When I first met George it was as part of one of the best panels at last year’s Continuum (which is saying something as it was a great Con). As I got to know him better I found that not only was he an excellent speaker, but a huge Doctor Who fan and short story writer, a connisieur of fine Scotch, and perhaps the best dressed man in Aussie spec fic! But, if all that weren’t enough, he is also an extremely talented writer with a deep understanding of his craft and of the business of writing. So, I am delighted to welcome him here today to talk about the importance of maintaining your passion as a writer.
The Joy of Writing
Writing is my career. With young children to look after, it is currently a part-time career — but I still write each and every day. It can be frustrating at times, when a deadline is looming and the words just aren’t flowing and every sentence takes a Herculean effort but doesn’t seem quite right and self-doubt is taking a battering ram to your door. And it’s not the easiest of careers, given the difficulties of finding publication and the erratic income.
But, you know what? I love it all anyway.
I used to make a lot more money when I worked as a web development consultant, but these days, as a writer, I’m a much happier person.
When asked for advice by people wanting to write, I usually spout the old cliché: “Write lots, because the more you practice your craft the better at it you will become. Read lots so that you can learn from writers better than yourself.” And this has become a cliché, because it is true.
But if I’m asked for advice about writing as a career, I have a different answer. If someone is interested in it as a career, I assume they already write and read, lots. Writing as a career generally involves writing every day (or at least, most days) as well as doing lots of writing related stuff like speaking about writing, promoting your books, approaching publishers and generally networking. In many ways a writing career is more than a career — it’s a lifestyle. So if you’re going to be doing this every day, then your really have to…
LOVE WHAT YOU DO!
Find the joy in writing. And in the associated tasks. It’s there! It really is! Go look for it.
I’ve met writers over the years, who don’t actually seem to like writing. They like having written and they like being published, but they don’t seem to enjoy the process. Me? I love the process. Each step — from plotting, to drafting, to endless rewriting to editing to publishing to promoting. Yes, there are difficulties and frustrations inherent in each of those steps, but underneath those difficulties and frustrations, I LOVE IT ALL!
I love plotting out a new novel. This is where I get to throw around all sorts of outlandish ideas and concepts to see which will bounce and which will fall flat. This is where I get to meet potential new characters, in a sort of fictional equivalent to speed dating. What’s your name? What’s your job? What do you love most about life? What frightens you? What’s your deepest, darkest secret? Sorry, you’re boring. NEXT! Then there’s the ‘jigsaw puzzling’ of it all together. Will the pieces fit? Will there be pieces left over, or will there be huge gaps in the picture?
I’ve recently gone through this with my new novel, the third in the Gamers series. I’m still on a high from it. Excited! Now I’m in the first draft stage. And I love that too. This is where I let it all rush out, not thinking too critically about it. This is the only stage during which I don’t have to think about whether or not it’s working. I simply trust in the outline I’ve created and in my instincts if they lead me to deviate from it. It’s a rather joyous feeling of freedom.
Then comes to rewriting. This is where the detail happens. This is where the characters are fleshed out, where they progress from mere words to living, breathing people within my mind. This is where the pot is either tweaked or twisted or tortured into shape. This is where I bend it all to my will. Love it!
Then comes the editing. I’ll admit that this part can be nerve-wracking as I finally allow someone else to view my baby — and I know they are not going to love every aspect of it; I know they will suggest changes, from a little nip and tuck to major reconstructive surgery. But there’s also excitement in that — an adrenaline rush. And even if the feedback will take ages to implement and perhaps even change some aspects beyond recognition, I know that it will lead to something better. In the back of my mind a voice calls to me from the 70s: “You can rebuild it. You have the technology to make it better than it was before — better, stronger, faster.” (Okay… so my mind can be a rather odd place at times.) ((And yes, I know it’s not an accurate quote… but it’s in my mind so I can do anything I want with it.))
Eventually, after all of that, I get to hold the book in my hands and gaze upon the hopefully wonderful cover with my name on it. And yes, sometimes the cover isn’t wonder, but hell, it still has my name on it, and I wrote it and now people are going to read it. Holding it in my hands for the first time is pure delight — as is seeing it on a bookshop shelf for the first time… and the tenth time… and the hundredth time… and the…
And then you get to tell people about it. What’s not to love about that.
There is JOY in every step of the way and in all sorts of unexpected places — from the discovery of a plot point which could include a Doctor Who reference (What can I say? I’m a fanboy!) to the thrill of putting together a proposal I’m certain has no hope but which I’ll put in anyway… just in case… and because I love the idea.
The joy in writing. It’s the reason I’ve pursued writing as a career. It’s the reason I will continue to do so. If I didn’t have that joy? Well, I’d go out and get a real job.
George Ivanoff is an author and stay-at-home dad residing in Melbourne, Australia.
He has written over 60 books for children and teenagers, including fiction and non-fiction. He has written school readers, library reference books, chapter books, novelettes, novels and even a short story collection. He has books on both the Victorian Premier’s and the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge booklists.
His teen science fiction novel, Gamers’ Quest, won a 2010 Chronos Award for speculative fiction. The sequel, Gamers’ Challenge, was nominated for a 2012 Chronos Award.
George also writes short stories and articles for adults as well as kids. Of all these, he is most proud to have had the opportunity to write a Doctor Who story for the Short Trips: Defining Patterns anthology (Big Finish, UK, 2008).
Occasionally, George has been known to moonlight as an actor. He has had small roles in numerous productions including the television series Neighbours and the feature film Frozen Butterflies.
George eats too much chocolate and drinks too much coffee. He will sometime indulge in a nice bottle of wine or a single malt Scotch.
He has one wife, two children and two cats. And he is very content!