That title may seem a bit misleading, but I sat here this morning, thinking over the events of the last 24 years (that's when I started writing).
Let me quickly try to put everything into proper perspective;
Someone who wants to be a bona-fide cook needs to but go to a culinary school and pass, and he can find a job in almost any restaraunt in the world and make a comfortable, if not highly profitable living.
Someone who wants to be an auto mechanic needs only to go to any number of automotive training schools and pass, and he can almost name his price at any automotive dealership, or garage, and be an auto mechanic.
A writer, however, if they're lucky when they're young, can go to college and major in ENGLISH, and pass, are lucky if they ever see their work in print.
WHY, then, I ask, do we as writers punish ourselves. I'll speak as a novelist, because that's what I am. I don't do short stories for magazines, I don't do copywriting, though I am taking a course to be one, even at my age (over 60), I'm not a freelancer, nor am I a journalist, so what I do is write for the book market.
A novelist, or a writer of books, comes up with an idea for a story, they call it a prompt. That prompt can come from almost anywhere. Now, for the next several days to a week he quietly (solitude is a must here) either pens out an outline, or for some of those crafty writers, they can actually use their computers and keyboard to write a basic outline of how they want their story to go.
The above paragraph, in and of itself, means you segregate yourself from family and friends and you forget what having a life is all about. Your masterpiece is being formed.
Once the outline is, to some degree, finished it's then time to take a quick breather. This is the time when family and friends get to know what you look like. "Oh, you still have auburn hair?" Okay, so you get the drift here.
Now that you've rested your muse, it's time to take it to the next level. Put another dollar in the slot so your muse can kick into gear, for it's now time to start your first draft. Remember in the above paragraph when I said solitude was a must, well it just advanced to the critical stage. This is the level when the only thing, outside of your masterpiece, that you can think of is coffee, and for us smokers, cigarettes. During this infamous beginning stage, we almost always forget about food. A lot of writers even lose weight during this period. By the looks of me, I'd say I better get back there, and soon. If I don't, then I'll be replacing Santa this year. The belly is there and so is the beard, but mine is real white, okay?
Getting back on track here, so for the next few weeks you push out a rough draft of your story. You've created your protagonist and antagonist and many of the key characters you'll be using. You've set the stage for your scenes to develop; if your really good at it, you won't be changing a whole lot.
Now you sit back and read what you've accomplished so far, taking notes on where to add things and where to remove others. After a couple of days you're ready to go back and really kick it into high gear, as you smooth out all the rough edges and making your story sound believable, even if it can't be. I know from experience.
This varies from writer to writer, but next it's time to rewrite your story. Not every writer needs to rewrite. Some of those more qualified than I, can simply move to the editing stage. II'm the kind of writer who's not satisfied until after two thorough rewrites before I start editing, but that's me
All in all, however, for the (AVERAGE) novelist about 400 hours is spent in front of a computer, because who uses typewriters any more. That's 400 hours away from your family and friends, and that's just to write the danged book. Now the hard part comes to play. We can either try to find an agent, and let them do all the searching for a publisher, or we can do it the old way and try to make a few extra bucks for ourselves, and try to find a publisher on our own. I do not highly recommend you choose the second method. Find the agent and let them do it all. The fifteen percent they get is worth it foir you to be working on your next masterpiece.
This is where it gets punishing, as in the title of this article. Finding an agent today is not as easy as it was 25 years ago. Why? Because there are nine million writers out there now who are just as eager as you to have their work in print, so agents are being deluged with manuscripts. Yours is not the only one they've seen in the last day. They may have seen as many as a hundred, and they can tell within the first two pages whether they want to see more of it or not. Why? Because that's their business to know, so your work has to be top notch if you expect not to see your hard work in their wastebasket. An amateur writer, or first time novelist, can spend a year or more looking for an agent. This is a tough business to be in. You need to be dedicated and have a lot of hair, because before it's over with you won't have much left, juust look at my bald head as an example (lol).
Submit, submit, submit, these are words I hear all too often from authors trying to find an agent. With the influx of computers it's become easier and cheaper to submit than it was 20 years ago, but you still have to be persistent. You won't find an agent by just sitting on your duff. For those who don't know what a duff is, it means your (BUTT).
Okay, to move on. Let's hypothetically say you've found an agent, and being the lucky person you are, within 6 months they've found a publisher to publish your book. Your work is not over with yet. In fact, you've only just begun, just like that song by the same name. Publishers today want you, the author, to do the majority of the marketing of your book, that means going to book signings, fairs, libraries, and anywhere where you can promote your book. Remember that book you are working on, well put it on hold for a day or two. You have three book signings this week, or elsewhere. You are seeing what I'm saying here. You are being punished for having your book published.
The days are long gone when the publisher does all the promoting of an author's book. This is why I said, in the title, WHY DO WE, AS WRITERS, PUNISH OURSELVES?
A cook only needs to cook a meal.
An auto mechanic only needs to fix a car.
An electrician only needs to wire something properly.
But an author has to write the book, find an agent, find a publisher, and then promote his own work.
What's wrong with that picture?
Ernie (the logo maker) Johnson