If you want to be a writer, start with what you know. What do you like to read? Newspapers, magazines, blogs, short stories, novels? All of the above for me and maybe for you, too. When I first began writing, I tried short stories. I figured they were short so I was pretty sure I’d finish one. I did finish one, then another, and then another. A few were printed in literary journals. My biggest check for a short story was $700. That may sound like a lot of money, but don’t quit your day job. You may find homes for your stories, but the pay rate varies wildly. Sometimes the magazine can only pay you in free copies. And it takes time to write and then sell your work. If you sell 2-3 stories a year at the really decent rate of $700, that’s still only $2,100. Can you live on that for a year? Maybe you have a partner or parent who supports you. That’s the only way you’ll be able to eat, at least for awhile, if you decide to dedicate your life to writing short stories.
After some long years of writing for magazines, I decided to try writing a novel. I was a teacher, I had the summers off, it was perfect! Except as I went into writing my first novel, I had nothing but blind faith and my serious novel-reading addiction to guide me. The internet had not been invented yet, so I read Writer’s Digest magazine for clues on how to publish a novel. Writers often think about how to get published before they actually write the book. Publishers ask that we finish the book before we send submissions.
Writing a novel in three summer months can be done, but not by me. Not then. I had kids at home and a husband, too. We took vacations in summer. I needed summer to wind down from teaching, which is a tougher job than you might imagine. I did get some chapters done every summer but it wasn’t until I went back to school for a master’s degree so I could teach a few days a week at university that I really had enough time to finish a novel. These part-time college teaching jobs are abundant and many published writers need these jobs on top of their writing paychecks. Once I had that second degree, I only taught a few classes, with five days free for writing novels. Friends learned that if I was home, I was writing until 2 o’clock every day. Blind faith that this novel writing thing would work out plus the hard work of actually completing and revising and submitting a novel…that’s all it takes.
The most important thing you need to be a writer is blind faith. In yourself. In your ability to craft a novel that someone will want to publish. In your tough skin when the rejections come in. Rejection is part of the writing gig and if you are super-sensitive, as so many creative people are, you may give up after one or two rejections. Again, you must have blind faith that at some point, someone will say yes. It is often said that persistence is more important than talent in writing. That was certainly true for me. I got rejected dozens of times before I found a publisher. I’m proof that persistence pays off. Persistence and blind faith.