Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Career-Focused Writer

The February edition of the RWA Romance Writer’s Report’s Presidential message by Terry McLaughlin stated a renewed emphasis on “focusing on the fundamentals, building the cornerstone of our organization: the career focused writer.” She went on to ask the following question: “Do your romance writing efforts qualify as a career or a hobby?” Why? Because as she emphasized, you may be asked to prove to the IRS that you are career-focused and actively seeking to make a profit from your endeavors.
That’s great if you’re already published and making an income as a published author, but how do you go about proving you’re a career-focused writer if you’re still unpublished, or PRO, or published but still haven’t earned PAN status? More importantly, how do YOU prove to YOURSELF that you are a career-focused writer?
Easy. You behave like you’re already published.
That’s right. Behave like you’re already published and making an income from your writing efforts.
How? Well, I’m not an IRS expert and I’ve only recently signed a publishing contract with an e-publisher so you can bet the only money I’m earning right now is a quarter per goal met. The quarters add up, but they really don’t constitute an income.
However, the quarters do constitute A COMMITMENT TO PROFESSIONALISM.
Yup, you read it right. LONG before I signed a contract, I made a commitment to treat myself as a professional and to treat my writing as a job. Period. Here is a list of some of the things I did BEFORE I signed the dotted line with my publisher.

1. I had a writing schedule.
2. I committed to writing 6 days a week every week except for scheduled vacations.
3. I joined the RWA, local chapters and attended RWA meetings.
4. I took online writing workshops as well as career-oriented workshops.
5. I attended regional and national writing conferences.
6. I set clear and defined goals: daily, weekly, yearly, and more.
7. I entered writing contests, which gave me clear deadlines.
8. I queried.
9. I pitched at conferences.
10. I followed up on all requested materials.
11. I kept a spreadsheet of all my queried responses, targeted agencies and publishing           houses.
12. I volunteered for my local chapters but ONLY IF THAT TIME DID NOT     INTERFERE WITH MY WRITING TIME. This is important. Writing must come first.
13. I networked with authors and agents and editors, etc.
14. I tracked my business expenses.
15. I had professional business cards and used them at all events where applicable.

This is a short list of what I did to prove to the government that I was and always will be a career-focused writer. And guess what I’m going to do now that I have a publishing contract?

All of the above with minor changes based on where I am in my career as a writer. Are you still not published, floundering on Facebook and Twitter with your writing friends, and making writing the last thing you plan for instead of the first thing you plan to do? Then I issue a challenge to you. Take your writing career seriously in 2014 and make it a priority because you are a CAREER-FOCUSED WRITER.

What are some of the things you do as an unpublished writer to remain focused on attaining your goals?


Louisa Cornell said...

This is an AWESOME post, Christine! And definitely a kick in the pants to those of us who often wonder if we are "real" writers. You teach people how to treat you and it is only by being a writer every day that people will treat us as such.

Chris Bailey said...

I follow up a rejection with a query!

Christine said...

Louisa, I am glad you liked it! I thing that if you act like a professional, you will be treated like one!!


Christine said...

Chris, I love that idea! I think that goes with my idea of the RULE OF TEN. I always had ten things out there in the writing world (got the idea from a friend of mine). Queries, submissions, contest entries. As soon as one was off the grid, I'd pop another one out there. I think it really helped me stay focused. I'm trying to do a similar thing now that I do have a contract: always stay one book ahead, always be revising another one, stay on top of promo/social media.

It's a juggling act!