night, I workshopped it, I edited it… and that was about as far
What does a writer do, besides read and write? For all the people out there who are naturally intuitive
I am the least graceful person I know. I have a tendency to fall on my face—figuratively, mostly, but sometimes literally. I can also be a bit… impulsive, making quick decisions without knowing what I’m doing.
Like when I decided I was going to become a writer. I had the writing part down. I put in four hours every
about networking, submitting, and social media, I applaud you, because I am so not. I really, really suck at it—cue me falling on my face.
I’m a little smarter now, maybe, and I think I’ve picked up a thing or two. I make no promises. My friends who are more accomplished than I might look at this and say I’m overcomplicating things—I frequently do—or that I’m trying to do too much—also guilty—but I thought I’d share what I think is the other work of a writer.
Overall, I think the work of the writer can be divided into five, overlapping categories.
- Professional Development
You can argue with me on semantics or which activity falls into which category—I might even agree with you—but this is the way it makes the most sense to me at the moment. Tomorrow, things will probably change.
This covers a wide range of activities, but it’s mostly input. Never underestimate the importance of this step. Everything you put in fuels your creativity. What you put in will depend on what you like, and what type of writing you want to produce. My work tends toward the dark, the weird, and the neo-noir. I try to incorporate the best of both genre and literary writing so I consume a wide range of material.
For me, this breaks down into four categories.
- Reading and Studying: A good bit of your time should be spent here. Read everything you can, literary journals, anthologies, novels, nonfiction, and good writing craft books.
- Podcasts: I’m relatively new to listening to podcasts, but they are a great source of free material, and like reading, I listen widely. Some of my current favorites are Invisibilia, LeVar Burton Reads, and This is Horror.
- Watching Movies & TV: This one is self explanatory.
- Taking classes: See this post.
All that writing isn’t going to do anything unless you get it out into the world. I’m preaching at myself here. I am so notoriously bad at this that I’ve actually set aside a day specifically for working on submissions. I call it #SubmissionSunday, and it includes several components:
- Market Research:
- Combing social media, Duotrope, publisher sites, and other resources for open calls, themes, and submission windows.
- Reading the markets you’re interested in submitting to and familiarizing yourself with guidelines. Your rate of success will go up if you’re submitting to the right markets.
- Actually submitting: For me, this is the hardest part. Putting yourself out there can be hard so I’m listing this as a reminder to myself if nothing else.
You’re developing yourself professionally, engaging with the material and learning all you can about fiction, now it’s time to engage with the community. I live in my head most of the time—this can be a good thing for a writer, a bad one, too, but that’s another blog post—so this is something I have to work at. I actually schedule time to do this as well. I’ve listed this separately from networking because the desired outcome is different. In networking you’re working on building a useful community. In engagement you’re learning about the industry, and tying into what’s happening in your part of the literary world. There are several ways to do this:
- Read the trades: Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, whatever magazine works for you.
- Read blogs: Industry blogs, author’s blogs, magazine blogs, again, whatever works for you.
- Participate in social media.
- Read interviews with authors you admire.
- And when you get to this point: Participate in public reading and appearances.
I’m lumping these together because they have so many tools in common. That being said, let me also say that it’s bad form to mix some of these activities. While you might be networking on Facebook, don’t hijack someone else’s page or thread to market your work.
- Website/Blog: If you’re publishing you need a presence in the digital world. This allows you to share your ideas, your press, your publications, and it lets people find you. How you do this is up to you, but if you blog or do site upkeep yourself you’re going to have to budget time to work on this, too.
- Social Media: Fairly obvious; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. All of these tools can be used for networking, marketing, and promotion.
- Writer’s Associations: No profession is without its professional organizations. When I was in psychology it was the American Psychological Association (APA). Now it’s the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and the Horror Writers Association (HWA.) These are going to change depending on the type of writing you do.
- Writers’ Guild: Most towns and cities have a writers’ guild that offers resource and networking opportunities in your area.
- Conferences: These are great ways to meet writers, engage in good discussion, and learn what’s going on. At the moment, I’m most closely watching Bouchercon, Noircon, and Stokercon.
I would’ve forgotten this most important aspect of the process if it hadn’t been for Becca Borawski-Jenkins, a good friend and most excellent writer. Check out her work if you’re not already familiar.
If you’re not taking care of yourself you won’t feel like doing all these other things. So remember to take time for social and family life, exercise, nutritional eating, spiritual practice (if you have one), relaxation, and of course, FUN!
Seem like a lot? It does to me. It might not be so overwhelming once I’ve been doing this for a while, but because I’ve neglected everything but the reading and writing I feel a bit behind. This is where scheduling and healthy boundaries come into play.
I’ll cover those next.
Until then, comment below if you have questions, suggestions, or anything else to say. In the meantime, read, write, and have some fun.