Writing to be Published

I happened across a blog post where the author tossed out the question, “Why write it if not to be published?” As I read the post, it seemed to me the author was under the impression that many people don’t write with publication in mind. All I could say is, “Huh?”

I think what would have been more helpful to clarify what he meant because I see way too many people trying to publish their very first writing efforts. Most first writing attempts aren’t publishable, and the plethora of armchair writers don’t realize this. I blame our “I want it now!” mentality. Instant gratification is a lousy substitute for excellence because it short-circuits the learning process.

And who’s to say that after writing one, three, or five manuscripts you’ll be any good? It’s my dire hope that you are, but this “I’m gonna get published” is putting the cart before the horse. Why not learn the art, the craft, of writing first? Get off Writer’s Island and become active with writer’s groups.Attend some conferences to network with fellow authors, agents, and editors. Get your work out to beta readers…good, honest beta readers. Those experiences are helpful in determining whether you have something good or not.

It’s possible that I’m overly picky about “write to be published,” and this is a matter of semantics. But I meet so many writers all over the country, and very few of them say, “I’m writing because I love the ability to pour my heart out on paper. It scratches an artistic itch that I don’t get from my job as a navel lint collector.”

And that’s why we’re driven to write – not the promise or hope of publication – but the feeling we get from weaving a tale that touches our soul.

Do you feel you’re putting the cart before the horse and dreaming of publication, or are you more interested in writing a good story because it feels good?

16 Responses to Writing to be Published

  1. Julie Duck says:

    My horse is so far ahead of the cart! 🙂

  2. I think part of the problem originates within the society around us. Writing as a hobby is perceived like other hobbies — all right in small amounts, but a waste of time, energy, and money if pursued too seriously. Some hobbies have a “middle ground” where serious amateurs can find societal acceptance — acting, for example, has community theater. Writing not only doesn’t have that middle ground, but it is also perceived as something anyone can do, which diminishes its worth in some people’s eyes.

    I think writing is a great hobby, and I think the hobby is much more fun and creative than the profession. Writing for publication is a business with an end product; it is less creative and much more work than writing as a hobby. I wish more people understood the difference so they could just enjoy the hobby for the delight it is instead of aspiring to what can be an extremely frustrating, difficult, seemingly closed profession unless that PROFESSION is really what they want.

  3. NinjaFingers says:

    Sure, I write to be published. I want to be read, and a bit of extra money wouldn’t hurt. (And a bit of extra money from fiction means less time spent writing boring non-fiction).

  4. But when you first started writing, was it with the intention of being published, or did you begin writing because it fed some inner yearning?

  5. authorguy says:

    I wrote my first novel because I wanted to write it. It wasn’t until it was done many years later that I even thought about getting it published. I continue to write for that reason alone. I would be very suspicious of a book written by someone merely to be published. I’m looking for heart and soul, not words strung together according to some model.

  6. NinjaFingers says:

    I began writing because it was fun. Then I wanted to share it.

  7. I submitted a story to Highlights Magazine when I was 12 years old. Up to then, yeah, I was writing only to feed my inner demon. After that, though…

  8. Julie Rowe says:

    I started writing as a creative outlet when my childen were babies. After a while I realized I wanted to share my writing with other people, to entertain them (I’ve always been a story teller, just ask anyone at a houseparty I’m at) and perhaps enrich them. The same reasons I read.

  9. Writing lets me create. Publishing lets me pay my mortgage.

  10. Even growing up, I’ve always written. Back then, I wrote a lot of poetry (which I’d never dream of wanting published, all that teenage angst). But, I even enjoyed writing essays for English class – which is saying something, because I was the type to just cut out on the classes that didn’t interest me! At this point, yes, I’d definitely love to see a full length novel or memoir be published, but I still enjoy writing for writings sake.

  11. Rik Roots says:

    Looking back, I can see that ‘publishing’ my stuff – poems, mainly – has always been second fiddle to writing them and sharing them with others. Publication helps with the sharing part of the equation, but I also have the website where I can post them for the world to see.

    Some of my output is entirely unpublishable – I get too caught up in the glamour of worldbuilding. Luckily I have a website for that, too … if only to demonstrate to others the dangers of getting caught by the Shiny.

  12. Lev Raphael says:

    Like Donna, I’ve always written. When I sold my literary papers to Michigan State University not so long ago, they included short (really short!) stories from second grade. Even by high school and college, when the idea of being published was starting to take hold of me, writing itself was always a joy. It still is! I’ve loved every genre I’ve written/published in, from mystery to memoir, and I’ve loved reviewing for newspapers and magazines, and now love writing blogs for The Huffington Post and the GetitWrite Perseverance Press group blog, and columns for Bibliobuffet.com. It’s all wonderful. I even like revisions. Hell, I *love* revisions, especially when guided by a great editor.

    It’s publishing that can drive me up a wall. Sometimes. But that’s another story.

  13. Lev Raphael says:

    P.S.–I disagree with Melissa about writing as a hobby being less creative than writing professionally. Being published in short fiction encouraged me to expand my horizons to novels, then mysteries, then literary criticism/biography, then a children’s book, memoir, education, psychology, historical fiction, a Jane Austen mashup. Without the support of publishers and readers, I doubt I would have ranged so far afield from my first love, the short story. But everything comes down for me to telling a story of one kind or another.

  14. Terry Persun says:

    I’ve always written because it fed my soul. I didn’t even tell people that I wrote for years. I wrote ten novels before any were published. I also wrote hundreds of poems before getting published. The joy is still in the writing.

  15. Digital Dame says:

    I think this is something some writers tell themselves to cushion the blow of rejection, or the low odds of being published. I’ve seen some go so far as to say it’s ‘crass’ to write for money, you’re not a true artist, and writers need to enjoy the journey for what it is and not seek payment, blah blah blah. That some people would quit writing if they thought they’d never be published/paid marks them as sell-outs, like an indie rock act signing with a major label. Personally, I really really want to be published.

  16. Bill Webb says:

    Hey Lynn, I first started writing to get published and actually did – in newspapers, magzines, etc… – and thought, hey a novel is a snap.

    Six manuscripts later…adncounting…

    So yes I wanted to be published, but I don’t think it had to do with I want it now. It had to do with, this is easy…anyone can do it…did you see that idiot on Oprah who wrote that book, I could do that…that sort of thing.

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