So You Want to Be a Writer

I figured I’d kick off the resurrection of my blog with a post that answers a few questions. 🙂

Originally posted March 6, 2011

Today’s reader mail consists of a question every writer will be asked at some point:

“I’m thinking about becoming a writer. Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?”

I always wonder how to answer this question, honestly. Part of me wants to give the happy sunny answer: Well, you need to work hard, make the commitment to write every day to get some words down, develop a thick skin, and always be open to criticism. After that, it’s just a matter of getting exposure, doing your research on presses and agents, and hoping for the best when you send your stuff out. Good luck! 🙂

And then I remember I’m a Scorpio.

So here’s my advice, along with a complimentary bag of salt to take it with.

Develop a love/hate relationship with money. You’re always going to need it, and it’s never going to be there.

Find a bad habit. Cigarettes and alcohol are the time-honored cornerstones of the writing community, but any addictive behavior will do in a pinch when you need to run off crying from your manuscript because one of your author friends did five thousand words yesterday (the bitch), compared to your paltry fifteen hundred. A loved one will probably tell you it’s not a race, a mentor will tell you it’s more important to write a good scene. You don’t have time for rational and cogent suggestions. Go for the vice.

Develop a love/hate relationship with your readers. Publicly love them because they talk up your books and send you fan letters and generally make you feel like you’re not wasting the potential your third grade teacher told your parents you had. Secretly hate them because you suspect they’re all lying and just using your book to prop up their shrine to Stephanie Meyer. Secretly realize you’re being ridiculous and publicly apologize for your opinions. Receive confused fan mail. Go for the vice.

Find beta readers.

Then find beta readers you can trust.

Then find beta readers you can trust that you don’t believe are probably insane.

Find a publisher.

Realize it’s not as simple as just picking one and submitting.

Find an agent.

Realize it’s not as simple as just picking one and submitting.

Begin to suspect that the publishing world runs entirely on nepotism and kismet. Then sell your work and realize it’s actually a lot more fair than you initially suspected. Look through your earlier work and realize why you were rejected from so many many many places. Seriously, they let you out of grad school with that manuscript?

Read your work aloud. Immediately revise your dialogue because having heard it aloud it becomes apparent that nobody actually talks like that.

Read. But don’t just read, because your readers don’t just read. Watch TV, movies, read comics and graphic novels and learn how the structure is changing so you can keep up.

Give a damn. Self-explanatory.

Consider self-publishing. Then ask yourself if you want to sell something you put eleven months of your life into for ninety-nine cents. Also, remember that you suck as an editor.

Find an editor. Make her the first person you thank in your acknowledgements, because the difference between the final edits and your original draft will be staggering. Thank her because she will make you look so very good.

Realize that being a writer is tough, so take every opportunity you get to celebrate. Realize your debt to your friends and family, who put up with your delays and cancellations because you finally cracked through a mini-block and need to keep momentum. Realize your debt to your fellow writers and betas, because they push you to work that potential that maybe you aren’t wasting after all. Realize your debt to your readers, because despite that you literally are making it up as you go, they keep coming back and chipping in to find out what happens next.

Realize that every work is a labor of love, because if you don’t love the labor, there’s no point in doing it.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Writing

3 responses to “So You Want to Be a Writer

  1. You missed one: get insanely jealous of a colleague’s blog because it looks better than yours. Reach for the vice; plot ways to steal his layout ideas. It’s the most sincere form of flattery, after all.

    Welcome to WordPress!

  2. Pingback: A Few More Tips on Being a Writer | Vaughn R. Demont

  3. Pingback: Seriously? Still Want To Be a Writer? | Vaughn R. Demont

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