There are a lot of common misconceptions about writing and life as a writer.
Many come from people who aren’t familiar with how the publishing world works, or what it takes to be a successful author.
Most people don’t know how challenging writing can be. They don’t understand the impulse to write because it burns deep inside your soul.
But many people who are new to writing also have some of the same ideas. They think it will be easy to write a brilliant novel, get it published and make a fortune. They’re discouraged when they find out the truth.
But what are some of these ideas?
You have to be inspired to write
In an ideal world, writers would be surrounded by inspiration at all times. Whenever we sat down at the computer, or with our notebooks, the words would flow across the page, perfectly formed.
Sadly, that’s not how writing works.
Most professional writers are successful because they have a routine. They show up, even on the days when they don’t feel like it. The days when inspiration is a distant memory. They make it work without that fickle muse.
Editing = spell checking
Unfortunately, editing is slightly more complex than running your manuscript through the spell checker.
It involves making sure the story and plot work well, adding and removing scenes and even whole chapters. It involves crafting characters with depth and giving them each a realistic voice. It involves world-building and narrative structure and fact checking and consistency.
Only once the story is solid do you move on to the language. At that point, you can check for clichés, repeated words, or badly crafted sentences. You might need to rewrite page after page of your book to make it good.
A simple spell check will never be enough.
You don’t need an agent, just a publisher
Whenever I have a conversation about writing with my non-literary friends, they’re always surprised at how complex the publishing process can be.
Nowadays, most publishers won’t accept unagented manuscripts, so you need to sign to an agent before you can even get a foot in the door. And to do that, you might have to pay an editor to help you polish your book into something that stands out from the slush pile.
Some writers have success in competitions, and some manage to find a champion in the publishing industry that can help them get their story in front of the right people.
But of course, none of these things guarantee a publishing deal. Sometimes even after a writer signs with an agent, their manuscript is never published. Instead they have to file it away in a drawer and move on to the next book.
You’re only a writer if you’re traditionally published
You’ve probably had that conversation at some point. The one where you tell someone that you’ve written a book and their eyes light up with excitement.
“Wow!” they cry. “That’s amazing! What’s it called? Where can I buy a copy?”
But as soon as you tell them your carefully crafted manuscript hasn’t yet been published, or that you chose to self-publish it, they quickly lose interest and the conversation moves on. Or worse, it comes to a halt completely. You can tell that you’ve gone down in their estimation. They don’t think you’re a ‘proper’ writer.
Once you have a book published, you’ve made it
There’s no guarantee that publishing a novel will lead to a writing career. For many authors, it is years before they see any real success. They might have published half a dozen novels before their sales begin to grow.
Unfortunately, some writers struggle to get that far. If their early novels don’t turn a profit, their publishers may be less willing to release subsequent work. Some novelists can find themselves without a publishing deal, even after publishing several books.
Writing is a way to get rich quick
There are people out there who believe that all writers are wealthy. They’re familiar with the success stories: J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, E.L. James. The super-rich writers who made it big after their novels became popular around the world and they secured movie deals.
Sadly, most writers can only dream of that kind of success. Writing is not a career that will even guarantee you a full-time income, however meagre, which is why so many authors have other jobs to pay the bills.
Yet some people still proclaim they’re going to write a novel as an easy way to make some money. This attitude seems to have seen a resurgence since self-publishing became popular. Many folks still believe that they can knock out a story in a few weeks, stick it on Amazon and it will make them thousands of pounds.
If only that were true.
Do you write? What are the common misconceptions you’ve come across about writing?