Chuck Wendig recently blogged about mid-career writing. Tis an interesting read (although the faint-hearted should avert their eyes cos there are swears and sexy bits) and it got me to thinking. Cos I guess that's where I am at now. Mid career that is. I'm certainly no longer a beginner and I hope, hope, hope I am not at the end (at least not an end that isn't prescribed by me). So anyways, humour me, and let's say I'm a mid career writer.
Mid-career - you jumped in, you've done a few lengths and touched the end of the pool each time, and you are still swimming.
Mid-career means you have been published. How doesn't matter if your books have been bought and reviewed positively by people who don't know you, and some folk outside your family and your writing circle know your name.
At mid-career point, theoretically, you probably know a fair bit about the craft of writing. About rules of grammar, and the way words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters are ordered. You have a handle on plot and character development and understand why it's important your character has an arc as well as your plot having one. You know what voice, tone and style are. And the difference between 'show' and 'tell' and why that difference matters. You are probably still in two minds (or maybe three) about how many adverbs are too many. And if you are me you have given up caring about the correct use of commas and how many times you've used the word 'just' knowing that an editor won't hold it against you for too long after you've bought them that second cocktail.
But you don't have all the answers. You've realised there is always more to learn, and envelopes that can still be expanded and pushed. It's a journey with a destination you are never likely to reach, but that's not a bad thing. It is harder to find writing courses that are pitched for mid-career folk. You know the fundamentals and you've developed your own habits and style which are individualised to you. If you have been published several times or more you are doing enough right and it isn't always easy to pinpoint what you now need to add to your writing repertoire. I try and reach towards more ambitious projects, grander ideas that force me to try new things. And I am always reading which still remains one of the best schools of writing. And I keep working on my books.
Chuck talks about checking your direction, and making career plans. He acknowledges the difficulties of making plans in an industry where the individual (author) has so little control. But I agree it's smart to check what your desires are and to write and act accordingly. And these things need to be updated on the regular because you will continue to discover things about the industry and you will probably continue to evolve as a writer. Whether your goals are seriously ambitious and your plans structured and aggressive, or you decide you are going to see where fate takes you and you keep things simple, what you choose to do will affect your outcomes. Just remember, choosing to do nothing is also a plan. Whatever else you do, keep working on your books.
There are potential perks to being a mid-career author. It's not all a big mystery anymore (although at times you still wish it was more like a fairy-tale) and you know other writers and some industry professionals. You are a card-carrying member of your tribe and this feels like a warm hug. You are familiar with the process and have found a few shortcuts, even if the process is ultimately still sometimes difficult. It's a bit like running a hurdles race. You are pretty good at getting over the hurdles now after considerable practice, but sometimes your shoe catches and you eat asphalt. Sadly reaching this point has also not necessarily provided you with any security or certainty. While YOU have changed, the publishing industry, at its heart, remains fundamentally the same. The majority of mid-careerists still get rejected and don't get automatic invitations to schools, festivals and other events. But now you know not to take it personally. Keep working on your books.
I like what Wendig says about marketing and promotion. Who you are and how you behave in the real world and on social media will, in the long run, have an impact that goes beyond any structured promotion. And the final word on whether people continue to buy your books is their content. Keep writing and work hard on making it something you are proud of. That is the thing you do have control over.
Some mantra for the mid-careerist:
Things will probably stay the same more than they change
It's not just you, they are like that with everyone
You know more than you think you do
Keep working on your books
Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: The Were-Nana
- Educational Resource: The Half Life of Ryan Davis
- Educational Resource: Made With Love
- Educational Resource: The House That Went to Sea
- Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: While You Are Sleeping
- Educational Resource: The Song of Kauri
- Educational Resource: Fuzzy Doodle
- Book List - Complete List of my Publications