Häromveckan fick jag en förfrågan från en vän på andra sidan Atlanten. Hon hade en ung kvinna i sin närhet som önskade veta mer om hur det är att arbeta som författare. Yrket, alltså. Min vän vände sig till mig, den enda författare hon känner, och bad mig skriva ett brev till sin tonåriga bekant. Eftersom det här inte är vilken vän som helst utan en av mina bästa betaläsare, trotsade jag mitt schema och satte mig att skriva ett brev till någon vars namn jag inte visste. Eftersom brevet föll i god jord tänkte jag dela med mig av det. På engelska, visserligen, men det klarar ni, eller hur?
To whom it concerns,
No, sorry. That was awfully dull. I’ll start over.
To the one with a head full of stories, and a heart desiring to write them,
If you are like me, then you are going to write no matter what. You are going to write even if you never make a penny (or a dollar, or whatever currency you use in Canada). To me, being a writer is a calling. A disposition and nature. A need.
A writer is by definition someone who writes. An author on the other hand is someone who is published and read. Going from one to the other is not an easy thing in this world, but it is getting easier. Indie writing is increasing in Northern America, with the possibility to publish e-novels at Amazon at no costs at all. Anyone can do that who has access to a laptop or computer of any kind, but being published in that manor does not equal with being read and loved.
Of course there are people who write for a living and write in a routine way. But most writers would write even if they knew they would be read by only a few, and most writers do not make a living from writing. Yes, there are lots of famous writers like Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer, but most writers never become like them. We write anyway, simply because we have something to say.
Me myself, I am a teacher. I work at a school similar to a highschool called gymnasiet, here in Sweden. My students are 16-19 years old and I teach Swedish – which would be English or French where you live. I spend all day talking of language and literature and I love almost every single second I spend at work. I get to do something I love dearly, work with the most important tools a writer has, and I get paid to do it. Most people are not that lucky.
Many, many writers out there are like me. They have a day job and they write at night, in the weekend, on the lunch break – whenever they can. Sometimes they work part time to write more – or do like I did for many years: stay home with small children and write when they nap. But of course there are ways to live off your pen even if you don’t sell books like Veronica Roth.
You can work as an editor for other writers. You can work as a copy writer for a company, or freelance towards many different clients. You could be a proof-reader, copy editor or work at a publishing house where you can learn the business and read the flood of manuscripts applied to say what should be published and not. You could review other people’s books in magazines or work towards libraries. I know many well respected and well read writers who fill up their time doing things like these. I have started myself on a small scale, helping young writers find their footing and voice, giving advice. My dream is to teach writing classes, but as for now, I am happy teaching my students how to think when they read.
Because there are many things you can do if you want to be a better writer. Actually there are so many that I can only list a few, but hopefully they will lead you – whoever you are – in the right direction.
Okay. My advice:
Number one: WRITE. There will be no novel if you only daydream of writing. You cannot sit around thinking to write and believe you will be a great writer. You have to actually write and write even if what you write is crap. The key to writing is to write, and once you have that first, finished manuscript, you have only started to learn the craft.
Number two: Let the text rest. You need to distance yourself to see what worked and what did not. So let the text be, and read lots and lots and lots, and after a time you go back and see what you have. This is when you start learning the very difficult craft of editing and rewriting. How are the threads woven? Can it be tightened? Do you really know your characters? Why do they act the way they do? How do you present the conflict? Should the reader know more or less than the characters? Do you need to describe more, or describe less? Do they talk too much about nothing important? There are a million questions to ask but you will get better. Every time you ponder, analyze and read, you will improve. This is a craft that requires time and there is no way around that fact.
Number three: Let someone else read. Listen to what they say. You don’t have to do exactly as they say, but you need to motivate why you do not agree, otherwise you have to face that they are right.
Number four: Talk to other people who write. Never in the history of the world has it been this easy! There are writer’s blogs and communities. Join one. Follow a writer you admire on twitter. Read his or hers newsletters. Learn from everywhere. Listen. Analyze your text again.
It is a hard world out there. People will criticize your work once it is published. Do not let them get to you. If you write from your heart, there will be others with a heart similar to yours, who will read and feel that sweet echo of your words in them. You will move people. Touch them. Make a difference. No writer is loved by everyone. Everyone is different and there will always be those who did not like your work.
But if you are like me, none of that will matter to you. Because if you are like me, you will write anyway simply because you have something to say.
I wish you the best of luck,
Author of Ljus som varit dolt – Light that was hidden.