Friday, November 8, 2013

Are You a Writer?

There's been a big discussion in the SMFS group about what makes a professional writer.  The bottom line there is that they get paid for their work.  Professional = $'s.  Okay, I get that, but who or what is a writer besides the money aspect?

What makes a person a bona fide writer?  The fact that he sets his butt in a chair every day and writes?  The fact that he's published - paid or unpaid?  Or is a writer only a writer if he gets paid for his work?  Do we only measure the success of a writer by the number of books he has published and the amount of money he makes? 

What makes a writer a writer and why is success and money the only way to measure who might be a writer?  Can a person be a successful writer without a bank full of cash?


Dusty said...

"Can a person be a successful writer without a bank full of cash?"

While the other questions are tough, this one is rather easy to answer. Success is based squarely on the goals you've set.

In other words, if you want to be published in shotgun honey, and then you are published in shotgun honey. Blammo! You're successful. If your goal is to make it into a semi-pro market, and you do, then you're a successful writer.

If you're goal is to have every book be an international best-seller, then you're fucking delusional, or you're Stephen King.

Truthfully, most professional writers, even ones with published novels that have sold reasonably well, still work a day job.

sandra seamans said...

Everyone has their own idea of success, Dusty. I think what bothers me is the way people point fingers and say you're a hobbyist or an amateur if you're not published in certain magazines.

I think Needle magazine is publishing some of the best crime fiction out there and stories from that magazine have been published and honorably mentioned in "Best Mysteries" every year since they started publishing, yet many writers won't submit because they don't pay. I find that extremely odd.

And yes, the money isn't spread very evenly amongst published authors.

Dusty said...

I think if every magazine started doing blind readings of submissions we'd see a lot more new authors getting paid for their work. It always pains me to see an author I recognize have mediocre work in a big magazine. The kind of work they'd get rejected without having a name.

Stupefying Stories seems to do a good job at totally ignoring name recognition. Some good names make it in their magazine, but a lot of new authors make it in too. Also, Lakeside Circus has a blind submissions process which I think is awesome. Judging work on its merits is the only way to go.

And to your point, I recently submitted a piece that I'm proud of to Abyss and Apex. And it's not a SFWA qualified market. However, I've seen names like Cat Rambo featured there. Should I feel like a hobbyist if my name appears next to one of the most prolific short-fiction writers around today?

And same goes for Shotgun Honey. We both have been featured their and we're in the company of some really good authors.

Another problem, I think, is the community. I think some editors feel like you should be an SFWA or Codex author. But if that's there requirement then very few new authors will be making it into Codex or SFWA. It's a catch-22.

Reminds me of applying for jobs. You can't get experience without being hired but you can't get hired without experience.

Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now.

sandra seamans said...

I love the idea of blind submissions, Dusty, but name recognition seems to be essential for publication sales - on both sides.

And yes, experience is necessary to get further along in your writing endeavors. So it very much annoys me when professional writers look down their noses at those of us who are working from the bottom of the heap up. Not everyone can start out at EQ or AHMM.

Helmut Wagabi said...

I am a writer and have written and submitted several short stories mainly to the US market. Interestingly, I have received rejections almost immediately without any reasons for the rejection. I am beginning to thing that it probably has something to do with the fact that am writing from Africa? I have had other articles published in the UK and even in Africa. Am I mistaken in holding the thought?

sandra seamans said...

Welcome to the Corner, Helmut! Rejections are just a part of the process. I have a drawer full of them.

I don't think it matters what country you're from so long as your stories speak to the readers and make them care about your characters. I believe every reader wants to relate in some way to the characters in the stories they're reading.