"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Writers, Like Farmers, Wear Many Hats

A farm owner wears many hats. One day he might be a heavy equipment operator, another day a truck driver or a mechanic. Another day you will find him on the telephone wearing his CEO hat negotiating a commodity sale, or the purchase of a piece of equipment. Still another day he might be found in the office doing the books and paying the bills. I know all this because that’s how I made my living.

When I became a writer I soon learned that writers, too, are called upon to stretch themselves and don many hats. Some fiction writers write in many genres. Fiction is my favorite area and I have written four novels, each in a different genre. My first was a novel based on the exploits of an errant preacher. My second was a fictional biography of a real woman of the West. My third was a political fantasy, and my fourth was a novella featuring the adventures of a young boy growing up during the 1940s. (Yes, this last book is loosely based on my own life experiences.) When asked that question, I respond by saying there is a little bit of me in Buddy, and a little bit of Buddy in me.

After the Buddy book, I was asked by IDAHO magazine to write a profile on Wilson Rawls the Idaho author who penned the children’s classic Where the Red Fern Grows. I had never done that kind of writing before and I was not sure I had the ability for such a story. Especially on someone with Wilson Rawls’ stature. But with patient tutelage from the magazine’s managing editor we turned out a respectable piece which launched me into another area of writing with another hat to wear. This magazine free-lance hat has put me into the world of short stories, personal profiles, and reminisces of days long past.

Later, I was again called upon to stretch my wings. The managing editor of a daily newspaper asked if I would be interested in writing a weekly column. Sigh…another hat. I told him that I had never thought of myself as a columnist. “I don’t think I’m up to the challenge,” I said. He convinced me to give it try, anyway.As of this date, I have begun my fifth year writing for the paper. I mention all this not for the purpose of bragging, but rather to illustrate the many stretches and challenges that are put to us as writers.

My latest hat has made me stretch a bit further and delve into the world of screenplays. I signed up for an online screenwriting course and have just finished the first draft adaptation of my Buddy book into a movie. Now let me tell you, that’s a whole ‘nuther ball game, a different style of writing altogether, and a good topic for another blog.

The last hat we writers must don, and next to the labor of actually writing that Great American Novel, might just be the most important hat in this present era of writing. It is the marketing hat. Gone with the wind are the days of sitting back after you’ve sold your novel to that big publisher in New York and waiting for the royalty checks to roll in. That still may be true to a certain extent for the established authors like Tom Clancy, and Stephen King, or Sarah Palin (Sarah’s book was a bestseller even before it was released) but not so for us relatively unknown authors. Chances are, today, if we are going to get published at all, we have to go the self-published route, and this means we are now marketers as well as writers. We must do the promotion for our books on our web pages, blogs, and social media.

Welcome to the new era of writing. Woe is me. With my disdain for computers, and my illiteracy of the internet and the social networks, I’m wondering if this last hat might be too large and will just slide down over my ears. Oh…well.

--Bill Corbett

Bill lives in Pocatello. He is a two time Associated Press award-winning columnist and writes fiction under the name Will Edwinson. His national award-winning book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or by asking for it at your favorite bookstore. Check his web site and blog at www.willedwinson.com. Bill also writes free-lance for IDAHO magazine.