Top Ten Tuesdays: Please Welcome Victoria Mixon

Welcome to  Top Ten Tuesdays, a series of guest blogs by winners of the “Top Ten Blogs for Writers” contest hosted at Writetodone.com

Victoria Mixon is a seasoned professional with advice we need to hear, expertise we need to access and hope we need to internalize.  She also has a book out there, well worth the time and money.

Her words to us today are pure gold.  I recommend we all read this several times and then post it on our bathroom mirror.

It’s that freaking good.

The Bootstrapping Writer—The Secret at the Core of Competency

by Storyfix guest blogger Victoria Mixon

 

Writing is about growing up.

That’s the single most helpful thing I can tell you about this work.

Because after you’ve spent your years developing your craft, and you’ve read the right books (mine and Larry’s), taken the right advice and rewritten your manuscript, edited it with your editor, built your author platform, established your credibility, and even survived the endless process of querying, waiting, signing with an agent, waiting, getting a publisher and going through production, waiting more, and finally, finally launching your promotion and book tour for the first of all the books you will eventually write in your career. . .you still have something to learn.

How to do it all as a professional.

This is the crucial difference, the delta abyss, the secret at the core of competence. And it makes or breaks all publishing writers.

Writing

Amateur

The amateur aspiring writer approaches the writing, as Roz Morris once mentioned, as therapy. They don’t treat it as a craft to learn or an art to master so it can be shared with an audience. It’s just their own guts lying out there on the dissecting table, writhing painfully and trying to crawl back into the shadows, away from the light.

Professional

The professional aspiring writer approaches the writing as a craft, a complex, challenging set of skills they must develop as fully as humanly possible in the short lifespan they’ve been allotted, in the context of art—that extraordinary impulse to put into words aspects of life that have never been given words before.

There is no more beautiful description of this than the maga-editor Diana Athill’s description of Jean Rhys (that most self-indulgent of artistic victims):

As soon as we began [editing] she became a different person, her face stern, her eyes hooded, her concentration intense. . .This seemed to give me a clear glimpse of the central mystery of Jean Rhys: the existence within a person so incompetent and so given to muddle and disaster—even to destruction—of an artist as strong as steel.

Reading about Writing

Amateur

The amateur approaches books on writing as secret codes to stardom, assuming that if they speed-read all of them they will, at some point, be transformed through sheer determination into published authors or at least published authors’ best friends. The discrepancies in advice confuse and infuriate them. It does not occur to them that a lot of it is simply bad.

Professional

The professional approaches books on writing as illumination of a craft for which they have already begun to lay a foundation. They’re alert to similarities in different writers’ ways of giving the same advice. They’re mentally cataloging the intricacies of each aspect of the craft as they find them elaborated upon in different directions.

And they’re especially sensitive to the undercurrent of each writer’s agenda: is this writer interested in teaching others the amazing, endless depths of this work we love? or are they only interested in selling their own book by making promises they can’t possibly fulfill?

They learn to recognize bad advice by comparing it to great novels they love. And eventually the professional finds themself nodding in recognition rather than scratching their head in puzzlement. Books on writing become validation as much as enlightenment. That’s a brilliant way to put what I already knew.

Rewriting

Amateur

The amateur approaches rewriting as a final gloss over a first draft cast in stone. Yes, they expected to need their punctuation corrected. What they did not expect was to learn a first draft is mostly research, background notes on these characters, this fictional world, that will eventually have to be written up as carefully planned and organized scenes structured around a central premise.

Professional

The professional approaches rewriting as the real work. Many of them don’t bother with that overarching first draft. They structure first, write second. They know just plowing through a manuscript without any idea where it’s going or what it means is a recipe for disaster, or at least for a whole lot of stuff to keep in folders of NOTES.

Editing

Amateur

The amateur treats editing as a sullying of their artistic vision. They don’t necessarily know what art is or what their personal perspective on life has to do with it, but they are certain it’s not supposed to be tampered with. They worry about losing their ‘voice’ or the ‘life’ of the words. These innocents do not expect to need editing, either by their publisher (they’re in luck with that nowadays, anyway) or, worse, by a hired lackey. They expect their writing to breathe.

Professional

The professional treats the objective eyes of experienced professional editors as manna from heaven.

“Thank god you knew what to do about that!” they say in abject gratitude. “I was ready to burn the whole damn thing.”

The professional knows perfectly well the words on the first-draft page could have been put there by typewriting monkeys. They know it’s necessary to grease the wheels, but they don’t necessarily want to recycle the grease.

They want help shaping it into the catapult that’s going to fling their reader exactly where they want a reader flung.

Building a Platform

Amateur

The amateur throws themself on the mercy of the blogosphere in a panic to score. Numbers! More numbers! Higher numbers! Infinite numbers! They do not see building an author platform as firming the ground upon which to stand forever, but as a paint-by-the-numbers project that, they hope against hope, will result in them making a grand sale of the Mona Lisa.

Professional

The professional uses the tools at hand—and in this era, those tools are very powerful, very grassroots, very free indeed—to let their audience know where they are. They’re not shilling for the publishing industry. They’re offering what they have so readers know they have it to give. All else unfolds from there.

Establishing Credibility

Amateur

The amateur thinks establishing credibility (thank you for that emphasis, Larry!) is simply getting lots of people to point at you. They forget that sometimes people point to laugh.

Professional

The professional knows what their credibility is based on and what they have yet to add to that base. They research. They study. They learn. They earn their keep. And when it comes time to draw on that credibility, they sometimes take a certain maverick delight in never being stumped because they truly are the expert in their field they need to be.

Querying

Amateur

The amateur doesn’t query so much as shut their eyes tight, cross their fingers, and fling a handful of overworked words into the void in hopes they will fall into the hands of someone tender-hearted, desperate, and well-connected enough to use them. These people are usually devastated and occasionally incensed when this does not result in lucrative contracts.

Professional

The professional approaches querying as an exacting branch of the writing world—rather like journalism—that requires the writer to follow certain parameters established to ease the processing of zillions of handfuls of overworked words. The professional learns these parameters and develops a certain flair with this particular exacting niche. It’s all part of the job.

Then they do the real work, which is developing professional contacts in a way that showcases their integrity and responsibility and understanding of the hard work being undertaken by everyone in the field.

Waiting

Amateur

The amateur throws themself into waiting as if at the doors to a mental institution. The minute their queries are sent, they begin the pacing and chafing of hands, the lip-biting and compulsive blinking and, eventually, deep-chest growling. This goes on until either they wake up and realize they’re not the only pacing amateur in the world or their loved ones sign on the dotted line.

Professional

The professional knows waiting is part of the game—a big part of it. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to sit around watching a pot boil. So they don’t. They get on with other projects, they kiss their sweetums, they take off their shoes and walk barefoot in the yard waving their arms in the sunshine or rain. They look around and remind themself, That was the imaginary part of my time on this planet. This is the real part.

Touring

Amateur

The amateur can’t wait to be sent on book tour and, in pretty quick order, can’t wait to get home again. They launch into the first reading in the slow, sonorous voice they imagine would have come out of Edith Wharton (if they’d ever met her) and they’re certain actually does come out of J.K. Rowling. By the end of the second page they’re flying through words they know by heart so fast the audience can’t understand what they’re saying. It stops being fun. It starts being work.

They get cranky.

Professional

The professional is appropriately grateful if their publisher even agrees to foot the bill for a book tour and plans for it the way they planned to learn writing, to learn queries, to wait. They rest up and make sure their schedule includes enough downtime to keep them alive for the duration. They organize the necessary travel and bookstore information so they’ll have it on hand when they need it. They let friends know they’ll be getting unexpected peevish calls of exhaustion and frustration from a whiny voice who will forget to identify themself. They promise their loved ones to go back to normal eventually.

Then they pull themself up by the bootstraps and remind themself that this audience—these readers—are the people paying their mortgage out of the sheer kindness of their hearts. Every single one of them deserves the respect of good breeding. The professional is the one bringing them that good breeding.

Living

Amateur

Finally, the amateur thinks writing is going to fix their life. They convince themself (with a little help from the current state of the sales-hysterical contemporary publishing industry) that fame and fortune lie in wait just around the corner, if they can only snatch it out of the hands of the next guy in line quick enough.

And when this fails to be the case, they crumble—and all the vitriol and bitterness and gall they hoped writing would stave off forever sweeps them like a flashflood off their feet and into the Hell of the Disgruntled, where they spend the rest of their days griping about what might have been.

Professional

The professional knows they don’t live because they write, they write because they live.

They do both with all the passion they can muster. But mostly they live.

A. Victoria Mixon is a professional writer and independent editor with over thirty years’ experience in both fiction and nonfiction. She is the coauthor of Children and the Internet: A Zen Guide for Parents and Educators and author of The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual. She can be reached through her blog, her editorial services, and Twitter.

(Larry’s comment: gang.  It really is that good.)

63 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers

63 Responses to Top Ten Tuesdays: Please Welcome Victoria Mixon

  1. This is truly one of the most beautiful post I’ve seen in a while. I LOVE it.

    It warms my heart to notice that, two years ago, my attitude toward writing was divided between the amateur and the professional. Now I’m firmly in the professional. I have a lot to learn yet, but I’m growing.

    As long as I keep working hard, keeping my facts straight and studying the craft, I’ll grow. It’s bound to lead me somewhere.

    Thanks for the beautiful words.

  2. Fabulous post, Victoria – as always. I particularly love the first two points – that writing, for a professional, is about a whole heckuva lot more than therapy (in fact, there are days when professional writing is enough to *drive* us to therapy!) and that studying the craft is really more about illumination than discovering the secrets of the pros. Writing is a journey. If we’re going to be professionals, we have to be willing to be in this for the long haul.

  3. Victoria, If you and Larry don’t put together your “100 best books to read” I’m going to cry. You guys know the craft inside and out. You know which books knock writing craft out of the park. Please compile a list, and get some income from Amazon affiliate sales by posting them on your sites. You guys do this and I’m only buying books from your lists until I’ve bought and read them all. Simple as that. I’m 39 today. I’m gettin’ old and would like to start reading asap. 🙂

    Shane

  4. Wow, Victoria. You make some great points. For example, I am in the process of revising my first novel right now; the first draft was a walk in the park compared to this. At least I know how much I don’t know. And I am thankful that my wanderings in the blogosphere led me to your post today. Thank you!

  5. Fantastic post, worth printing and reviewing on a regular basis. Thank you both Larry and Victoria.

  6. Lovely post. This makes me glad I never achieved the published amateur status and will be totally professional when published. 😀

    I’m also glad I started my writing career at the age of 12 and had numerous English Composition teachers reveal my failures. Those early rejection letters didn’t hurt so much.

  7. Simply elegance in words, Victoria. Thank you for taking your literary magnifying glass and helping me as a writer to see that I still have a lot of growing to do to cross the theshold from apprentice to professional.

  8. Brilliance, Victoria, and thanks for the citation. It’s what I’ve been trying to tell people all these years, and then some! They always look at me as though I’m a soulless clod tromping on their dreams. I’m going to scare the birds off the tweet wires in exultation.

  9. Any comments I have would be redundant, so I’ll just say thanks for a brilliant post. And, I’m happy to discover I’m not as amateurish as I previously thought–although not as professional as I hope to be, either.

  10. It embarrasses me a bit to recognize how much of an amateur I have been in my career, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, and I don’t regret it. It also heartens me to see how far I’ve come in becoming a professional. Thank you for a wonderful post!

  11. Wonderful, wonderful post. Thanks, Victoria!

  12. Victoria, this is as clear and well-written as your book [which, if you’ll recall, I’m reading for review right now!:)]
    That last line under “Reading About Writing” is absolutely true—I constantly feel that way while reading your book! I can only read your book in small chunks because it gives me so much to think about—I need time to digest!
    Know that you are a part of the growth of many writers and I for one, thank you!

  13. Larry, you didn’t tell me your readers were so kind. What a joy you guys are to write for!

    Please know that I wrote this from both sides: from having been an unpublished aspiring writer for decades, and from being a publishing industry professional now. Every aspect of the Amateur I have indulged in myself. And every bit of the Professional I learned the hard way.

    Thank you, all of you, for your responses. They are heartwarming!

  14. Claudie A., you’re absolutely right—focus on your craft. Do it because you love it, because this is world you want to live in. The better you get at it, the more fun it is and the less nerve-wracking the whole publishing process (if that’s what you choose) will be.

    “It’s bound to lead you somewhere,” indeed! And it will be somewhere extraordinary and unexpected, beyond what you can even imagine now. I swear.

  15. Terrific post which I’m forwarding to all of my writer friends, published or not. You’ve just reaffirmed the fact that the craft of writing is a continual learning process. We may have a passion to write, but if we don’t have the passion to learn and continually improve, we’ll never achieve that professional status. Thank you.

  16. K.M., yes, a thousand times yes. “Professionals are in it for the long haul.” Thank you!

    Now I’m laughing uncontrollably at your comment that writing will drive you to therapy. I’ve got to find a way to tweet that.

  17. Shane, Happy Birthday! I know you asked me for my 100 favorite books, and I was all, “A hundred? I can’t even count that high!” If you could only see my bookshelves. . .I have no idea how many books I own.

    So here’s one on writing: Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners. It’s subtle, and it’s full of references to Catholicism—which is not my thing—but it’s much deeper than it looks, and you can go back to it again and again and again over the years, each time realizing anew just how much she understood about this craft. As she says (about another writer’s words): “A cold but very beautiful definition.” Except she’s truly not cold, just strict, and also hilarious.

  18. Pam, yes, knowing what you don’t know is the first huge step! According to the Taoists, it’s the only step.

    We all have to learn to live with knowing what we don’t know. Life simply isn’t long enough to learn everything about this amazing craft. You read and you read, you study and you study, you practice and you practice. . .and if your heart is really completely on the line and the stars are right, you might even wind up with something that you know deep inside is good.

    And “when a pro can no longer throw a high, hard one, they throw their heart instead.”—Hemingway

  19. Tony, you’re very welcome. I’m so glad Larry invited me here to meet you all!

  20. terripatrick, I am more grateful every day that I, too, never “achieved the published amateur status.” Truly, My ego is too fragile to live forever with the embarrassment of poor work out in the world with my name on it.

    It’s bad enough to wind up with typos! Ask me how I know. 🙂

  21. E.J., how gracious of you! I am, sincerely, so happy to help. I spent decades doing this work without the kind of access to seasoned professionals the blogosphere now makes possible, and I get great comfort from knowing there are others out there who will bring great fiction into the world if I share with them what I’ve learned.

  22. Roz, you know we’re both soullessly clodding through the same dreams. But those are tissue-paper dreams, not soul stuff. And a big part of this work is learning to tell the difference, inside ourselves.

    The writers here—the folks who understand what extraordinary effort this craft demands—are the ones willing to dream with their souls on fire.

  23. Chris, what you’re saying is the truth about all of us. Seriously. Welcome to the Delta Abyss Club!

  24. Cathy, holy cow—yes. I have been all this Amateur and then some!

    And yet there is the kernel of a Professional in everyone, if they only know where to look for it and how to foster it. These days, especially, it can be so hard to separate the good advice from the bad.

    “No regrets, Coyote.”—Joni Mitchell

  25. You’re welcome, Therese. I know you’re speaking from the publishing author’s side of the fence, as well as that of the owner of your own uber-blog for writers. Thank you for your great, warm-hearted support!

  26. Lara, thank you so much for your words about my book. I have always loved books on writing that make you pause to digest, stop reading and breathe deeply, lead you to just feel possessed by the craft. It is wonderful to hear from you mine is having that effect! That is my dream.

  27. Cindy, yes, absolutely. There is the passion for what writing gives to us, the writers, and there is the passion for what writing gives to readers. Just as in fiction itself, there are always the two tracks running, and when they collide—oh, that is the epiphany that cracks life itself open like an egg.

  28. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

    Folks, note Virginia’s blog is that of an editor; she gets to look at our results.

    Professionalism is really a point of view, a world view.

    A total beginner can be a professional in his approach. That is what matters. Are you approaching it from a professional viewpoint?

    Practice (repetition) doesn’t make perfect. Practicing perfectly the correct actions is what makes you as perfect as possible. That’s why any sports team has coaches; they ensure the players practice the proper actions in the proper way.

    No matter where we’re at in the “published” hierarchy, being a professional in our approach is the only way we will rise.

    We writers are at a great point in time. With people like Larry and Virginia to point us towards the right tools, attitudes and practices, we have no excuse for not knowing and practicing the Craft to the best of our abilities. Any talent we might have as a creative artist will then come out the best it can — provided we be a professional in what we do.

    Now, go write something great.

  29. Curtis

    Victoria. Thank you. You just replaced the sanskrit on my mirror. It is a tad bit sad. Once upon a time “amateur” meant more than buying a lottery ticket on a wish powered whim. It looks like your professional now contains the passion that once belonged to those once moved by the love of it.

    It’s also good to see writers discovering what business types have known for a long time. Teams produce synergy. The day of the sulky writer alone in the garret may not be gone as far as production is concerned. But, once the product begins to meander though the steps necessary to reach the market, we need each other.

    Thanks again for your post.

  30. Bruce, you got it in a nutshell: “If a thing is worth doing it is worth doing well.”

    Yes, a brand-new beginner is a professional in training if they’re willing to act like a professional. And a writer with decades of writing behind them is still a rank amateur if they continue to approach the business as a slot machine.

    Everyone out there can start being a professional today. It really is that straight-forward.

  31. Curtis, that’s a heck of a good point about passion and love.

    The truth is, while an amateur once upon a time only got into this field for sheer love of it (before it became all about turning every poor innocent with a keyboard into a salesdroid), the professional who succeeds over the long term has always had passion for the work. A flash in the pan can be attributed to luck. But the long, slow, steady determination to master this craft—that’s what it takes to make a career.

    Does anyone even remember Peaches & Herb? Or are the ones we still listen to the ones who put their whole lives into their art?

  32. What a fun post to read. It was like taking a Cosmo quiz for writers (but with fewer lacey thongs & sex tips)!

    It’s so true amateurs write as a form of therapy. Who didn’t write in a journal as a kid or doodle outlines in their school notelbooks for escape? I bet we could all name at least 3 people who said they want to write a memoir.

    I would love to hear your take on an amateur’s ego verses a professional’s. There are so many WRITERS with a capital “W” who write to stroke their own vanity; who behave like prima donnas- as if life wouldn’t go on for them without their writing.

    I loved your last point about living as a professional. Those of us who LIVE gather experiences to weave into our works and not the other way around!

    Thank you for this! I’ll be sharing it on Twitter. 🙂

  33. Geoff Breitling

    Wow, Great post! Painful to feel that you may be speaking from experience here, but it certainly screams credibility. Like many others, I feel somewhere in between. I hope that I can complete the transition with fewer permanent scars. This post provides a solid reference on that path!

  34. Curtis

    Victoria, I asked my bride to read your response and she immediately broke into Peaches & Herb’s ” Reunited” 🙂

    Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners. She is one of my favorites. How could Flannery not be with quotes like this,
    ” You shall know the truth and it will make you odd.”

    Victoria. Thank you. You have been way generous with your time with us.

    The nice thing about Larry’s site —there is a very low snark to professional/learner ratio. Most of us really want to get better at what we are doing.

  35. Heather, honestly, this is really all about ego.

    The Amateur in each of us secretly writes out of narcissism, only for our own benefit—and that’s no big deal, because we all do it to some degree, whether we admit to it or not.

    But then Professional has to come along afterward and rewrite the whole thing for the benefit of the reader—and that is a very big deal indeed unless, as gets pointed out periodically, you choose to write entirely for yourself. (As I mostly do.)

    There’s no law that says you have to write for publication. But if you do, you have to write for readers. That’s simple cause-&-effect. And writers, of all people, must have a deep and abiding respect for the principles of cause-&-effect.

  36. Geoff, oh, yeah, I’m speaking from experience all right. Did you miss my 15 minutes of fame when I made the Huffington Post a few months ago for being dissed by my agent? That really happened.

    There is probably not a humbling experience in the world of fiction that I have not lived through, intentionally or otherwise. It is for this reason that I am filled with such utter compassion for the foibles of the aspiring writerly masses. 🙂

  37. See, Curtis, I knew if I threw that out there I’d get hoisted on my own petard.

    Dang. Now I’ve got that song stuck in my head. I’ll have to go listen to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

  38. @Heather – I’d like to join you in commenting on Victoria’s comment about living as a professional writer. I believe writers are different, \that we see the world differently. Not better — we’re NOT better than anyone who isn’t a writer — but we’re definately different. Blessed or cursed, that is for us to decide upon. But we are different in our view and experience of the world if and when we aspire to a professional level in our craft, and/or, should (because, in a paradoxical reversal, this is precisely how we’re already living). Writers look for meaning, for sub-text. They look for explanations and options. They wonder what might happen if A occurs as opposed to B. We seek motivation, we recognize stakes. We recognize the poetry in a moment, in a frozen frame of time. We understand the depths and nuances of character, and the consequences of it either way. We intuitively have a nose for “story” and an awareness of how story can spring from the most seemingly mundane of moments.

    We are scribes to our time and place. We are not obliged to write it all down, but we are driven to it for purposes — not so much out of a desire for therapy — that have more to do with giving back, and/or our screaming out. With feeling a part of it all. Of participating rather than observing. A need to explore the truth. To experience life, light and dark, through the vicarious experience of our words. And then bringing others into that experience.

    Non-writers… they are in it mostly for the ride. Writers are in it for an understanding of why the ride thrills, frightens, promises, disappoints, rewards and punishes. All of which makes the ride so much richer for us… even when it hurts.

  39. “Even when it hurts.”

    Your point about writers being in it for the understanding is really well-taken, Larry. And now you’re back to Katie’s point about writing driving us to therapy! 🙂

  40. Victoria, this post is so beautiful and heart-warming. I don’t have anything profound to add; I just wanted to let you know that it touched me. Thank you.

  41. Deborah Lucas, Leaf River Writer

    Wow! It’s amazing what can be missed by taking one day off to flit around town to be social. With all the comments over the last two days, Victoria’s blog continues to grow with insight and joy. The bit on touring brought up a deep belly laugh and convinced me to move past my fears and finish my book.

    Victoria, you are truly generous with your economical and heart warming advice. I’m a fan from here on. You say it like it is to my delight. Larry, you’ve given us another honored teacher who helps usher us along the writing path. It puts me back on the straight and narrow, with a few giggles along the way. I feel like I’ve been to a writing conference in a capsule.

    As I continue reading the comments and Victoria’s responses, all I can say is, “God! You are so good!” Thank heaven I’ve found you. I’m hooked and I won’t let you go, so keep the wisdom flowing. You’ve joined Larry at the top of the list of must-read blogs, even if I have bills to pay, dogs to walk or sleep that’s desperately needed. You both will come first. You make me want to write. I am grateful. I can hardly wait to tell my new writer’s group!

  42. @Deborah — I’m sure I join Victoria in saying “thank you” for your very kind words about our blogs, and your ongoing support. Here’s to your great success! L.

  43. Annie, how very sweet of you. Thank you!

  44. Deborah, yes, of course—Larry and I both appreciate your kind words so much. It’s knowing we can help writers move past their fears to create the fiction they want to create that makes this work so rewarding.

  45. This is a lesson I’ve been needing to learn lately:

    “That was the imaginary part of my time on this planet. This is the real part.”

    Thanks for this in particular, and the entire post overall. Great material for moving forward.

  46. Pingback: A Few Great Writing Blogs You Should Check Out. A Few Great Reviews You’ll Find There.

  47. Jeremy, I swear, it’s the best lesson writing can teach you—how to move in and out of your own head, making the most of this time you get here in this mortal coil.

    When you think about how many of your all-too-limited hours and days and even years you can spend lost in work and chores and just killing time, you realize how priceless a zen lesson that really is.

  48. I had considered myself an amateur writer because I haven’t yet been paid to write. Reading the list, I find I fall more into the catagory of professional. I understand how much I still have to learn and know that it’s a lifelong process. It’s encouraging to see that I tend to understand things from the “professional” standpoint. I’m still getting the hang of the social media aspect of writing/marketing. And I haven’t yet querried. So, I’d consider myself still amateur in those areas.

    Great words! Thank you!

  49. Sonia, technically the difference between an amateur and professional anything is the money, but the truth is there are lots of amateurs rattling around the world making life difficult for the professionals in their fields. They come and go. The professionals persevere.

    Publishing is a business like any other, so the heavy-hitters do expect you to make the effort to play well with others. And now that there are so many people on this planet and, in particular, trying to break into this industry, we’re all more dependent than ever on personal networking, so that professional attitude is essential for making and keeping good business connections.

    Otherwise, you know, they’ll just freeze you off the playground.

  50. Victoria, thanks so much for this realistic & thoughtful post.

  51. Pingback: A. Victoria Mixon, Editor » Blog Archive » The Bootstrapping Writer—the Secret at the Core of Competence

  52. Brilliant, as always Victoria!

    In reading this post I saw flashes of myself all over, past, present and hopefully future. I won’t say where I fit in at this very moment – but it’s this kind of post that validates the things I tell myself every time I hit a rough spot or question a move I’ve made (abandoning my blog to focus on my manuscript for example).

    I grow as a writer every day, and have no doubt that I’ll continue to grow until the day I stop writing. Thank you for the inspiration.

  53. Julie, you’re so welcome. It’s nice to see you here!

  54. Thank you, Andi. Yes, I’ve been all over the spectrum and then some, myself. It’s like aging—we’re all going to hit all the steps along the way, whether we think we will or not!

    And it’s really true, you keep growing until you quit. Well, if you’re smart you do.

  55. This was amazingly helpful. Very straightforward and clear. I see the difference now and hope to work toward the professional model.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  56. Excellent, Raquel—that’s where we’re all heading, as best we can!

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  58. Jeffrey Russell

    Victoria, do you remember the song “Killing Me Softly With His Words?” Specifically the part where the singer says “I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud.” That’s what this post felt like – as if you were reading out loud your edits of both my first and second drafts. Now, I ain’t exactly a’sayin’ I’m a real professional yet, but I’m getting closer all the time. Thanks!

  59. Hey, Jeffrey! I’ve been wondering where you hied off to. I assume you’re either locked in a closet with your ms or out there living your real life with your loved ones.

    You’ve been a heck of a client—you know that. Hardworking, patient, dedicated, always ready to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and tackle that angel of fiction one more time.

    You’ve always approached this craft as a complex, challenging set of skills to be developed. From the very get-go.

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  62. Okay, so apparently I’ll be the contrarian here. While I appreciate you sharing your expertise and experience, it comes across as very “this is how it is.” Professional vs. Amateur. Really? I’m not going to spout off my own history but just to say that I have spent a great deal of my life studying the act of writing (with a lot of great people in some wonderful universities and conferences). And I agree with you that it’s a craft. At least for me, writing is painting with words and one grows with practicing the craft. But when you delve into the “how it should be done,” I have to throw up my arms. There isn’t a right and wrong process. Some writers can plow through manuscripts without a care in the world only to discover a fantastic story at the end. Others have to belabor and pound through it with notecards and outlines. Part of your job as an experienced writer/editor should be, in my opinion, spent helping other writers find their process, helping them capitalize on it, helping them hone strengths and acknowledge weaknesses…not telling them how it should be done. Now don’t get me wrong. I agree with many of your points about the “business” of being an author (I worked at HC London for a spell and have been in the trenches for a long time). I guess my contention stems with the parts in your post (writing, reading, editing, etc.) that seem to indicate there is only one way to go about this when that is very far from the truth.

    Here is a post to demonstrate this. Something anti-establishment.

    http://blog.jasonthibeault.com/index.php/2011/07/01/planning-isnt-everything/

    While I advocate the pure act of creative writing (I based this opinion on years of teaching collegiate writing students and a fair bit of just plain philosophical inquiry) it may not be for everyone. Some writers need the plan as much as I just need some paper and a pencil.

    Again, thanks for the post. If nothing more, it fosters discussion about the act of writing.

    @jnthibeault

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