The interesting thing about being a writer is how many opinions people have about writing as a career. Maybe it’s because most people have had to write something in their life—an essay in school, a letter to get a job, an email to complain about service at a hotel—and they think they know something about the “writing life.”
Here are some of my favorite writing myths:
Writing is easy. This is one of my favorites. Although the drafting of the letter to apply for that job was hard, writing fiction must be very easy since you’re just “making stuff up.” My favorite imagined punishment for anyone who waves this myth in front of my face: taking a fiction writing class. With a brutal critique group. Hah.
One draft is enough. This is the true sign of an amateur. They think you write down something (after being “inspired” and perhaps after drinking a large strong cocktail) and then send it to your editor to be published. There’s no revising or second drafts or even third and fourth drafts in this fantasy. And I can’t tell you how many screenplays I’ve been asked to read in which the person hasn’t even bothered to run spell check. Writing is rewriting, people.
You can only get an agent if you know someone. While that is certainly true for some people, there are lots of us in the world who didn’t know anyone in publishing. But somehow we got published on the quality of our writing. It’s not totally an insiders club, but you get points for doing some research and not sending your cat humor book to a publishing house that only publishes science fiction.
Writers are transcribers. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they have a story that I need to write. I usually tell them that they should write it themselves, but this does not seem to dampen their enthusiasm. Writers actually do collect ideas, but it’s in a more creative way. We see things that interest us or hear things that make us think, and then a story starts bubbling up. We are not usually interested in writing about your Uncle Howard’s experiences in the war exactly the way he always told it.
And last but not least:
Writers make a lot of money. At this I can only roll around on the floor laughing hysterically. Although there are a few exceptions (Nora Roberts, Stephen King, James Patterson and Janet Evanovitch spring to mind), the rest of the writers out there just scrape by. But we do it because we love it, not to make lots of money. There are lots of other ways to earn lots of money fast (robbing a bank, hatching a ponzi scheme and working on Wall Street), and writing is not one of them.
What are your favorite writing myths?
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