The Best and the Worst of the Writing Life (Author Scott Bury)

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

By Scott Bury

The best part of being a writer, for me, is writing.

I have heard people say “I don’t like writing; I like having written.” I like both. I like being able to look over something I have written and feeling satisfied with the outcome. But I also very much like the process, the practice of writing itself.

I guess I like expressing myself. I like to be able to tell stories or get ideas across to other people. Maybe I’m like Porthos in The Three Musketeers, who liked to talk to hear his own voice.

I even like re-writing my work. When I was younger, I found I had no patience in re-reading my old stuff, especially trade journalism. Somehow, I could not tolerate re-reading what I had just written. Over time, I learned that I really had to re-read, so that I could re-write and avoid the worst criticism from editors.

I also learned the importance of researching and outlining. The hard way. I would start with a good opening sentence. Eventually, I learned to delete that opening sentence when the story was done. What I was left with was something half-decent.

Eventually, I realized I was much further ahead with an outline. And over the years, I became a great proponent of outlines. This will be no surprise to those who read my blog.

And as my writing got better (I like to kid myself that my writing has improved over the years of practice), it got easier to reread it. Now, I have no problem re-reading when I first complete an article or a story, and I can find the obvious typos and missing words.

I can re-read stories that I wrote a few years ago without shuddering. I find I actually enjoy re-writing my work. Yes, I do get impatient—I’d like to be able to go directly from writing to publishing, but that’s not possible. If you follow any independent e-publishers, I’m sure you’ve found some writing that makes you think “Didn’t this writer edit at all? Even him/herself?”

I find great satisfaction when I can turn a difficult or awkward sentence into something clear. Here’s the trick: don’t try to salvage your work by changing a few words here and there, or moving a clause from the end of the sentence to the beginning. Start over. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to say? What result or reaction do I want from the reader?” By going back to the basic question and discarding everything you tried before, you’ll get a much better result.

The hard part

The hardest part for me as a writer is the dealing with the dread that I won’t find an audience.

This is a new fear for me. As a journalist, writing articles commissioned by editors, you know you have an audience. When I was writing for Canadian Printer magazine at the beginning of my career, I knew that my audience was 15,000 to 30,000 Canadian graphic arts professionals. When I wrote articles for Macworld magazine, I knew the audience was around 300,000.

But now that I’ve turned to fiction, I know that, in addition to creating a story, I have to create an audience. That’s infinitely harder. Or maybe, it’s just a different skill set. I have learned how to write, building on an ability that I had when I was young, developing through many years, different circumstances and different goals. I have never been good at selling or at gathering a lot of attention for myself.

That fear is what has held me back from publishing fiction for such a long time. I have had the basic ideas for my novels for, in some cases, decades now. I have chapters and chapters of work in various hard drives, binders and drawers. I have not finished them nor submitted them to the wider world simply because I have been afraid of rejection.

Obviously, I have conquered that fear. I now have three stories on Smashwords and Amazon, and I’m working at getting my stuff listed in iBooks.

I am learning what it takes to build an audience. I’ve heard about the importance of the “platform” for the independent author, and I’m doing what I can to build one. I’ve increased the number of Facebook friends I have, joined Google Plus, created Circles, and, of course, joined Twitter. I’ve been blogging much more than I ever did before.

So far, it has not translated into many sales of my stories. I have seen some sales come immediately after a good review gets posted, though.

Learning how to build an audience would turn the worst part of being a writer to the best thing, for me. I hold onto hope it’s a skill I will learn.

 Connect with Scott at  http://scottswrittenwords.blogspot.com   or   @ScottTheWriter  (Twitter)
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Comments
  1. Scott,
    I’m smitten with your story. We all have one. Here’s mine:
    http://williamjatkins.wordpress.com
    All the best in your new career as a fiction writer and publisher.
    William

  2. I love writing and can relate to what you like. The part I don’t like is the marketing. I wish I could just write and write and somehow the books get sold. I’m enjoying your posts. Thanks.

  3. Damyanti says:

    Not many writers have the skill to build an audience. But unlike some other aspects of writing, this one can be learned.

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