Episode 201: The Write Stuff

On October 1, 2022 Kasie and Rex took on professionalism in the writer/author marketplace. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Writer Professionalism vs. Personal Satisfaction


  • SCWA’s Virtual Conference is next week!
  • All the shit work we hate
  • All the cool shit we love
  • Business models for writers
  • How to close those professionalism gaps
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

I read this quote from Shonda Rimes and wanted to riff on it today:

“Also, you know, the dirty little secret of writing is that nobody loves writing. I don’t know anybody who loves writing while they’re writing. We all love having written. So the key is to have an idea you love and then to just do the work. Like do the work and force yourself through the harder parts, the parts where you’re not feeling so inspired. Get those pages out every single day so that once you’re done with the script, you feel amazing.” – Here’s the article it’s in.

It reminded me immediately of running. I don’t like running. I like having ran. I like saying I’m a runner. BUT – I like swimming. 

So what’s the difference? What’s your “running” and what’s your “swimming” in this writerly life? Let’s start with the major activities of writers:

  • Ideas
  • Drafts
  • Critique
  • Revision
  • Editing
  • Querying/Submitting
  • Publishing
  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Getting panned by critics
  • Winning awards
  • Going on national tour and becoming a runaway success until you’re a household name (ahem, Stephanie Meyer)

Last week we talked about writer envy and then we went to a Book Fair where the author next to us – who, admittedly has an awesome hook – sold a stack of books and I sold zero. Like none. Like carried out all the ones I carried in.

What’s the difference between writers who hustle and sell and publish monthly (romance/Kindle) and writers who labor for years on a small but sophisticated catalog? It’s in the business model.

Segment 2

The well-storied blog has this to say on literary business models:

  • High-volume publishing – exactly what it sounds like, producing a LOT of work
    • Where it works: genre and series
    • Who it works for: writers with an established practice, a formula, and an endless supply of ideas
    • Income streams: entirely on book sales
  • Publishing and teaching – splitting the practice between producing your own work and helping others produce theirs; very popular
    • Where it works: nonfiction (self-help, leadership, etc), literary fiction (MFA types)
    • Who it works for: educators, consultants, conference- and workshop-presenter types
    • Income streams: long-term teaching (faculty), short-term teaching (events), digital content (YouTube, radio), book sales
  • Patronage – being supported by sponsors, grants, or special positions (poet laureate types)
    • Where it works: fellowships, residencies, or patronage websites like Patreon.com
    • Who it works for: writers in multiple disciplines, with a variety of audiences
    • Income streams: grants, appointments, monthly donors, book sales
  • Supported publishing – working a full time gig with writing as your side hustle
    • Where it works: a longer, slower trajectory, but a steady build of the backlist while improving craft and building audience; can work in genre, or be a regional appeal; think Devil in the White City and Seabiscuit.
    • Who it works for: people with a steady day job (like Darin Kennedy is a physician)
    • Income streams: day job funds life, writer work funds writer work

Segment 3

I worked on a workshop proposal for Alexa that would highlight the “real” work of writing and help novices kind of get their feet under them. It’s called “A Better Swing in 15 Weeks.” I won’t bore you with the golf metaphor but it’s epic.

Here are the highlights:

  • What to look for when you read
    • What genre are you in? What are the expectations? What are the tropes? How can you recognize them?
    • Who are the best writers in the genre? What do you love or hate about their work? What is it they do that makes them so good?
    • Read everything and note: character details (the volume, type, and consistency; motivation and arcs), plot structure, exposition delivery
  • How to make the most out of critique group sessions
    • Find a good group
    • Prepare for your group session – meet the page req’mts, length, etc. Know going in what you want to work on.
    • Give as good as you get – really focus on others’ work and provide them with usable feedback
  • Why veteran writers write every single day
    • Good writing comes from habit; build one. Word count, time, time of day, location, whatever you have to do to establish a writing habit, do it.
    • Don’t revise right away; creation and revision are separate tasks. Write and enjoy the creation of the thing, avoid the temptation to read and review and revise the work right away.
  • Where you’ll find the best (and worst) advice
    • There’s so.much.crap on the internet. Learn to recognize it. Search with keywords, read with purpose.
    • You can trust Google to deliver the top-read and top-searched and top-ranked articles; 
    • Find the curated sources – they’ll create a wider net for you. Organizational newsletters frequently curate and feature good podcasts and articles, too.
    • Patreon, podcasts, and publishers all promote experts. Try them all out. Keep the ones that give you actionable advice.
  • Who to believe and who to ignore
    • Subscribe to the people who consistently deliver.
    • Ignore the posers who give the same benign and useless advice.
    • Your favorite writer has probably written about craft. Writers will write about writing like singers will sing about singing.
  • When to ask and listen and when to shut up and write.
    • Compartmentalize the work: outline, write, research, revise – and be strict about what you’re doing when.
    • Enjoy what you’re doing or you won’t do much of it.
    • The only way to get better at writing, really, is to write. If you’re reading all the time, you’re not writing. If you’re researching all the time, you’re not writing. The best exercises will produce something of value, yes, but writing for the sake of writing is valuable, too.
    • Warm up. Practice. Keep writing. It doesn’t always have to be for publishing. Sometimes it can just be to get better at writing.

Segment 4

At the end of the day, it’s about professionalism. Knowing what is expected of an author and building the elements you need to execute “Author” at the top level.

What are some “rules” of professionalism for writers?

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