You Want To Be A Professional Writer?
Every wannabe writer hears it all the time: “You want to be a writer? You need to write everyday!” What does that really mean? There are so many other elements to becoming a writer, like research, rewrites, character development, etc., who has time to write everyday? Professional writers, that’s who.
People who get paid to write write everyday, and they also do all those other things that come along with it. Professional writers get paid to juggle many projects at once. They are researching one, while writing another, and rewriting yet another. I know, you thought being a writer would be all fun and no work. Well, you’re wrong. Just like anything you get paid to do, there are elements that will be considered work.
So now the question is, “How much time do I have to invest?” First of all, did you just say have to invest? You don’t have to invest any time at all. In fact, don’t do anything. Just keep punching your timecard at your old nine to five, doing what you hate. But if you really want to be a professional writer, then invest all of your free time. (Side note: don’t neglect your friends and family in the process. It may grant you success sooner, but that time saver could be morally expensive).
Okay, I get it. You want a breakdown so that you know how to live your life. I get it. Here we go: It all depends on your comfort level and your ability to be honest with yourself. For the writing portion, some writers work on crafting just one sentence everyday. That doesn’t mean just writing the first sentence that comes to mind and calling it a day. That means s/he works on making that one sentence the most perfect sentence it can be. Some writers use a specific time frame and hours of which to write: Early morning from 6 until lunchtime. For most of us with full-time jobs, this isn’t feasible. And still others concentrate on writing a certain number of pages, which can range from about 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The point is to write when and how much is comfortable for you… and be honest with yourself. The amount of effort you put in will directly reflect the amount of success you have.
How much time is needed for research? Again, be honest with yourself and put in the time and energy required. Research isn’t something that can be done quickly; it can’t be rushed. You’ve got to take your time and study the details. Give yourself at least a couple of hours everyday. And don’t be afraid to see where the rabbit hole takes you. You can always find interesting things that can help give your story depth.
What about rewrites? Well, that’s a little more subjective. Time invested in rewrites is usually diminishing. You’ll spend more time on your first rewrite than you will on your last. Initially, when you’re checking to make sure that all of your scenes fit, you can spend many hours reworking those scenes. You may even need to take a break from it and come back to it at a later time. You should always give yourself a breather from that story after each rewrite. Give yourself some time so you can revisit it with fresh eyes later. But you should always have a project for which you are working a rewrite.
So how much time should you devote to your craft? Treat it like any other career. If you’re working part-time, spend about 20 to 30 hours a week (at least 3 hours a day total) on all aspects. That includes reading scripts and watching film/TV, which falls under research. If you’re working full-time, invest 40 or more hours a week. “But Tony, I work a full-time job! I don’t have time for all of that!” Then stay at that full-time job and give up on being a writer. Otherwise, until next week, keep writing!