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The Difference: Writing Stuff vs Writing-Part 2

True story: An Accomplished Writer who has sold and published nearly a dozen novels attends a conference. While having a drink, a New Writer takes the bar stool next to her and strikes up a conversation. They chat about the industry, how the conference has been, what they’ve read lately. Finally, they get to the subject of self-promotion.

The Accomplished Writer is impressed with the New Writer’s use of social networking, web radio, conference hopping and mail campaigns to promote their project. The Newbie is way ahead of where the Accomplished Writer was at a similar point in her career. The New Writer even has a fancy t-shirt featuring their new book’s cover.

Totally willing to support this New Writer, the accomplished writer asks, “Do you have any copies of your book on you? I’d like to buy one.”

To which the New Writer responds, “Oh, I haven’t written it yet.”

Don’t be THAT guy…

In my previous post we talked a bit about “Writing Stuff”, or the activities that writers engage in to reach more people. It involves everything that relates to your writing but isn’t your writing. Now, I want to talk about the writing itself.

Believe it or not, your craft should be your top priority, though it’s easy to see how it can fall into the 2, 3, or 4 spot behind all the other stuff that’s a part of the 21st Century Writer’s life. Put it in perspective, let’s say you’re a great marketer. You Tweet like nobody’s business. You’ve got 5,000 friends on Facebook. Everyone who knows you knows your book is coming. They’re excited. Then, they get the book…

…and it sucks.

Or, it’s never finished.

Or, it’s never even started (though having t-shirts printed does show initiative).

Never forget that writers write. No matter what.

Writing is Writing

Not having enough time is NOT an excuse.

I’ve often heard that writers should write everyday. I guess that’s a good thing, but it’s not something I’ve been able to stick to. I do write at least 5 out of every 7 days, and I focus on one project until it’s completed (unless someone pays me to do something else).

This is one of those areas where you have to keep the schedule that works for you. My schedule works for me (I’ve sold work, have a great agent, one of my novels is going on submission in 2 weeks) and I’m still able to hit the gym. However it breaks down, you have time to write. You may currently call it Desperate Housewives time, or Madden 2010 time, but you can easily re-allocate that time to your writing.

If you’re not willing to manage your time in a way that incorporates your writing, you don’t really want the job.

Oh, and just to clarify, writing means putting new words on the page. AdviceToWriters.Com has an interesting quote from E.L. Doctorow that sums it up nicely, “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”

Quality Control

Steven Barnes says, “Perfectionism Is Procrastination Masquerading As Quality Control”

That means you can’t revise forever. Yes, writing means re-writing. And if you’re just writing for yourself with no further aspirations, feel free to tweak and tinker to your heart’s content. But if you’re serious and want the job, here’s where I give you a hard and fast rule to follow.

1 Draft -> 1 Revision -> Get quality feedback from someone (other than yourself) -> repeat as necessary

If you know anything about Quality Control, then you know the QC Evaluation is never conducted by the product’s creator. There’s only so much you can do given the emotional investment you have in your manuscript. And stalling the revision is just a way to avoid taking your lumps.

Guess what, after all that solo revising, it’s still going to suck.

Boom! We just got that out of the way, so there’s no need to be scared. It can’t get worse than that. Just know every time you get some new, crucial piece of feedback your manuscript will suck less and less until it’s just unsucky enough to get you where you want to go.

It can’t do anything for you sitting on your hard drive while you swap out commas.

On to the Next One

Congrats!! You’ve completed your project. You’ve done what writers do despite the Writing Stuff and everything else life throws in your way.

Now do it again.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your queries and proposals together. If you get a few rejections then go back, tweak some things and try again (that’s what landed me my agent).

Keep writing, keep putting new words on the page. Sound daunting? Think about this, if you get the job you say you want, you’re going to have to come up with new stuff all the time. Might as well get some practice in now.

And when you’re doing all that Writing Stuff, you’ll have plenty to talk about…

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