Why a Serious Writer Wears Three Different Hats

First we don our Writer’s hat and construct a story that is original or funny or touching or, even better, all of the above.


Once the creative side is complete (and only the Writer knows when that is), we unleash the Editor Within (EW). Somehow I am picturing red and white Dr. Seuss stripes for EW’s hat: she’s so annoying, but she’s the only one who can finish the job, editing and forming and molding the first draft into a perfect collection of words. Editing does for writing what an old friend says ketchup does for food: It makes the bad stuff good and the good stuff better. And it is the only way to actually communicate the real story to someone who didn’t write it.

On the best days, the Writer and the EW work hand in hand and the story develops into something different, better than anything the Writer could have come up with on her own. It wasn’t until I was deep into editing Oliver’s Surprise that I discovered the story wasn’t about a boy and his skiff (as I’d originally thought); it was about a boy and a schooner. Only my EW could’ve figured that out.

Most of the time, the Writer wants to muzzle the Editor Within and lock her up in the attic. It’s probably mutual.

The last hat we must all wear is that of Marketing Director. (This is the fashionable one of the group who actually looks great in hats, partly because they are perched on top of perfectly quaffed hair above a thin, elegant neck.)


All of us who are serious about writing, even if we’re living quite contentedly under a rock, must find a way to get our stories Out There and share them with the real world. Selling stories is a completely different skill set from writing them, and it’s the last thing we thought we’d have to do when we set out to be writers. But it’s also one of the most important differences between writing for fun and writing as a career.

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner has written an excellent blog post on Why You Should Help Sell Your Book.

Because these three skills are so different, it’s important to only wear one hat at any given time. Otherwise the skills required by one will bleed into the other, and none of it will get done well.

As different as Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, and we must do them all equally well. How do you make the transition between the three hats?

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