Pro, Hobbyist, or …?

Hi Folks,

In an earlier post over on the Daily Journal I talked a little bit about the stages of a fiction writer, a topic Dean Wesley Smith has covered thoroughly in his book on the topic and in a lecture and online workshop.

When we talk about the “stages” of a fiction writer, we’re talking about professional fiction writers. As with any profession, pro fiction writers progress through various stages or levels as they hone their skills and become more confident in their abilities.

But this post isn’t about that. This post is about the different kinds of fiction writers and their intentions as driven by passion.

If your intention is to write full time and eventually make a living with your fiction writing—and if you’re serious enough and driven enough to invest yourself, your time and your money in that pursuit—then you’re a professional fiction writer.

As an addendum, if you can’t think of anything more fun than making up stories and writing them down, so much the better. (grin) At that point you’re writing for the sheer joy of it, and even making money takes a back seat. Which generally is when it starts trickling (or pouring) in.

Note that for the purpose of this post, the above definition includes “aspirants,” those whose intentions are on board and who are passionate about writing fiction but who don’t quite consider themselves “there” yet. And of course, each writer’s definition of “there” is different.

Okay, so there are professional fiction writers. (At the top of the stages are masters like Stephen King and Jack Higgins and Nora Roberts and Isabel Allende. The rest of us are moving through lower stages.)

But there are also hobby fiction writers. Again, nothing wrong with that at all.

Maybe you enjoy writing a short story or even a novel now and then. But it isn’t necessarily a passion so much as an occasional itch that needs to be scratched. Or maybe writing is something you do for fun every now and then, maybe as a variant on other things you do for fun.

The key, maybe, is that it’s as easy for you to walk away from the story for a day or week or month or two as it is to keep writing. It’s easy to set writing aside to do some of those other fun things. And when you do leave the story, you don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms. You’re simply doing something else for awhile. (grin)

In my experience, I’ve noted there are three kinds of hobby writers:

* those who write for no particular reason other than to tell a story (and eventually publish it),
* those who write primarily to leave something for their family (published or not), and
* those who write and publish a story or novel to mark it off a bucket list.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with being a hobby writer of any kind. But it’s important to know which kind of writer you are.

If you’re a professional fiction writer, my recommendation is follow your passion and Go All In. Invest wisely, but invest your time and your money to improve your craft and expand your knowledge of the business end of writing.

How? For craft, take lectures and workshops and seminars that feature techniques that are new to you. Enter into a mentorship with a professional writer who’s much farther along the road than you are.

For business, buy The Copyright Handbook (NOLO) and learn copyright. Learn about corporations (full C corporations). Inventory your intellectual property (IP), then begin considering all the ways you can license your IP other than in paper books, ebooks and audio.

And I say “invest” because if you’re a pro, you should expect a reasonable return on the money you spend (say 10% over the long haul). You should also expect, as your writing craft improves and your business savvy gets better, to make money with your writing. Or more money.

And if you’re a hobbyist? Well, you can still take classes and read blog posts that pique your interest. You can still learn and improve your craft. But should you go all-in? No. Of course not. Why would you?

If you’re a hobbyist, you aren’t considering a long-term career as a fiction writer. You probably aren’t considering writing and publishing as a business. Again, why would you? And that’s perfectly fine.

So that’s my suggestion for the day. (grin)

Check in with yourself and determine which kind of writer you are or want to be. Then react accordingly. Either way, good luck.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


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