Becoming an author is not an easy decision to make. New writers have to convince an agent or publisher to take them on, write a novel that will appeal to readers, learn about the industry, improve their writing skills, and in most cases balance a job and family commitments too. At times it feels like trying to climb a literary equivalent of Mount Everest. It’s not easy, and not everyone is understanding. Your ideas will be rejected, probably by hundreds of publishing houses before one actually takes you on. Your family and friends may also reject the idea of you being a writer. I’ve heard many phrases such as, ‘A writer? that’s not going to earn you money,’ or ‘When are you going to find a real job?’ or ‘How about you take a dentistry course instead?’ and my favorite, ‘When’s your book going to be ready?’ Do any of these sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, everyone goes through this, myself included.
The truth is, being a writer means that you are deciding to be self-employed, an authorpreneur so to speak. The majority of people would never consider being self-employed, it scares them and to be totally honest it is scary. Most people like to think that their ordinary job at the office has some degree of stability and security. They like sticking to their work schedules and timetables, they don’t have to think about their taxes, and they don’t have to be in charge of running the business. However, not all jobs are stable. At any moment a business can go under, which means every person employed by that business could be suddenly out of a job. Being self-employed has risks, but so does every other job on the planet.
If you want to write, then you have to be your own boss and manage your own finances and taxes. There’s no guarantee you will get a decent paycheck or any paycheck at the end of every month, and this scares people. The people who don’t believe in you right now, are secretly scared for you, and that is why they will try and talk you out of writing at every opportunity. However, the crucial thing to remember is, being a self-employed writer can be, with a bit of luck and hard work, the most rewarding experience ever.
We’re taught at school not to take risks, but every self-employed person has taken a gigantic risk. My advice is to take that risk, take the leap of faith. You only have one life to live and if you don’t do it, you will always regret it, and if you don’t try, you will never know.
If you get this far, you’re at the foot of the mountain. The next step is to write, and boy that can be harder than it sounds. Often, publishers will want you to have a completed draft of your entire novel, so that you can submit the first three chapters and a synopsis. You will spend a lot of time writing and then re-writing, because unfortunately we’re not born as amazing writers. It takes time to develop your writing and your first book will not be as good as your next, or the one after that, or the one after that. This can be demoralizing at first, you will compare your work to others and feel that your work just doesn’t quite cut it, but it is important that you keep writing! You must not give up at this stage! Watch the video below, Ira Glass explains this feeling perfectly…
When you have your first three chapters you can start submitting your work to publishers. There are usually guidelines on how to submit your work, and each publisher is likely to have slightly different criteria, so make sure you read the submissions T&C’s carefully. You can find more information online, and I will leave several useful links below for you. Submitting your work to competitions can also be fruitful, many publishers hold writing competitions and most have free entry and cash prizes. This is a great way to submit your work, possibly receive a publishing contract, and also help to fund your writing. This isn’t just a pipe-dream either, I am a living, breathing example, I was lucky enough to receive the North West Writer’s Grant back in 2013.
If you’re not lucky enough to win a competition or contract from a traditional publisher, don’t worry, it is not the end of the hike. Yes, it’s painful receiving rejections and feeling like you’re getting nowhere, but it is something that all writers have to get used to at some point in their career. Technology is our savior here, with the introduction of ebooks and Amazon, writers can now self-publish their books online, and there are many popular writers who have done just that. However, a word of warning and caution here – if you do decide to self-publish, hire a freelance editor and proof-reader if you can afford to. There are many self-published books out there, and unfortunately many skip the expense of hiring an editor and proof-reader, resulting in poorly written works. If you really can’t afford the expense, then ask several trustworthy people to look over your work for you before you self-publish.
The next tip is to read. Read and keep reading to develop your writing. There are many blogs you can read and endless books you can buy or even download for free. You will need to do all of this in order to progress with your writing. Reading is like the fountain of knowledge for new writers, you will improve and pick up on writing techniques and styles just by reading a huge volume of books. I read a couple of books every week, sometimes more and sometimes less, but for a yearly count I reach up high into the double figures. You should be aiming to do the same. Read the books with high ratings and read their reviews, do the same for books with low ratings and try to come up with a list of reasons as to why some books do well and others do not. This should help you distinguish between good and bad writers, as well as lucky and unlucky writers. It is also a good idea to follow your favorite authors on social media as many write blogs and give out advice too. You’re starting the hike up the mountain but you still have a long way to go before you reach the top – but I’ve heard the view at the summit will be worth it.
Don’t let anyone dissuade you from writing, and prepare and arm yourself with knowledge in order to deal with those difficult questions from concerned friends and relatives. I can’t promise you will succeed and it definitely is a climb, but if you love writing as much as I do then you won’t mind the hard work and effort involved. Remember it takes time, work and lots of practice, but there are resources all around you, right at your fingertips.
That’s all from me for now, I will talk about time and my not-so-glamorous working schedule in my next blog. If you have any questions with regards to any of the content in this blog then feel free to ask, I will try and answer as best as I can, or find someone who can offer a better answer. Leave a comment below and I will get back to you.
‘Afterward he remembered only the feeling that he was about to leave somewhere small and rational – a place that made sense – for somewhere huge and old that didn’t.’ – Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere)
Links to help you with self-employment…
Links to help you with submitting your work…