On writing

An exercise in rewriting

We don’t write so much as rewrite.

Sherylyn and I go through five and more major rewrites and dozens of minor ones for each novel.

Not so for blogs. Our blogs get three drafts. The initial draft, one re-write if we have the time, and then a final polish before we post. As you can imagine, they’re nowhere near as polished as our novels.

Once a blog is posted that’s how it tends to stay. We’ll fix typos or bad grammar but mostly what you see initially is what you get.

It’s rare, but we do occasionally rewrite articles, either because it they’re badly written or because the post doesn’t get across the meaning we wanted.

The blog I wrote last week—Are you a professional writer—needs rewriting.

When we started A Novel Idea we planned to show how a story changed from first draft to final. Rather than rewrite last week’s post we decided to show what we would edit. And give the reasoning behind it.

So here are the changes. Click on the image below to see the marked-up revisions as a PDF.

The revised version
The revised version


The final version dropped from 1400 words to 550. It’s cleaner and gets across more of what I was trying to say.  Here it is below in in all its glory. (Links have been removed to avoid double pingbacks. Please see the original if you want to follow the links.)

Are you a ‘professional’ writer?

Wow. Poor Lisa Morton. I bet she didn’t expect the outpouring of vitriol in response to her article ‘Ten questions to know if you’re a pro‘ on the Horror Writers’ Association Los Angeles site.

In her article Lisa gives a pop-quiz list of ten things that define whether you’re a professional writer or a hobbyist. Answer yes to at least eight of the ten questions and you’re a professional writer, rather than a hobbyist.

Most of the people arguing about her article seem to take umbrage at her definition of ‘professional writer’. They argue that you are only a professional writer if you have been paid for your work, and object to her using the term in any other way.

They also take umbrage to questions like:

  • Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?
  • Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?
  • Do you plan vacations around writing opportunities?
  • Do you turn off the television in order to write?

with answers like, “So because I want to spend time with my friends I’m not a professional writer,” and “I don’t turn the television off because I never have it on anyway”.

I admit to being surprised at the negative response, because I know a lot of people who say they want to be writers but are too busy doing other things. I automatically assumed she did too. This was confirmed by a comment John Palisano made on Brian Keene’s On Professional Elitism, and Things More Important (about Morton’s article) where he said:

I knew the story behind it, which we/I should’ve posted. It was aimed at a group of folks she’d interacted with that complained they never had time to write, but then went on and on about their favorite TV shows, what they were making for dinner, the weather…so it wasn’t really intended as a broad swath against all writers.

John Palisano, commenting on Brian Keen’s On Professional Elitism, and Things More Important. Comment on August 6, 2013 at 12:20pm

If you want to be a writer you make it a goal and you work toward that goal.

Note that while I agree that if you’re serious about writing you should knuckle down and work at it, rather than just something you do as a hobby, you still need a work-life balance. Life is for living. Don’t become too caught up with your career that you forget you have a life.


Morton isn’t the only one saying it

The same day I read Morton’s article the August issue of the [WQ]magazine arrived in my mailbox. In it, Linda Stewart has an article called Making Time to Write, where she suggests some simple strategies for making time to write. Some of these are very similar to Morton’s, such as:

  • Turn off the TV
  • Get off the internet
  • Learn to say no.


My take

To me, Lisa Morton was saying that if you’re serious about being a professional writer then you should be working toward that goal, not just sitting around talking about it.

You know what? I agree with her.

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