Writing is different than most professions because it’s one where you are not judged on potential. An author doesn’t get his book published by filling out a resume, he gets it by having a solid manuscript in the hands of an editor.
This isn’t the business of potential it’s the business what do you have to show me. Editors don’t care about your potential as a writer all they care about is what you have written and whether it can sell.
This is different then how much of the world works if you think about it. You don’t work for a company and then get hired. You go through a process and then they hire you based on your potential to perform. An employer is taking it on faith that the person they read about on a resume and talked to during an interview is the one that will be working for them.
Being able to effectively market your book and create a platform for yourself is certainly important. Unless you are a celebrity or an author with the star power of a J.K. Rawlings or Stephen King establishing yourself to a target audience is important, but you can’t forget the core part of your business— the writing.
Often, people go to get a degree or certification with the idea that it will get them a better job. Getting a Masters in Fine Arts at a university or majoring in Creative Writing will improve your techniques, but unless you want to become a writing teacher that won’t necessarily make you a professional writer.
A query letter doesn’t highlight your degree, it’s selling the promise of a manuscript filled with good writing. Remember, it’s hard to sell something if it hasn’t been finished yet.
I think what scares a lot of people when it comes to pursuing a career in writing is the uncertainty. There is no guaranteed paycheck or hourly salary until you finish the work and even if you do finish a piece it still might not sell.
That is a risk that writers have to accept. Professional writers are the ones that have a plan for finishing their pieces with the assumption that it is going to find a home somewhere. Even if those rejection letters do come, they take it as a learning experience and do the next one better.
When I was working as a writing tutor in college, students used to brag to me how they could get away with waiting till the last minute to write their term papers. They justified it by telling me “well I got an A in it didn’t I?” I always told those students ‘Well, there’s a reason you’re here seeing me.’
Taking shortcuts you’re writing means the manuscript is coming back to you with a rejection letter. There is no faking hard work and the quality of your writing will always reflect back your attention to detail and skill as a writer.
If there is any profession comparable to fiction writing, it’s farming because your profits are directly tied to the work that you put into it. If you don’t do all the planting and preparations in the fall then you definitely won’t have a good harvest in the spring time. Without those crops then you don’t have a business.
The writer that fails to produce on a consistent basis has a business that will wither on the vine.