Writing Advice from Kathleen Morgan
What does it take to deliver a new book?
- First you sell it to a publisher --write up a proposal (synopsis and first three chapters), submit it to a publisher, wait an incredible amount of time before you ever hear back from them, then if you're lucky, they make an offer on the book. You negotiate the terms (an agent may or may not be involved through all this. I have an agent), then accept them. A contract is prepared, signed, and finally you get part of your advance. A publication date is determined, and your deadline for completing and submitting the book is set.
- Next, you write the book --Research and write and write and write. Try to stay on schedule so you get the book in on time. Try to keep motivated. Try not to gain twenty pounds in the process. Try to find time for outside activities and a life.
- Then you submit the book --Editors read it, suggest revisions. You do revisions. Resubmit the revised book. Editors read and okay revisions. Copy editors then go over the book for errors of all kinds, including grammar and punctuation. You go over copy edits and either agree or disagree, then hash out the differences. Book with all the changes goes into galley stage (how the book will look on the printed page). You read the book over one last time to check for typos, etc. In the meanwhile, the art dept. is working on cover art. Someone's writing the back cover copy. The sales reps. are trying to get orders. The book is sent out for reviews.
- Last, the book is finally published --This whole process, not counting writing the book, can take from 6-12 months for the publishers. So now you know why it takes so long to get the next book out from your favorite author!
How often do you write new ones?
I generally write a book every six months to a year. The bigger, more complex a book, the longer it takes to write. And, since I try to challenge myself, I find my books are taking longer to write.
Is the work demanding --physically, emotionally or mentally?
Writing's not really physically demanding. It'd probably be easier to keep off the pounds if it was. It is emotionally and mentally demanding. Plotting a book is complex if you're trying for a multi-layered novel. You have to introduce, then develop and weave many story threads, then tie them all up neatly and satisfyingly at the end. You have to confront and deal with your own fears--of failure, where the story is headed and is it any good--maintain self-discipline to meet your deadlines, and remember this is a very lonely kind of work with little feedback while you're in the throes of writing the book. So there's a lot of self-doubts that creep in that must be dealt with. To have a successful, productive writing career, you have to be a self-motivator. Are you beginning to see why talent and creativity soon fall by the wayside, if not bolstered by determination and hard work?
Do you have much time for your family, hobbies and outdoor interests?
You can allow yourself to be as obsessive-compulsive as you want to be with your writing. I tended to be a lot more that way early in my career. Hobbies? What were they? Now, though, I've learned that if you limit your exposure to life outside writing, you can dry up your creative well. And God, family, hobbies, outdoor activities, church, people, and life in general are all grist for the writer's creative mill, as well as essential for the emotional well-being of the writer.
How does the salary compare to others careers?
Well, a famous saying among writers is "Don't quit your day job". <grin!> It usually takes a lot of time to build big enough print runs and a reader base to justify any sort of income one can live on. Generally speaking, writing is and will remain for a long while your second career. You don't get paid monthly, or even regularly. Aside from the advances you get when you sell, then turn in the finished book, you really can't count on anything. Royalties earned when the book sells come in only after the advance is earned back. And a lot of writers, especially early in their published career, don't even earn back their advances. Even when there are royalties, usually paid only twice a year, you never know what they'll be until the royalty statement appears. Try to budget your living expenses on that!
Is there job security? Financial security?
Not the greatest job security in the world. Your publisher can dump you at any time, and generally will if you don't continue to grow and sell increasingly greater amounts of books. They're in this to make money, too, even if, in the inspirational market, they're also trying to serve a higher calling. And you can already guess how poor the financial security can be from above.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing as a career?
- I think most of the disadvantages are apparent. After you turn in your finished book, you have very little control of anything anymore. The cover art can be horrendous, but you rarely can get it changed or improved ( I will admit, though, that I've had a lot more success and satisfying relationships in the publishing process with my Christian publishers then I generally ever had with my secular publishers). The reviewers can be really nasty sometimes, and you can't do a thing about it but be gracious and thank them for their time and effort. The publisher can mess up your book distribution in some way, so your sales are bad, and sooner or later everyone forgets it wasn't their fault, and blames the poor sales on you. You also have to treat your writing as a business, keep account of all your expenses, pay quarterly taxes when you sell, and do your own filing and correspondence. Ah, for that administrative assistant I dream of someday!
- Advantages are you're doing something you love to do. You've the opportunity to touch, inspire, and entertain readers. You can truthfully call yourself a writer, and even someday maybe hold a book of yours in your hands. What a wonderful feeling! You make your own hours. You're independent. No one can tell you what to do or write. You don't have to get dressed up to go to work, or fight rush hour traffic. You can deduct a lot of books for research purposes, because a writer is always researching the market and learning from other writers--even fiction books.
Do you sometimes work alone? Or with other people?
Some authors collaborate/co-write books. Most authors, however, write alone and work alone. It's essential, though, to have other serious writer friends. No one else truly understands what you're going through, believe me.
Is there a lot of research work you need to do before beginning a book?
Yes, there's a lot of research, hence it's best to pick time frames you personally find interesting. All the research, however, doesn't need to be done before you begin writing, just enough to set up the story premise, setting, etc. The rest can be done as needed as you go along. It all really depends on how you want to approach it.
What other advice do you have for aspiring writers?
If you want to write, give it a try. Try to write every day, even if only for a half hour a day. In time, you'll find more time (remember my comment on hobbies?). It won't seem like a sacrifice, though, as time goes on, because you'll find you just HAVE to write. You'll become so immersed in your characters, their lives, and the story that you find you hate to leave them. That's all right, though. If you can't find enough enthusiasm for your characters, neither will your readers, so you know you're finally on the right track when you get this way. Just be prepared for a lot of disappointment, frustration, and heartache. This is a very subjective business, and it takes time--a lot of time--to learn your craft. Just because a good book is very easy to read doesn't mean it was easy to write. On the contrary.
I don't mention all this to discourage anyone considering/dreaming of becoming a writer. It is hard work, though, and that's why most people can't or don't choose to do it. For the rest of us, we just can't help ourselves. We've got stories we've got to tell, truths we feel compelled to speak, and the joy generally outweighs the pain (but isn't that true of anything really worthwhile in life?). And, sometimes, it's even a whole lot of fun. :)
Some Favorite Writing Links ...
Romance Writers of America
DearReader.com (formerly Chapter-A-Day Book Club)
American Christian Fiction Writers
Resource Books for Writers ...
(note: all books listed are published by Writer's Digest unless otherwise indicated)
The Market Guide for Young Writers, Kathy Henderson
2007 Writer’s Market, by Robert Lee Brewer
2007 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market, by Lauren Mosko and Michael Schweer
2007 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, by Alice Pope
2007 Poet's Market, by Nancy Breen
2007 Guide to Literary Agents, by Joanna Masterson
Mystery Writer's Sourcebook: 2nd Edition, edited by David Borcherding
The Writer's Complete Crime Reference Book, Martin Roth
Amateur Detectives, Elain Raco Chase and Dr. Anne Wingate
Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons, Serita D. Stevens
Modus Operandi: A Writer's Guide to How Criminals Work, Mauro Corvasce and Joseph Paglino
Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime Scene Investigation, Anne Wingate
Body Trauma, David Page, M.D.
Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons, Michael Newton
Malicious Intent: A Writer's Guide to How Criminals Think, Sean Mactire
Police Procedural: Writer's Guide to the Police and How They Work, Russell Bintliff
Cause of Death: A Writer's Guide to Death, Murder, and Forensic Medicine, Keith Wilson
Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigators, Hal Blythe, et al
Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Sue Grafton
Romance Writer's Sourcebook, edited by David Borcherding
How to Write Romances, Phyllis T. Pianka
Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America, edited by R. Gallagher et al
Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, University of Pennsylvania Press.
How to Write A Romance and Get It Published, Kathryn Falk, Signet Books.
Writing Romance Fiction For Love and Money, Helene S. Barnhart
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Source Book, edited by David H. Borcherding
World Building: A Guide to Constructing Star Systems and Life-Supporting Planets, Stephen L. Gillett
Space Travel, Ben Bova and Anthony Lewis
Time Travel, Paul Nahin
Aliens and Alien Societies, Stanley Schmidt
Cosmic Critiques: How and Why Ten Science Fiction Stories Work, Marvin Greenberg and Issac Asimov
The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells, Ben Bova
The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe, George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier
Writing and Selling Science Fiction, The Science Fiction Writers of America
How to Write and Sell Children's Picture Books, Jean Karl
Writing for Children and Teenagers, 3rd Ed., Lee Wyndham
The Children's Writer's Word Book, Alijandra Mogilner
How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books, edited by Treld Pelkey
The Poet's Handbook, Judson Jerome
Creating Poetry, John Drury
The Art and Craft of Poetry, Michael Bugeja
The Poetry Dictionary, John Drury
Handbook of Short Story Writing, Vol. I,edited by Frank Dickson
Handbook of Short Story Writing, Vol. II, edited by Jean Fredette
Writing the Short Story: A Hands-On Writing Program, Jack Bickham
General Writing Books
Freeing Your Creativity: A Writer's Guide, Marshall Cook
Getting the Words Right: How to Revise, Edit, and Rewrite, Theodore Rees Cheney
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron, G.P. Putnam's Sons
How to Write With the Skill of a Master and the Genius of a Child, Marshall Cook
Writing A to Z: The terms, procedures, and facts of the writing business defined, explained, and put within reach, edited by Kirk Polking
Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight Swain, University of Oklahoma Press
The ABC's of Writing Fiction, Ann Copeland, Story Press
The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, Sherrilyn Kenyon
Building Believable Characters, Marc McCutcheon
20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them), Ronald Tobias
Creating Characters, Dwight Swain
38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them), Jack Bickham
Make Your Words Work, Gary Provost
The Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats, Dian Dincin Buchman