One thing the keynote speakers at this conference did that speakers at many other conferences don’t do is discuss the amount of labor involved. When writers discuss the “iceberg approach” to their writing, they could as easily refer to the amount of person hours involved as the technique that implies something deep lies beneath the surface of their narratives.
Jeffrey Deaver was quite upfront about the work aspect during his Saturday night keynote address when he pronounced writing “is a business.” When he started out he was like most novices “who like and write books as we all do.” But as he became more proficient at his craft, he realized that even though he enjoyed being “paid to make up things,” he also found particular aspects of his profession that he detested, particularly what he calls the “dreaded explanatory” chapter in which the author has to wrap up the loose threads and make sense of them for the reader. More and more he found himself “to hate, hate, HATE writing those chapters” and putting off the chore until he absolutely had to.
Allison Leotta equated her work day to that of juggler’s who wonders “which balls will be dropped.” This “female John Grisham,” as one reviewer called her, realized after publishing her first book that she needed to spend two hours a day just for marketing to “build an author platform.” And if she were to meet her ambition and reverse the simile, i.e., for Grisham to become regarded as the “male Allison Leottta,” she would need to work doubly hard and “really have to hone my talents.”
All too often, novice writers (me included), regard writing as a matter of a seamless process of inspiration, perspiration, production, and adulation. After a book or two, they figure they have reached the starry firmament where they can rely on the strength of their reputation to communicate with their readers. Celebrity authors aside, few professional writers have such luxury. Each novel builds upon the ones that precede it which ups the ante on the reception the current publication receives. For that novel or short story to be a success with the public and for the author, a writer must conclude sooner rather than later as Ms. Leotta and the attendees at this conference have, that the writing life is all “about working your ass off all the time.”
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