Friday, September 9, 2011


I don't blog these days as much as I "micro-blog" on Facebook, but I try to post longer, more thought-out posts here. Still, today I'm sort of cheating since this post is more of a compilation of some recent Facebook conversations.

I've been working some long hours writing-wise, with lots of deadlines and competing projects. I just landed a new long-term freelance client, just upped my monthly article load, and also spent about a month and a half on an intensive edit of my latest novel release, which was especially arduous. (But in a good way, since I made that editor very happy and she's made it clear she wants to buy more of my books so she can keep working with me. Always a bonus.)

One thing that a lot of aspiring writers (and even some writing teachers) will tell you is that you should always write "for yourself first." Which has got to be the worst piece of writing advice ever, especially from a career perspective. If you really want to make writing your full-time paying career, you have to learn to write chiefly for OTHER PEOPLE. (In other words, readers.) If you want to get paid for writing, you have to be able to write something other people are willing to pay for. Unless, of course, you're planning on just paying yourself all the time, and that's not a good career strategy unless you're a billionaire.

If you want other people to pay you for the privilege of reading your work, then it helps if you actually have some idea what other people want to read. How do you do that? Well, you could probably start by reading everything you can get your hands on. Newspapers (online or print), magazines (online or print), books (print or digital). Go to the bookstore, or the book section of WalMart or Target and see what's on the shelves. Go to your library and ask the librarians what books are most popular with patrons. Read, read, read. Think about what you yourself like to read and what kinds of writing you plunk down your own hard-earned money to purchase. Then apply that to your writing. Always write with an audience in mind.

There is a certain amount of selflessness involved in writing for a living. Only amateurs write "for themselves." (If you write only for yourself, you'll likely have an audience consisting only of yourself.) Pros write for others.

An old friend of mine and I had a Facebook conversation the other day about when she used to work for a print magazine in the old days of paste-ups and column typesetters. She said, "We had a group of heavyset older ladies who would typeset out and paste up everything into columns [ahead of printing.] Boy, you did NOT want to piss off those ladies with last-minute changes!"

Publishing used to be a lot more labor-intensive than it is now. The digital age has removed a lot of the barriers to writing for an audience by taking a lot of the physical work of publishing out of the equation. But that's not necessarily a good thing. As my old friend pointed out, in the old days you thought a lot more about how what you did affected other people in the publishing queue. Maybe we need to go back to that a little, because too many people these days think only about themselves when it comes to their writing, and not about others. And they wonder why they don't have an audience.

More on this topic tomorrow. Peace.

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