all wish we were!) so expect long, grueling hours for a very small paycheck.

But with all this said, if writing is your passion, then the work isn’t as bad. It’s there, it’s rough, but it’s worthwhile the moment you get the “We are interested in publishing your work” letter from a publisher (a real publisher…) and see your name on a front cover. Worth. Every. Second.

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One thought on “It’s Work, Not Disney

  1. Joe Mazzola says:

    I can say as a writer that this is all very important, and reinforces the respect I gained for you when a mutual friend linked me to the no-nonsense submission guidelines on the website.

    I tend to run into other writers who seem to think of it as a sort of “50s get rich quick scheme” as opposed to a career or a even vocation, if you’re feeling particularly good. I myself have written a fantasy manuscript and am on my third draft, and know that I am going to need to do at least one more heavy edit after I “finish” draft three before I even think of querying.

    It’s just nice to see my self-nitpicking was not just me barking up the wrong tree.

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