The Unexpected Jobs of a Writer
Updated: Mar 8, 2019
It’s easy to think of writing as the only job a writer has to focus on. After all, the name for this profession seems self explanatory. Writer’s write. End of story . . . except, it’s not the end of the story by a long shot.
Writing actually incorporates several different jobs under one umbrella. Each of those jobs has a separate skill set, and to be successful as a writer you have to be willing and able to do them all (at least until you surround yourself with people who can do these tasks for you, leaving you free to write). If you'r thinking of starting a career as a writer, you need to be aware that you’ll also be acting as a researcher, editor, publisher, and marketer.
Confused? Let me explain.
Writing doesn’t just happen by accident. It usually starts with an idea, or several ideas. In the process of putting those ideas into words, you get a better understanding of what you want to describe, but inevitably need to research the subject to learn the best way to describe it. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction.
With fiction what you research can vary from one day to next. You may need to research different clothing styles to describe an alien’s otherworldly outfits, or learn about the Myers Briggs types to narrow down your character’s personality. You may even need to research architecture to describe an environment or martial arts to write a fight scene.
With non-fiction, the research topics are easier both easier to determine and harder to find. Verifying the history, facts, and timeline of your work are all necessary for credibility, but finding the primary resources to backup your research can be tricky. Depending on your topic there can be wildly contrasting historical opinions or little credible research to reference. Thoroughness is key to finding the documents that prove (or refute) your stance.
After researching and writing comes editing. Make no mistake about it, editing can be brutal. After investing countless hours into your writing, you now have to view it as objectively as possible to figure out what doesn’t work and fix it. This may be simple changes with grammar, word choice, or punctuation, but it could also be much larger changes with clarity, organization, timeline of events, character arcs, plot, etc. In the editing stage, you may find you need to overhaul everything you’ve already written. While difficult (and to some degree heart destroying), editing is what makes a story the best version of itself it can possibly be.
After researching, writing, and editing, writer’s have the job of getting their work published. For some this is an easier process than others. If you’re writing an article for a magazine or online publication, the publishing outlet is already taken care of - you just need to submit your piece for consideration. You may even be able to post the article to your own blog or website! If you’re writing something more complex you have more options to consider, each with its own pros and cons.
The traditional publishing route is to contact publishers, sign a contract with them, and have them publish your work for you. It can take time a long time to find a publishing house that is the right match for your work, and this approach limits the control you have over certain aspects of publishing (covers, distribution methods, etc.). It will, however, save you the production cost of printing, binding, publishing, and distributing the work.
If you’d like to control the terms of how your work is distributed, self-publishing may be the way to go. This means determining if you want to print the book or leave it a digital book. After you figure that out, you (again) have to shop around for different publishers to determine which is the best fit for you, your audience, and your price range. (For example, publishing through Kindle Unlimited grants KU exclusive digital publishing rights.)
Ultimately, although researching, writing, editing, and publishing are separate tasks, they’re often thought of together. Marketing, however, is never associated with a writer’s job even though it is arguably the most important part of a writer’s job.
If you want people to read your written work, you have to find your audience and let them know where/how they can read it. This means you have to know who your audience is and the best way to interact with them. If you have more than one demographic in your audience, you need to find multiple ways to interact with them so no one is left out.
Marketing is arguably the hardest part of a writer’s job because it is not a skill set naturally associated with writers. More and more though, the reach your writing has depends on your skills as a marketer. And your marketing has to be done before your work is ready to be published so there is interest around your writing when it is time to actually publish it.
All writers have to do these jobs that aren’t typically associated with writing when they first start out. If you’re an independent author you may have to do all of these jobs all of the time. None of this is impossible or meant to discourage you from writing - quite the opposite! If you’re interested in writing, this article is meant to give you a better idea of what to expect going into a writing career. (And if you’re already a writer, you’re probably aware of this and can relate to what I’ve written above.)
Do you have any thoughts or experiences on these jobs that are unofficially part of a writer's job? Share them in the comments below so we can all learn from each other!
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Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week with another article!