I’m a writer. I say that with a little battered pride. Perhaps my experience will help you.
.One way or another, I have always written. I had my first short story rejected when I was around 14. Subsequently, like every adolescent, I wrote adolescent poetry. However, I didn’t become a professional author. I pursued a varied career in biological research, followed by journalism (the last profession of the gentleman), publishing, and then international aid. Since then, I have published six non-fiction books about aid. At the back of my mind was the idea that I would one day devote myself to writing fiction, full time. I’ve been moving towards that goal for the last five years.
I know I’m starting this blog a bit late. Many of the events of the past five years are already memories of memories. I can’t be sure how accurate some of them are. The main thing, though, is that I haven’t yet made it, if I ever do. So, I hope this account may be of help to other budding authors.
Reading accounts by well-known authors doesn’t really help that much. Sure, there are some tips there. The most important are probably “Forget inspiration, habit is more dependable” as Octavia Butler says, and “believe in yourself” as everyone says. This is true, even important. You can only become a writer by writing, and the professional writer has to keep writing whether or not the Muse is paying a call. And, of course, you have to believe in yourself, otherwise how will you convince any agent or publisher to do so? But what if you’re actually no good? What if your cherished vampire story is the thousandth to cross the agent’s desk that month?
Yes, you need to believe in yourself, but you also need to suppress your ego enough to listen dispassionately to the criticism of others. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But, in fact, it’s an extraordinarily difficult balancing act.
There’s nothing in the accounts of authors who’ve made it, that tell you how to do this. Why did they make it, when I haven’t? Is it just that they’re better than me? Or more persistent? Or just luckier? By writing this blog as I try to follow in their footsteps, my hope is that it may offer some comfort and some insight to others on the same journey.
You can accompany me, watch me trip, develop and reject strategies, and perhaps watch me succeed.
So let me begin, unsatisfactorily with a recap of the past five years. Don’t believe everything in this tale. I may have made some of it up. It’s what story-tellers do.
I did a little writing on my own, and showed it to family. Showing your writing to your family isn’t the best way of getting criticism.
Of course, they think you’re wonderful. Unless you’re Kazuo Ishiguro, I suppose. His wife apparently told him the first draft of his The Buried Giant was no good, and he had to rewrite it from scratch. For me, anyhow, the key step was probably getting out of my study and joining a local writers’ group.