Are you feeling a little bucked off? Did you enter freelance writing to become a famous novelist only to wind up writing thousands of SEO articles on subjects that now haunt your dreams because of their overwhelming presence in your waking day?
I expect the career of many a freelance writer has started out this way. You bore your friends and family by droning on from the saddle of your hobby horse about how you will become the next Stephen King or JK Rowling, and all the while you’re working on turning your hobby into a career by crafting that spectacular blockbuster novel that will grab the publishing world by the balls and make it cough up millions.
Time passes and your novel creeps along. You start dabbling in commercial freelance writing. You get the odd gig from a friend or business acquaintance who probably just wants you to put your money where your blabbering mouth has been for too many years and produce a piece of literature for their website. You begin to think there could be a career in this, after all.
The work filters in. You reach the point where it’s decision-time. You need more hours from the day if you’re to make a go if it. The day-job finally gets the axe. You’re free. Finally, you can devote more time to … shit, SEO articles.
Hold on, weren’t you writing a novel? Isn’t that how all this began?
You spin around and realise your hobby horse has wandered off. It used to follow you around like Trigger, just waiting for you to leap on its back and bellow out your master plan to anyone who’d listen.
Actually, it’s still there. You can just make it out in the distance, meandering aimlessly. Every so often it stops to peek back at you, just in case you need it to gallop back to you.
But you don’t. It’s sad and vaguely embarrassing. None of those whose ears you battered from its saddle will have forgotten your lofty ambitions, but only the very closest of them would dare broach the subject now.
“How’s that novel of yours coming along?” one whispers, sensitively.
“Slowly,” you say, lying. Slowly would be good; it would be progress.
In a recent post called “Freelance Questions”, Tumblemoose asked how his fellow scribes balanced their paid work with their personal projects, admitting that the latter area escapes him. Regular commenter Steve echoed the sentiment. I do, too.
Last week, I passed judgment on several comments by novelist Pam Binder taken from a Q&A session with a Forbes journalist. In the same article, Binder described how she was able to write her first published novel.
“My advice is simple. All you need is 15 minutes a day. Ignore those people who say you have to spend 3, 4, or 5 hours a day in order to become a serious writer. Let me say it again, if you can write even 15 minutes a day, you can write a novel. I know this is true, because I did it.”
Binder says she wrote her book by snatching fifteen minutes a day from her lunch break while working a full-time job, and who am I to say that’s not true? But while I wouldn’t say it’s incredible, I would say it’s friggin amazing – and good for her.
Fifteen minutes a day, for me, would be useless. I know from writing three books (one languishing unpublished) how I approach the job of novel-writing, and fifteen minutes would probably not see a single word committed to the screen. If anything productive did occur in that time, it would amount to one sentence that had been rewritten several times in my head prior to even sitting down. And one sentence a day is not a viable way to write a novel.
I’m the “3, 4, or 5 hours a day” writer that Binder describes. I started off very slowly, feeling my way back into the world of the novel, and, the longer I sat there, the quicker I wrote and the less I needed to rewrite what I’d written. I’d be rolling after a couple of hours and could easily write for ten to twelve hours non-stop. I wrote for twenty-four hours without a break to finish my first book.
I like Binder’s approach better. My approach has not seen me write a fourth novel in ten years; just no time. I could grab fifteen minutes a day – who couldn’t? But it’s not enough. My brain can’t get up to speed that quickly. I like to craft my sentences so they don’t need much tweaking later on. Possibly Binder’s approach was to get the words down however they fell from her head, just to move the story along, and not worry about the finer edits until the novel was complete.
If you feel like your hobby horse has been put out to stud, it may be something to consider. Perhaps then you won’t feel quite so bucked off with the way things are going.