Name: Vicki So, aka Vicki Essex
She's a proofreader by day, and a budding author the rest of the time. Get great advice from Vicki So, and her literary alter ego Vicki Essex, on how to accomplish your dream of becoming a writer. (Tip: don't give up).
Profession: Harlequin Proofreader; author of Her Son’s Hero
Twitter handle: @vickiessex
Describe your typical work day, from start to finish
My day starts and ends with writing. I write on a netbook during my hour-long bus ride to work. I work a 9 to 5 desk job as a proofreader at Harlequin Enterprises where I proofread manuscripts, ancillary material and other items. Sometimes, I write during my lunch hour. I’m on my netbook again on the way home, and after dinner, I write some more, as well as work on my blog, website, and book promotions.
When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but at eight years old, I said I wanted to be an author just like Beverly Cleary. She was my favorite author as a kid.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’ve always enjoyed sculpting interesting characters and throwing them into difficult situations and seeing where they take things. It often surprises me how my creations will warp and twist things in ways I didn’t anticipate. Writing them out of those twists and turns, however, is harder work.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your profession?
For me as an author, my biggest challenge is achieving work-life balance. I tend to neglect my husband and the house chores when I’m on deadline or on a writing streak. I will forgo social gatherings in favour of writing. I frequently lose sight of the important things in life and burn out very quickly as a result. On the opposite hand, I might force myself to go a whole week without writing, and all that time off can be very demotivating. You start to doubt your ability to keep going, and wonder if anything you do will be good enough. Sometimes, forward momentum is the only way to keep those fears away, but there has to be balance in order to stay sane and healthy.
Do you believe you had a "calling" for your profession?
Definitely. I loved writing stories as a child and I still own most of everything I’ve ever written since I was six years old. Writing is a skill that has to be developed, of course, and I think anyone can learn and get better with practice. But I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. I love words and I love creating worlds and people and playing god with them in my head.
What are the three most important pieces of career advice you would give to other Canadian Career Gals?
First, read. Learn everything you can from the books you love. Read widely, and never turn away from a genre just because you don’t like it.
Second, write, and finish what you’re writing. Short story, long novel, screenplay, lyrics, poetry... whatever it is, finish it, even if it’s terrible. Once you’re done, there’s this wonderful thing you can do called editing.
Third, don't give up. Getting published is tough. Heck, finishing your novel is tough, but the only way you can get past rejection and failure in the writing business is to learn from those setbacks. There are hundreds of resources out there to help you, so seek them out!