Protecting Your Professional Image
When you're seen as a professional, you're treated as a professional, so your image is worth protecting. The simplest way to do this is to make sure you're well organized, able to focus on the project at hand, and, perhaps most critical, protected against common potential problems.
Nearly everyone who has ever worked on a computer has experienced the horror of a system crash, virus, or other technical problem that irretrievably erases days or even months of work. One writer, two days before she was due to turn in several chapters to her editor, found that the diskette she had been using to store her work had been damaged somehow, and all those beautifully written chapters were inaccessible. Fortunately, she was able to retrieve her work before the deadline, but she suffered several heart-stopping hours in the meantime.
You always need backup. If you work from your computer's hard drive, make copies on diskettes. Print out each chapter or scene as you finish it and file it safely away. E-mail your chapters to yourself, to a friend, to your agent. If you always make sure there's more than one copy of your work, you'll save yourself a lot of panic when technology suddenly fails to perform.
Imagine how the professional image of the writer noted above would have suffered if she had had to call her agent or her editor and explain that she had, indeed, completed the work required under the contract, but couldn't deliver it because she didn't take the elementary precaution of backing up her files. Missing the deadline throws the publisher's schedule off, which can affect the publisher's catalog, which affects the sales and publicity departments, and so on. And, aside from all these things, the writer would have looked immensely foolish.
We aren't suggesting that you have to be perfect, or that you should devote an inordinate amount of time and energy to polishing your image. But, just as you want to make the best possible impression at, say, a job interview, it is in your interest to present the best side of your writing self as consistently as you can. Your image as a professional is an intangible asset, but it can be surprisingly influential in your writing career.