Career Confessions; Unpublished Novelist

 
by Eric Shannon
 

Interview With an Unpublished Novelist

 
Considered working as a Novelist? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more
 
This is a true career story as told to WritingJobs.org and is one of many interviews with writing professionals
 

My job title is simply Writer

 
Some would say prose writer and some would say novelist, but I am called upon to write poetry, blog posts and other forms of writing as well as novels. However, I would like to be remembered as a novelist, so I think of myself as an Unpublished Novelist when it comes to giving myself a career title
 
I have about fifteen years in the field of Creative Arts. I have taken many careers of various capacities within this industry
 
I sit in front of a blank page or computer screen and let my mind wander. As a pre-writing ritual, I think about ideals, dreams, people, places and events that I wish existed
 
As the first step of writing, I start to write those things down. I try not to think too much once I've started writing. The words just appear on the page, guided by my pen or the keyboard. When I start to think too much, I stop and look back at what I've written
 
As the second step of writing, I use editing tools like grammar, syntax and close reading to shape what I've written into a coherent narrative. This entails balancing the initial imprint that the thought left on the blank page with the need to be understood by a common culture.
 
I go back and forth between the first step and the second step of writing in order to craft stories and, ultimately, a novel
 

I would rate my job satisfaction a four

 
I would rate my level of enthusiasm a solid 10. As an unpublished novelist, sometimes I need to be unsatisfied in order to maintain my enthusiasm
 
I have found my calling in life. While I may occasionally want more, I don't need any more than this
 
My situation is not as unique as I'd like to think. There are hundreds of thousands of unpublished novelists out there who, in public, call themselves by different names and titles
 
I am not interested in a person's official job title. I am interested in the job titles we accept for ourselves
 
I got started in this line of work the first time I read a piece of flash fiction and it landed on an audience of my peers. I was in the sixth grade and it was the first time that, for an instant, I felt understood. I found that I had a lot pent up – a lot that was yet misunderstood
 
After that, I sort of fell into the field of fiction writing. I wouldn't do anything differently, however. I feel blessed to have had the experiences that I've had
 
In school, you only have to produce excellent work. In the working world as an unpublished novelist, excellence is not enough. You have to interact socially in order to succeed professionally
 
You have to be prepared for your work to be impacted. This has been the most important and also the most difficult thing I have learned in the working world.
 
I learned this when I wrote something heartfelt, intense, well-written and deeply critical of my writer colleagues in a public space about a year ago. I didn't expect the backlash that I received. The intensity and sincerity of the criticism I received from nearly all corners nearly made me quit my job as an Unpublished Novelist. The fact that the criticism I received was thoughtful and well-written only made it more difficult. I had to learn how to manage criticism of my voice as well as criticize others in a socially acceptable way.
 
I've only managed to submit a major novelette to one publication. I wrote a 30,000 page fantasy story about the inevitability of collapse
 
I had spent about three years writing, rewriting and bringing together various elements of this story. When I put my story in the mail to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. It wasn't accepted, but that feeling of pride remains
 
It helps me remember that I am not a "Retail Worker," "Construction Temp," "Seasonal Landscaper" or "Freelance Ghostwriter." I am an unpublished novelist, a story-smith, and I can write entire worlds into existence
 
Also, when a teacher of mine told me that I was most definitely a writer, it felt like being given a sacred calling. That made me feel extremely proud.
 
The fact that I need to make money in order to live is the biggest challenge about being an Unpublished Novelist. I can't do my job because money needs constantly get in the way. Instead, I do somebody else's job because I need the money
 
It is somebody else's job to write advertisements, somebody else's job to help people buy disposable goods and somebody else's job to pull up weeds in a garden. It is my job to write stories, and the challenge is that I am not able to do it every day. Sometimes that makes me want to pull my hair out
 
My job is very stressful, and I am very bad at maintaining a good work-life balance. The pendulum always seems to swing one way or the other
 
Either I spend too much time working and my personal hygiene, relationships, diet and family life suffer, or I spend too much time cooking, cleaning, paying bills, making friends and I forget that I am, at my core, a writer
 
When I have to write, nothing else exists. I might be up until three in the morning working on a scene in a story. If I don't, I feel like it will disappear forever. The constant feeling that something precious will disappear forever is the most stressful part of my job
 
I make nothing. I am paid enough in my own eyes, but I would like to be paid more in order to be in line with the eyes of society. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about people who judge me because my job doesn't pay me well. The only time I'm not happy about what I make is when I'm worried about paying rent and bills
 
I take an average of 1-2 days per week as a vacation. Sometimes I get really burnt out if I have to do a lot of paid work in order to pay the bills, and I take a vacation from being an unpublished novelist for up to a week at a time. It is not enough
 
In order to get hired and succeed as an Unpublished Novelist, you need to accept that writing is not a want. Writing is a need as necessary as eating or urinating. That acceptance of the visceral nature of writing is the only skill you need, and you can't learn it from school
 
If you want to become a writer, do it! Please! Even if you don't stick with it, we need more people who are proud to call themselves Writers
 
A job is not defined by whether or not you get paid for it – A job is defined by whether or not it mirrors your soul
 
I would like to be a Published Novelist. I would like to be financially independent because of my creative work
 
 
Eric Shannon is CEO of LatPro, Inc, one of the oldest and most respected specialty job board for Hispanic and Spanish/English and Portuguese/English bilinguals. His company also runs DiversityJobs.com, as well as JustJobs.com, a family of job search engines that includes diversity sites for Asian Americans, Hispanics, veterans, the disabled, and members of the LGBT community — as well as niche sites for banking jobs, human resource jobs, healthcare jobs, and environmental jobs (among many others) that cater to all job-seekers without regard for ethnicity
 
You can find him at Career Confessions and on Twitter

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