Monday, August 8, 2011

Perks of Being a Writer: The Things I Can Call "Work"

If you're a writer, you've probably heard the advice, "Don't quit your day job." It's good advice; most writers aren't going to earn enough money from the writing career to make it their only source of income.

I still have to work, but summer is a slow time for the day job. So it's not a paycheck-friendly time, but the upside is I have plenty of time to write. And one of the perks of being a writer is that there are so many things we can label "Work" that other people can't.

Why yes, I am busy doing research
Watching TV
The midgrade novel I'm working on is about a girl whose parents are cryptozoologists. Last Thursday there was a MonsterQuest marathon on The History Channel, and I took notes while watching. That is a productive day of research, people. And the young adult novel I'm revising, Reasons For Leaving, has a subplot about a Ponzi scheme, so the same goes for Bernie Madoff documentaries. For CHAINED it was anything about elephants.

How will I ever get all this work done?
To be a great writer, you have to read a lot. So now when I read, I'm not just enjoying a good book, I'm perfecting my craft. Each book is like a mini-workshop.

I'm not being nosy, I'm studying realistic dialogue.
Any place you visit is a source for potential new characters or story ideas. Even if you're somewhere you don't want to be, you might pick up a bit of a conversation or get an idea for a plot thread or character trait that can will find its way into a book.

Surfing the Internet
I can't remember how we all got by before the Internet. That was awful, wasn't it, all of us sitting around waiting for Google to show up? Now, spend one minute searching for whatever you're interested in, and you have more information than you know what to do with. And there are countless resources for writers out there, so we always have something to read about how to be a better writer.

Watching movies
Similar to the "reading" perk: novelists can learn a lot about writing from screenwriters, so when we watch movies we're also learning about good storytelling. I'm pretty sure this means that popcorn is tax-deductible.

No, I'm not staring into space, I'm plotting.

There are probably more we could add to the list--what are your favorite work-that-doesn't-look-like-work activities? I'll take a break from looking out the window to read your comments.


  1. Sometimes, when I lay down and the kids/husband bug me, I say, "Leave me alone! I'm plotting my next novel!" So, even when I nap, I'm working. :P

  2. How about participating in social media? "No, I'm not just staring at the Twitter. I'm ... platform-building!" This whole I'm-a-writer-it's-how-I-work thing is how I reassure myself after having spent hours on the internet, browsing bizarre stuff. It's not wasting time; it's research.

  3. These are all fun ways to research for our craft. I like that I can curl up with a good book and no that not only am I enjoying it, I'm learning to be a better writer.

  4. LOL! I love that. All these are hysterical. I 'specially loved the bit about "I'm not eavesdropping. I'm studying realistic dialogue."

    :D :D :D

  5. Hah. These are the things my friend tells me when I complain that "I haven't done any writing today." She is always so supportive and points out that these other activities most definately "count" as writing related. ;) She's such a good friend.

  6. Jenn, we can also hope to wake up after having dreamed a fully-formed novel series too!

    Sarah, I can't believe I didn't think of that till later-- you're platform-building, networking, and marketing!

    Right, Kelly, we never have to feel guilty about "just reading." We are getting lots of work done with that craft-improvin'.

    Cat, this means that hanging out at the mall is also research! Great place to pick up on teenager dialog. Hmm, I wonder if that means our mall purchases are tax-deductible? Probably shouldn't push it.

    That is a good friend, Ruth-- see, you're more productive than you thought!

    Thanks for the comments!

  7. Things that I've called 'work' in the last six months for 'research purposes' have been taking a cross-country train trip, signing up for a pottery class, and walking dogs at the animal shelter! Writers have so much FUN!

  8. Dawn that is awesome! Glad you're learning such cool stuff that you can chalk up to research!