A while back I talked to a group of students at Eastern Washington University during a young professionals night. Most were in the creative arts – writing, photography, graphic design, theater and the like. I was honored to be asked to talk with them. I wrote these notes (below) before talking to the class. Today, when cleaning out my Dropbox folder, I read them again and thought it might be nice to share. So, here you go.
Set a goal and do your best to achieve it. That might be a word count or a chapter number or a time commitment. You can’t write that book unless you actually write stuff down. There’s no magic laptop fairy that will click-clack away at your story for you. My first novel took me roughly 6 months to write, 2 to edit and 3 to get published. My second novel took 4 months to write and about a month to get published. By this pace I should be able do write and publish a novel inside of a week – not gonna happen.
Don’t expect everyone to enjoy what you wrote. Go into a book store. (Or like a normal person, just go to Amazon’s website. ) Do you like every book you see? Not a chance, so don’t expect your friends and family to like yours unless it’s the sort of stuff they already like. Don’t obtain your sense of value from an audience who doesn’t like your genre – or from family who will love everything you do (and lie to your face).
Find a creative outlet that pays you actually money. The daughter of a co-worker of mine got her parents to send her to live in Key West for a year so she could write her first novel, which happened to be set in Key West a hundred years ago. Nice work if you can find it. My creative outlet happens to be my 8-5 job at Avista. Writing stories, news releases, speeches, taking photographs, brainstorming messaging for the media. It keeps you on your writing game and a roof over your head.
Hire an editor because if your 94,000 word novel incorrectly uses affect instead of effect one time, people will call you an idiot.
Choose your own path. I wanted an agent and a publishing deal, but didn’t need to wait around for my ship to come in. I decided to go independent because I felt my work was good and didn’t need to go through the bottle neck of agent-led publishing. Is it as lucrative? I can’t say. But there are dozens and dozens of examples of people out there who have gone it alone and been greatly successful. (JA Konrath, Hugh Howey for example)
Lastly, put forth an effort. Only you can determine your worth.