Sunday, June 30, 2013

Writing and Contracts

Posted by: Shawna Thomas
When a writer gets serious about his or her career, he or she begins paying attention to craft. This means polishing a manuscript, looking for other writers to critique or read and, ultimately, trying to attract the notice of the publishing world.

This is the first step away from doing something you love just because you love it. Most writers start writing because we love telling stories, but telling the story is really a very small part of the business of writing. The process is work. Hard work. You’ve heard the phrase, kill your darlings? Yeah, that means when someone you trust tells you that sentence/character/scene just doesn’t work, even though you love it. You hit the delete key. I’d like to tell you it gets easier with time. But at least for me, I still have to take a deep breath and put on my big-girl panties. I'm not even going to mention grammar or pace...well, I guess I just did, didn't I?

Once a writer gets serious about craft, it isn’t much longer before they get serious about pursuing publication. This usually means a contract. The joy of that contract is something I truly can’t convey. But of course I’ll try. I am a writer. *grin* Imagine buying a lottery ticket every day, studying the trends and the statistics faithfully to give yourself the best chance possible. Then one day they read those numbers and yup. You won. All your hard work paid off.  You’re stunned. You’re amazed. You want to call everyone and shout from the rooftops and you want to just sit and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

Well, there is one huge flaw in my comparison.

Once you get that contract, the work starts. There are edits, deadlines and promotion. Suddenly you’re writing because you have to. Because it’s a job, not just because you love it. The pressure doesn’t lessen with subsequent contracts. You’re writing to maintain a standard; you’re writing to let your publisher and editor know they were not wrong in putting their faith in you; You’re writing so that wonderful person who gave you a glowing five star review on your last book, will give you another glowing review on your newest book.

You’re writing under pressure. A lot of pressure.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all sunshine and butterflies and bring up the coal/diamond thing... Pollyanna I am not.

But I will share something I’ve learned.

When you’re feeling the pressure. When the deadline becomes more important than the story. Stop.

I am not going to tell you to throw everything out and write for fun. Because let’s face it, this is a business and your books are your commodity. It’s not just about you any more. But there is a balance. If you’re not in love with your hero. Stop and daydream about him until you are in love with him.  If the death of your protagonist’s best friend didn’t just bring a tear to your eye. It won’t bring a tear to the reader’s eye either. Stop. Imagine what the protag is feeling. Put yourself in her or his shoes and rewrite it. There must be balance.

I honestly think maintaining this balance is the difference between a successful writer in love with his or her job and a burnt out writer.

I’ve been both.

I like the in love writer a lot better.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any writerly advice? And if you do, will you share?

And I have to take this opportunity to share my newest release, Journey of Dominion... I will never get tired of looking at this cover. 


  1. I don't have any advice to give, but this is definitely advice I needed to hear. Thank you for this terrific post, Shawna.

  2. Thank you, Sonya! It was really good advice for me too.


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