DeCandido: Writing for a Living

Writing for a Living: a very short essay

When asked about the whole business of writing by some of our family, my son Keith and I wrote what follows: stuff we have picked up from many other writers and teachers along the way.

Keith writes almost entirely fiction; I write nonfiction, mostly book- and research-related. The work is not that different, though!

There is never going to be time to write. If you want to write, you have to make the time for it, preferably five or six days a week. Pick an hour and write for that hour. Writing is like any other skill, you get better at it the more you do it. You don't just "become" a writer any more than you "become" a concert pianist or a neurosurgeon.

The way to learn to write is to do it, and to read in your chosen area. If you want to write a children's book, read lots of them. If you want to write a memoir, the library is full of memoirs. If you want to write a book on baseball, read a bunch of them. It always helps to see what other writers have done.

Then write. And write and write and write. Most people think that writing should be easy and come naturally. This is a myth. Writing is hard work, sometimes very hard work. There's no use waiting for inspiration, it doesn't come, usually.
Waiting for the muse sucks. He's often off smoking weed and not available, though like a bad boyfriend he swears he'll be there for you. I don't wait. I write. Over and over and over if necessary.
A book is written sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. Write one sentence. Then write another. Then another. It is the only way it is going to happen.

Finish what you start. Revise what you finish. Submit what you write.

The library has reference books like Writers Market that will tell you where you can send your work for publication consideration.

Then move on to the next thing. Once you have finished something, leave it alone. It's finished. If you pick at it, it'll never heal. Move along and start your next piece of writing.

It is perfectly legitimate to write as therapy, or as self-discovery. This is a good thing, but it probably won't be something anyone else will care to read. Keep that in mind.

I review hundreds of books a year for Booklist, a review magazine mostly for librarians, and for Kirkus Reviews, a review service for publishers and librarians. Both of these are often available at your library, if you are interested, and often quotes them. It gives me a really good overview of publishing in the areas where I review (fiction, mysteries, some memoirs, and children's books).

Words are what we do, Keith and I. It is a real pleasure to share my profession with my son. Hope we offer some small insight into the way it works.

©2003, 2011 Keith R.A. DeCandido & GraceAnne A. DeCandido