Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Are you a serious writer?

In Larry Brooks' blog today, he posted an article by Victoria Mixon on the difference between amateur and professional writers. (http://storyfix.com/). While I don't agree with all that's said, it is an interesting conversation. Perhaps my quarrel is with the labels: amateur and professional speak to me of money and there are plenty of serious writers who fit her "professional" category who are not making much if any money from their writing. So maybe it's better to compare serious writers with less serious writers.

In my experience as an editor and writing coach, serious writers love to write and are eager for feedback. While we love to hear that our work is great or inspiring or entertaining, we also know that it can be polished practically forever and get better and better, and we are interested greatly in that aspect of the craft.

Less serious writers, including some of my clients, just want to get published. They have a story, often an interesting one, to tell and they believe that it is, in its first draft form, as good as much of what gets published. In some ways, that's true. There's a lot of marginal writing that gets published although if one traces the publication route, it's often self-publishing through a press of the writer's own creation.

These less serious writers aren't interested in becoming good writers, they generally don't like writing much at all, and they have little interest in the editing process and are reluctant to spend much money on it or learn to do it themselves. They just want to get their story out there whether for fame or an ill-conceived notion of the money that is to be made from publishing.

It can be hard to work with those people as they have little understanding of the industry or the craft, as Mixon puts it, and frankly don't care. It's interesting to me that the art and discipline of writing has so many of these wannabes. But now that I think of it, there are all those poor singers who try out for American Idol or sell their unoriginal craft products at fairs and bazaars. As a proponent of everyone's right to be creative and to express themselves that way, I'm all for that. But to expect the equivalent of playing NBA basketball when you barely know the rules of the game seems a mite impractical.

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