Sunday, 14 March 2010

I'd like to be a Professional Writer Too

Recently I followed a link to a blogpost from a writer I have to confess I'd never heard of. She sounded very impressive though, with lots of books to her names - she wrote under several pseudonyms, and in several genres. The post was all about planning books, which she rinsisted you needed to do extensively beforehand, particularly lots of character work. I felt exhausted just reading about it, especially as I'm not a planner and don't think lots of character work prior to actually writing helps with story telling.

And then I got to the paragraph that said all professional writers worked in this way. She sounded so confident, so certain, I found myself wistfully thinking that this was obviously what I needed to do in order to be a professional writer. Her argument was that a professional writer saved time this way because there was no need for time-consuming re-writes. People who didn't plan were losers. I felt very humble at this point, because I love doing re-writes; to me, that's where the book is created from the rather trashy raw material that is the first draft. I was obviously NEVER going to be a professional writer. I was a loser.

Except...I AM a professional writer, in the sense that I make my living from writing words which become books which get sold. So here's the conundrum; how can I possibly manage this when my working practices are, frankly, haphazard, slapdash and distinctly unprofessional? I don't like planning, and I spend (or waste, depending on your point of view) months on rewriting. Could it be that there is more than one way to write a book? And just because one writer is convinced that their way is the right way, and has no problem with declaring this loudly and forcefully, it doesn't automatically follow that their way is right for you.

I believe all writers are on the same road. Some are travelling more quickly than others, some are currently sitting in a lay-by, some are slow and steady, others are speed merchants. Some are in limousines, others in sports cars, I think I'm in an old jalopy held together with bits of string. But so long as we get there, does it matter how we travel?


Kate Hardy said...

I'm a planner, but that doesn't stop me getting revisions *g* - and if my characters give me a better idea partway through, then I'll use that and go back and tinker and relayer (usually makes the book better, too, because maybe the original plan was too rigid).

My take on it is that everyone works in different ways and it's fascinating to find out how other people do it. But what's right for one person doesn't necessarily work for another; so I prefer to say 'this works for me, give it a try, but if it doesn't work for you then try something else and don't beat yourself up abotu it'. The writer you talk about sounds a wee bit insecure :)

And not every book's the same, either. Some flow beautifully, and others are a nightmare and make you wish you hadn't started...

Sarah Duncan said...

Oh yes, I couldn't agree with you more, but there are a lot of people out there with very dictatorial blogs. I hadn't thought about them being insecure. Perhaps rigid people are deep down...

I know what you mean about some books flowing - A Single to Rome just leapt off the page, it was the easiest book to write ever.

And now I must go and add a rigid character to my WIP.