It’s widely said that every writer takes a different path to publication. Mostly true, I think. I met a woman at a conference in 2010 who told me she’d just written her first book. No, she’d never written anything before and if she didn’t ‘make money’ on the chick-lit book she’d just finished, she was gonna quit writing.
Yep, she was completely serious.
Now, for all I know she’d just written the world’s next million seller. What hit me as weird is that she wasn’t writing because she loved to write. She was doing it only as a money-making proposition.
Wow. Just wow.
Practically all writers I know wrote something before publication. I did. I’ve been writing since childhood. Look: my original manuscript from my 6th-grade novel, “Maltia”.
(It was about cats, and not at all derivative of Watership Down, no.)
Although I’d written stories before that, this was the first time that I realized I wanted to be a novelist. I wrote throughout high school, college, assorted jobs. Just for myself. I’d never been to a workshop, to a con, to a writer’s group. My only experience was a college Creative Writing class that was actually just a
bash each others’ writing critique circle. I didn’t learn anything about art or actual publication. The prof who taught it wasn’t published, so he wasn’t a good resource for it.
(I never wrote fan-fic, BTW. It never occurred to me write about someone else’s characters. In fact, I didn’t realize that fan-fic existed until 2004.)
But in 2002 I decided that I needed to get serious about being a novelist. I simply had no idea how. So I got on the internet. Yep, I got on the internet and looked up ‘how to get published.’
I finished my first (very long and meandering) novel. I joined Critters. I found a nearby workshop that fell during the summer break and signed up to go. I had to whip out a couple of short stories to have critiqued, but I did so and was accepted to the summer workshop at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction in Lawrence. I signed up for the ArmadilloCon writers’ workshop.
The shift between writing purely for fun and writing for others to read meant that I had to learn what made something enjoyable for people to read. I had to learn how to put together a coherent plot (and for me, writing short fiction certainly helped with this), I had to figure out what to cut, what to add, what words to avoid (‘Squirrely’ words are one of my greatest weaknesses. I love to qualify things. It’s the way my brain works.)
But I did start learning…