Do what you love, and the work will come your way.
In the months that have passed since I officially retired from my salaried job (as opposed to the previous eight months, when I was off on medical leave), I’ve gone from a part-time writer, struggling to find the time to work with my editor and get Empire’s Daughter published, to a full-time writer, or, at least, someone involved in the indie writing world full-time.
I soon learned after retirement that I wasn’t cut out to do nothing but work on my own book. Perhaps because of years of having to juggle different projects, my ability to concentrate on one thing is limited to a couple of hours. After that, whatever I do probably isn’t worth the time it takes. So I gave it some thought: what aspects of my previous job(s) had I really enjoyed? What could I transfer to my new life?
The common themes going back through two different careers were these: writing, editing and reviewing. Over those careers, I’d written, reviewed, and critiqued everything from applications for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants for scientific research, various master’s and doctoral theses (my husband’s M.Sc. thesis was classic, with the opening sentence going on for a page and half; luckily for our marriage, he’s a quick learner), and papers for submission to scientific journals. When I switched careers into education, I did the same for curriculum, writing prompts, policy and procedure documents, more grant applications, major reports to the government….But all this was non-fiction. Could it be transferred to fiction?
I’ve been reading since I was three, and have read (and continue to read) everything from classics to cyberpunk, from literary fiction to Lovecraft, and everything in-between. There is no better way to learn to write well – or recognize good writing – than to read and read and read. So, yes, I thought I could recognize good writing (and good storytelling, not always the same thing), and offer both fair and useful critiques.
So, as regular readers of this blog know, I started to write reviews. I offered editorial services, either beta-reads or full edits. Six weeks later, and my days (and both my review and editorial lists) are full. I spend my working hours in chunks of reading, reviewing, editing, and my own writing (plus a university course in a completely different area, to keep my scientific mind alive).
My own writing benefits greatly from this. Both in the reviewing and editing I am constantly reminded of what is good writing, what moves stories along, gives insight into characters, describes a situation or a location effectively. In looking at other writer’s work with a critical eye, I’ve become a better critic of my own work. In reading sentences or paragraphs or whole books that delight me, I learn more about what makes good writing – in my mind, that’s an apprenticeship without an end date.
So, to all of you who have offered me books to review, or trusted me with editorial services, thank you. I hope what I’m giving back is of value, but please know: you’re giving me work I love, and work I learn from. It’s very much appreciated.