The 3 R’s of a Successful Professional Writing Career

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

You started out with dreams of a professional writing career, didn’t you?

And then you achieved your goals, didn’t you?

But now what?

You thought being a professional, published writer would liberate you from the routine of a day job.

You also thought you’d be able to control your own time — and that you’d be the master of your fate.

And finally — at long last! — you’ve arrived at the place where you’re the boss of you.

Well, haven’t you?

And now what?

Now you find out — surprise! — that being a professional, published author can  feel a lot like being a 9-to-5 wage slave.

With a few scary gotchas for your extra added enjoyment.

Like, for instance —

That the mean, demanding, impossible-to-please boss is the ogre in the mirror.

That the Monday-to-Friday treadmill morphs into a seven-day-a week trudge.

And then there’s the weekend.



What’s a weekend?

Don’t remember those, do you?

Or that your paycheck might — or might not — arrive on time.

And, even if it does, will it cover the rent, the car payment, the baby sitter?

So what you do now that you have a successful professional writing career? Now that you’re your own boss?

IME the best way to approach the issue is to curse, cry, kvetch go back to basics.

You know, the three R’s.

1.  Routine

You can’t control the weather, the soul-sucking fight you had with your partner or your kid, or who’s gonna be the next president.

You can’t control the reality that some days will fly by, but that others will feel like you’re stuck in a wasteland, tethered to your recalcitrant WiP with Gorilla Glue.

At times you will feel inspired.

Other times you will wonder what on earth ever made you think the great/brilliant idea that would make you rich & famous would maybe turn out not to be so great/brilliant after all.

At least right now at this moment when you’re stuck, can’t figure out what happens next, and hate your $&^%# book/article/blog post. And, if things start to feel really dire, maybe even yourself.

But rather than helplessly letting the wheels come off, remember that what you can control is yourself, your creativity, and how you invest your resources and allocate your energy.

Now is when routine  — often reviled, but always reliable — can be your best friend.

Whether you’re an early morning lark or a late night owl, you already know your own best time time to sit down with your notepad or in front of your computer.

Even when you think you’re at rock bottom and are sure you have no ideas, priming the pump works.

Read something you love for inspiration.

Read something you hate because you know you can do better.

Try writing/typing something/anything until, as NYT writing mentor David Carr said, it turns into writing.

Because IME, DC was right, and it will.

Why and how is for the philosophers/neuroscientists to figure out, but — one way or another — routine almost always will get the job done.

2. Repetition

Stay with it/keep at it— word after word, day after day, week after week.

Even when you’re convinced you’ve written yourself into a box or a blank wall with a bright, blinking No Exit sign.

IME all those false starts, all those discarded drafts, will yield to sheer stubbornness or, to put it more diplomatically, determined persistence.

Sooner — or sometimes later — you will start making sense to yourself. A messy process, but an approach that — eventually — works.

When you start submitting and the rejections roll in — which they will (sorry about that) — keep at it.

Whether you’re angry, depressed, or discouraged, don’t give up. Stay determined.

Remember that it’s not just you but every writer who has ever faced a blank page or a disheartening rejection — which is everyone — has been there, done that.

In a recent interview bestselling writer Dennis Lehane (Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River) commented, “All I hear are no’s.”

. . . .

3.  Revision

Your book is finished.

You’ve typed “The End.”


But wait!

You’re not finished!

There’s more!

Glitches, aaaarghs, and wtf’s.

Plot holes, oopsies, and lapses in logic.

Enhanced by dust bunnies under the bed and dirty dishes in the sink.

It is here that “Susan” you or your editor will find that has mysteriously morphed into “Sullivan” halfway through the manuscript.

Or where the setting has inexplicably changed from heat-ravaged Houston to snow-bound North Dakota.

Or when the Grammar Gods descend from Mount Strunk & White with wrath in their eyes and author assassination in their hearts.

Wha? How did that happen? Who knows? But whatever it is, you’d better find it and fix it or feel the wrath of hundreds of ticked off readers who will not be shy about expressing their displeasure.

Besides, other, frustrating gotchas are most likely lurking in the shadows along with the cooties and cobwebs. Easy to overlook. Difficult to ferret out. Not all that tough to correct — once you find them.

Which is the reason Mother Nature created betas, editors and proofreaders. And obsessed, perfectionistic writers. (Coughs. Raises hand.)

Because I learned early on that editors will reject your manuscript and readers — if you manage to find any — will pounce and “reward” you with an Everest of one-star reviews.

Revision time.



OMG do I really have to go over that d*mn thing one more time?

Yes, you do, but consider the up side.

Here is your golden opportunity to polish your book to a dazzling, irresistible gleam.

Don’t waste it.

Take advantage, because, once your book is published, your time is up, and you will have no more opportunities to fix, tinker, fluff, or polish.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

1 thought on “The 3 R’s of a Successful Professional Writing Career”

  1. Yes, well, that was then.

    This is now. While I publish the absolutely cleanest copy that I can, I can clean up missed typos silently for as long as I want to bother.

    Happiness is being in full control of content/cover.

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