Hey folks. Well, after doing some meditation on my own life, I've realized that college just isn't a possibility for me. Everyone tells me to get a degree, and while I certainly agree it wouldn't hurt, I just can't seem to stick through it; it just isn't in me.
I have several mental illnesses; I won't go into the details, as you don't need to hear my life story, but just know that given who I am, I cannot go back to college. To 'grit your teeth and bear it' might work for some people, but for me it does not (Call me weak, if you wish. You're probably right).
So, here I am, trying to make a career out of writing. I have no family to support, and I have a safety-net job (Family business) if things don't work out. Yes, I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer. I also know it's just about the only thing I seem to want to do.
I now ask your advice and input on building a plan to help turn my writing from hobby, to career.
What do you think are some of the most important things I should be doing? (Other than writing every day, of course).
Thank you all for your help. As always, it's incredibly appreciated, and I hope in the coming years I can contribute to the community as much as it has contributed to me.
[On a side note: Are any of you going to be at the 2-day writing class OSC is doing on the 28th? If so, I'll see you there!]
[This message has been edited by Gan (edited June 21, 2010).]
[This message has been edited by Gan (edited June 21, 2010).]
Regular articles, or some columns, is likely where you will get your money. Books and short stories is really tough to get into and harder to make any real money. Others might have suggestions
Write about what you know, write about what you can. If you write about your disabilities, you can get published in help magazines medical magazines, and such, showing how you are coping with the problems and getting around them.
If you haven't read it, check out Stephen King's book "On Writing". I found it to be a great overall help book, but also for motivation. He doesn't give tips and tricks per se he gives... well, I feel he gives the advice you're looking for.
Writing every day is easy to say, but you have to have the will and motivation and desire to do so. One thing, easy to say, hard to do, is sink your teeth into a story you really dig. Don't fight with a story you don't. Move to another one and maybe you'll come back to the first one, maybe not, but only write something that jazzes you.
Travel, if you can. See new things and new people. Nothing spurs the mind to creativity like being out of your element. Which is where your characters will likely find themselves, so it's good to know what it feels like.
Write. And then write some more. And then, when your done with that, write just a bit more. And then submit what you've written.
Don't reject your own story. When you are not writing, read. Don't focus on the interviews you will have with Ryan Seacrest when your all big and famous for some Great American Novel, or on the nice car you will buy, or how you will do your hair for the photo in the back of the book. (I can't be the only on who has thought of that, right?)
Just write. Write when you feel loony. Write when you are depressed. Write when you are happy. Write tiny details that don't even matter, except to train you how to write the details that will.
That writing, the work absolutely necessary to become a good writer, is the only schooling that is important. That is the class work. And that is the fun part.
If you feel the need to pay tuition for that work, I take Pay Pal. ~Sheena
1. Nothing really matters except the fact that you produce. Not just write, but produce. I know you asked for things in addition to writing, but really, there's very little in addition to that.
So if I were you, I'd set aside three to four hours a day to write. I'm assuming you have a full-time job. Three to four hours may stretch you. But you can take an hour for lunch and three in the AM or EVE. You do this five days a week.
That's 20 hours a week. If you write at the slow pace (mine) of 500 words per hour that gives you 10,000 words per week. If you can write faster, it's gravy.
Pareto's Law applies here. This is the 80/20. This is the key.
If you're doing YA, then you can finish a book in seven to ten weeks. Which means you can write two or three a year. If you're doing longer works, that gives you around 400,000 to 500,000 words. Cut it in half. That's still two 100k word novels per year.
Of course, if you need to you can research for your story etc. That will be part of this. But you can see the numbers.
If you like shorts, great. But you're trying to make a living writing. And you need novels for that. The more you have, the more chances you have to succeed.
3. You enjoy your life and plan for another career. Because it may take you 10 years to break in like it takes many of us. Or longer. Because life isn't about writing. Finished books will not give you pleasure like good relationships will. That's why I say just write five days a week. Take a break, be happy. Have a life. Besides, this gives you great material. Meaningful material.
4. Take care of your body and get out and exercise. You're in this for the long haul. You'll be more productive.
5. Use effective strategies to learn the craft and business. If you go here and scroll down to the writing business, you'll see four long posts about what you can do to learn: http://johndbrown.com/writers/
Once you get a contract there are all sorts of other things you can do. But the first thing you must do is produce. Nothing else matters if you don't.
[This message has been edited by johnbrown (edited June 21, 2010).]
A lot of people make a living selling articles. A lot of people make a living selling Novels. Hardly anyone makes a living selling Shorts. Don't quit your day job, because you will find you will have nearly the same output anyways. Actually you might find that not having a job will build your lethargy and lower your output. (I learned this the hard way.)
Patrick Mcmanus had a set writing time every day and then had a rule that everything he wrote during that time he would submit.
I've been there before. I had an injury that forced me to drop out of college for years, so I saw that as an opportunity to focus on writing. I'll give advice given to me over the years from writers i know (though they are screenwriters... :P), but I didn't use them well (or at all) so i dunno if they work. I actually went back to school when I recovered.
Here the advice over the years:
-treat it like you would if someone were paying you to write a novel. Make a contract with yourself to deliver a certain length at a certain time. This focuses you down to actually planning time for your novel and a due date not to mention 'seeing' the first draft in your head. Pay yourself if you must. didn't do this.
- Do online freelancing writing jobs. There's plenty, but it pays terrible, but the research and practice can't hurt. But the time spent wont be on that novel. i did this. The pay is terrible!
- Write what you really really wanted to write now. Use those awesome ideas you kept for more research and development. I didn't do this.
- Join a writing group that really keeps you writing. did this. writing group broke after everyone got jobs.
- Start entering contests for cash prizes. Never did this.
- Critique - one of the best ways to get new ideas and new ways of expressing those ideas. I do this on occasion.
- Read a variety of things. of course!
--- I would advise from personal experience as one who hates going to lecture and sitting there like a zombie when i could be more productive reading the textbook that this is a excellent oppourtunity to prepare for college in the future. I wanted to go to medical school, so I bought the textbooks, and everyday I picked one book and read 3-4 pages. Over two years, I went through about half of each textbook. By the time I went back to school I kicked a**!
What I'm saying is this is the time where you can learn at your own pace, in your own way, taking all the time you need to digest the ideas slowly. In school it was too cramed and hectic to enjoy reading.
Even if you hypothetically apply to a college, say this August, you still have a whole year till classes next august to really enjoy the subjects that were difficult. Seriously, I used to hate biology cuz of all the memorization, but after a year of reading the textbook a few pages at a time, it became a piece of cake, and now it's like the greatest thing ever.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is don't give up on college just yet. One often remembers things differently as we put distance and time in between - you might see yourself aching to go back!
Well, I thought that getting a well-paying job and writing on the side would work out okay...but, a lotta years later, that job has become my life and I don't do enough writing to suit me. (And there's the "no success at writing" thing, too.)
But it was important to keep me in eating money, too...
The market for short fiction is theoretical these days, so spend time there if you want to grow a bit as a writer, but don't expect a career there. Head on over to novel-land.
In Stephen King's, "On Writing," he talks about how he writes with a blank page and just heads off into the literary wilderness from there. Don't try that at first. Start with a premise--a beginning and an ending, and see if that isn't an easier context to write from.
Then...put the time in. Don't expect to get there overnight. I can't remember which famous author said it, but her advice was, "The first 10 years are the hardest."
Also GO TO WRITERS CONFERENCES. Even OSC's Bootcamp, which is amazing. Commune with other writers, published or otherwise. Meet agents and editors. Immerse yourself in the business.
And ask yourself this question. "Do you like writing, or the idea of being a writer?" If it's the former and not the latter, you'll get there.
Since you're going to OSC's shindig, I guess you're mostly interested in fiction. There are all kinds of paying writing jobs from writing user manuals for microwave ovens to non-fiction magazine writing on some specialty. Finding some interest about which you can become something of an expert can lead to some paying jobs or articles.
But even within fiction, there are many paths or specialties. For example, OSC is very drawn to gaming, and has written the basic story/script associated with games. Writing novels based on a gaming world (under contract to the license holder) is a side benefit of expertise in that area.
I'm not suggesting that gaming-oriented writing is right for you; it's just an example of a specialty that over time may lead to opportunities as your expertise grows.
One interesting piece of advice I've heard for would-be writers is to sit down and copy a novel.
Type it out. Every page, every paragraph, every page.
For one, it will help you see the story more clearly than just reading it. But more importantly, it will demonstrate that you have it in you to sit for hours and hours and write.
Because if you plan on making a career of writing, you will write, for hours and hours. Words are cheap, so you have to put out a lot of them to make a living. And that's hard. Because writing is a lonely profession.
Focus on craft. Become an expert. Read everything, including books on writing. Try to incorporate the advice into your stories. Keep the good bits.
I've heard it takes between four and ten years of hard work to reach a professional level in fiction, so get ready for the long haul. It's a marathon race you've decided to compete in. Don't burn out early.
And most important of all: Have fun. When you enjoy what you are writing, it will be reflected in your work. It will be drudgery from time to time, but do what you must so that you enjoy it. A writer who loves to write, who loves what he writes, is the one who will succeed. Let your love show, of writing and of your subjects.
Write everything you can, in every field that you can. As Heinlein said, a writer writes.
And good luck. We look forward to reading some great stories from you.
You can learn a lot about writing (and about how the author did it) by just typing a published short story into your computer, but doing that with a novel, as AndrewR says, can give you other things as well.
You can also learn a lot by reading a story (book or short) straight through at least three times without reading anything else in between. You run the risk of hating the story afterwards, but you will be very clear on how the author wrote that story and how the parts that worked for you worked the way they did.
I'd like to say that I can understand a bit of where you are comming from. I was going to school for Electronics Engineering and had an intership at Intel when Intel started layoffs. Then after finding a new job I was involved a terrible car accident that damaged my spine. I have since healed but lost everything.
This is a possible new carreer for me if I can learn the trade. I think that it doesn't matter where we came from as long as we don't quit.
Good luck, I look forward to seeing some of your works.
I have ADD. I know exactly what your talking about when you say a short attention span isn't necessarily a bad thing. I have done the writing a published novel thing, and I highly recommend it. It will be hard, but the rewards are quite nice. It will train your mind how to write a novel (it will create the synaptic pathways). Don't think of short attention span as an amputated leg, the mind is a muscle and you can exercise it. (Sorry if this sounds like another "grit your teeth" line, it's really not meant to be.)
Some tips that have helped me:
Meditate in the morning. I don't mean in a Buddhist way, unless you wish, what I mean is take a few moments to just shut out the world and let your mind wander wherever it wants.
Think of your mind like a stove, with a back burner and a front burner. The front burner is for work. Let the back burner have fun, give it a problem to work out, (like working out a story.) Every so often switch the back burner and the front burner so both sides have fun. (I'm sorry if that doesn't make sense right now, just let it work in your mind.)
Don't worry or panic when you jump, 100% percent attention isn't possible nor is it the goal. It's no big deal. In the middle of one of those sentences up there I got up and popped a bowl of popcorn without even realizing it. Remember this phrase: It's not about not jumping, it's about jumping back.
Sorry, no car. I'm staying at a hotel that is supposedly five minutes from the campus. And with it being a college area, I sort of assumed that anything I need will be within reasonable walking distance.
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