When people tell me that writing is easy, I have two reactions. The first reaction, my outward reaction, is that I often chuckle and say sure it is. The second reaction, the one I scream inside my head about, is the exact opposite. Being a writer, especially an author, is an exceedingly difficult job with little thanks. You know, if I’m being perfectly blunt, writing is incredibly difficult. If you’re not a writer then I’ll briefly explain my writing process in terms of a news writer and an author. Then you can decide whether I’m justified in my ranting or just a crazy nutjob that shouldn’t be writing anything at all.
For example, I cover government meetings and write articles based on what happens during the meeting. Sometimes, as in the case of a BZA meeting I attended last year, the meetings can last more than one, two, or three hours. Not only do you have to be furiously scribbling notes the entire time, but you also have to be able to sit still for that long. You better hope that you aren’t predisposed to blood clots (like I am). Then when you get back into the office, you have to set about the task of writing that article. Do you break it apart into separate articles? Do you leave something out or include something out of fear that the reader calls and complains because that issue wasn’t in the article? Especially at government meetings, you have to make sure that all the names are correctly spelled. Believe me, there are sometimes when I have to fight with autocorrect because it’ll change a name three times. You’ll also want to make sure that you leave your opinions and bias out of the article. I can’t tell you how annoying, frustrating, and grating it is to hear the term “fake news” applied to your article.
Then you submit it to your editor who reads it, edits it, and puts it into the paper. If the article is a sensitive subject, if you’re like me, you’re going to be walking on glass for the next day or two because you think someone is going to come in and complain about it. And sometimes they do. Or sometimes they send anonymous letters to the office or leave voicemails venting their own frustrations about the article. I love feedback as much as the next writer, but at least have the common courtesy to leave your name. I like to put a name to the punching bag I have at home.
But that’s just my thoughts on news writing. Let’s talk about what book writers go through.
Writers work hard to do what they do. We sit behind a computer screen and pour that combination of imagination, blood, and a pinch of our soul into a piece of work that may never see the light of day. Even if we finish, sometimes we don’t, that’s not when a writer can relax. Once we have completed our work, we have to literally tear it to shreds line by line, word by word. Writing is tough, but editing is soul crushing work.
Even when a writer is finished editing, you might want to submit it to a publisher. Did you know that most publishers have a response time of months? Once that writer submits, they’re checking their inbox almost hourly. Don’t deny it writers, you can’t con a conman. And when you finally get that response saying that your book has been accepted, that means you can sit back and watch those fat royalty checks come in? Maybe if you’re a Stephen King or James Patterson. Let’s be honest, you’re not. I’m not either so we’re even.
Now it’s a waiting game. The publisher isn’t going to put your book in the front of the publishing schedule. Imagine walking into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s a packed Saturday and you enter to find fifty other people sitting down with tickets in their hands. So you walk over to the ticket machine and grab yours. After waiting patiently, you get another email. This time it’s from the publisher’s editor who has painstakingly picked the corpse of your book clean. Now you have to go through the book and change everything the editor has commented on.
After that is done, you send the edited version back. That’s where the fun begins because there’s the cover to approve, the author bio to write, the formatting to approve, you have to find people to read an advanced readers copy so that they can leave reviews at the time of the release, there’s the online release party to organize (if you have one), then all the other promotional things to market your book.
Once the book does get released, then you’re trying to juggle promotions, getting reviews, and then also writing the next book.
Do you all want to know the common denominator between being a news writer and being a novel writer other than, you know, writing? We don’t get paid that well. Having worked four years at my day job as a news writer I believe I’m paid rather well, but that’s because I’ve put in the time and effort to get there. As an author of three books and a few short stories, I think I’ve made about the equivalent of a PlayStation 3. In today’s market.
Well Jim, you might ask, why do you do it if you hate this profession so much?
To be perfectly honest, I love this job. I love being a news writer and being able to witness events that will reverberate through the communities I live in. Writing news, I feel like I’m part of the community even though I’m an introvert at heart. I couldn’t stop writing novels and short stories even if I wanted to. It’s something that’s ingrained in my soul. Even if my books are shoddy, which I tend to lean towards even though people say otherwise, I’ll still write them.
So when people tell me that “your job is so easy.” Sure it may seem that way, but it’s not. If anyone tells you differently, that’s when you can say “fake news.”