Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing Right

ebook The Business of Writing: About Writing Right, #3 · About Writing Right

By D. J. Herda

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When I began writing back in the Dark Ages, I never understood the phrase, "the business of writing." To me, writing was the last thing in the world I wanted to do as a business. It was far more glamorous than that. It was far more poetic and esoteric and exotic. Writing to me was what it is to many young writers just starting out: a chance to express your creative spirit without bounds.

And a chance to win admiring glances from the opposite sex, too, of course. I must confess: I haven't met a woman yet who isn't somewhat impressed with a man who writes for a living. And vice-versa, I'm sure.

So, there is something otherworldly about an author, something alluring, charming, frightening, and mysterious. But those things are all the part of writing that's visible from the outside. From the inside, it's more like unbelievably tight deadlines, paltry compensation, and cranking out material you couldn't have dreamed of tackling a couple years ago—all because someone agreed to pay you a few bucks to do so.

Ahh, welcome to my world. My writing world. My real world of what writing is all about when you decide to turn your passion into a day-to-day quest for survival.

You've seen those nature shows filmed in Africa where the poor, wily gazelle falls prey to the hungry gaze of a lioness or hyena or some other savage predator. Well, meet the gazelle. Except that the real gazelle at least has a herd of compatriots to which it may hope to steer the wolf at the door. Writers work alone.

True, not many freelance writers are successful enough at their craft to make writing a full-time career. But I have been blessed, although not without some painful missteps. My first trek into the world of full-time freelancing came when I was still in my twenties and had just quit my job as a magazine editor. Three months later, I had cranked out a book, received the second half of my advance, and felt pretty good about life in the fast lane. Until I realized that I had nothing else in the pipeline, and my funds would be gone in a matter of weeks. Back I scurried to the real world—to newspaper writing and teaching at a local college.

I couldn't wait to get a chance to venture into the icy waters again, convinced that the next time, I would have a backup project sold before I finished my main project and then a backup to the backup and so on.

Full-time freelance writers have to be flexible and plan ahead. Oh, we're still romantic and alluring and mysterious and like to fly by the seat of our pants. At least, we are when we sit down, turn on our inner selves, and begin working our magic. For the rest of the day, the week, the year, though, we have to be a little more practical, put our business beanies on, and scratch around the scorched earth to make a living just like everyone else. And, let me tell you, it ain't easy!

Fortunately, I'm a fast learner. Today, I enjoy a career as a freelance writer uninterrupted by side trips down Editing Lane and Teaching Boulevard. I also picked up some invaluable pointers on how to write to succeed. How to write to stay alive. How to write to prosper.

In this, the third part in the series, "About Writing Right," I share what I've learned about the business side of writing—the publishing, marketing, and legalities end of the business. It's all the invaluable stuff writers hate thinking about let alone putting into practice.

Invaluable stuff? I know that's a formidable phrase, but the questions I've received over the years from amateurs and professionals alike tell me it's justified. If you can think of a query even remotely related to the business side of the craft/art/glory of writing, I've...

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing Right