The Path to “Writer”
I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time. I guess some would say I’ve *been* a writer for a long time, just with some very long growth and research periods thrown in (though I never dared use the title until just this last year). I started writing in high school with pages of passionate purple prose that garnered my first negative critique and a suggestion that I not pursue writing as anything more than a hobby. It was a sentiment echoed by well-meaning (and perhaps correct) family members, though their reasons were more practical – according to my mom, a woman should always be able to take care of and provide for herself, no matter her marital status. Wise words to this day, I think.
I’ve always had a very clear understanding of what it is to be self-employed, because my father has run his own business from home since I was very young. Growing up with that made me very much aware of the “feast or famine” lifestyle that any full-time writer would probably face, it’s just the nature of self-employment and contract work. So I had already dismissed the possibility of being a full-time writer…at least not until far in the future when I would be retired and no longer in need of a steady income.
I went off to college, working two, sometimes three jobs to pay for a degree I was pretty sure I’d never use and always, always in the background was the itch to write something more than essays and term papers. I didn’t have time to write back then, but I thought about it almost constantly as I went about my practical life. I’d occasionally jot down a story idea or a few chapters of something, and then walk away from it again as “real life” took over.
After college I got a “real” job, and started working 8-5, amazed at how much *time* I had left over in the day with only one job and no classes or homework. I finally indulged my desire to write, throwing myself headlong into National Novel Writing Month and shocking myself by completing a 50,000 word novel. It was supposed to be a mystery-thriller, but turned into a mish-mash of all the genres I routinely read (romance, mystery, thriller, horror, and even some literary elements). It was bad (it’s still bad, actually), but it soothed that deep, aching need to write that I’d been carrying around for years. I still knew that writing wasn’t a “practical” career, so my writing would only be a hobby, but I wrote several more NaNo novels after that, each one improving. I dabbled a bit with editing, but it was overwhelming, and I couldn’t quite get motivated to put that much work into a “hobby”. I even tried to just give it up – quit writing altogether, but then November came around again, and I…just couldn’t stay away. Pretty soon I started the serial novel on my blog…my first novel written “in public” so to speak, and the first fiction I’d shown to anyone since high school. I got a few encouraging comments, and started meeting other writers – it felt good. It felt “right”…like I was doing what I’d been meant to do all along.
Last March, I decided to buy a netbook. A new story was percolating in my head at the time - I wanted to write, and I didn’t want to be stuck back in my office doing it. The week it got here I started writing the novel I’m currently editing for submission this summer. I've been writing regularly ever since – I just needed to be able to do my writing with the rest of the family (my husband and dogs). I really rebelled against locking myself away to work on my novels.
I also started interacting with other writers…and reading everything I could about the publishing industry. My practical side was downright giddy when I learned that there were authors out there who really did make a living selling their books. The key, it seems, is to be prolific, and most self-sufficient authors either sell the big bestselling thrillers, or romance novels. I read a lot of both, but my own novels lean heavily toward the romance side, so it was pretty easy to choose romance as my main genre. My romances are contemporary, but I can’t seem to write one without some sort of suspense element, so I’m calling them romantic suspense for now.
At this point, I'm working hard to set myself up to be successful not only in telling good stories that will entertain people, but also in publishing and selling enough books to earn a comfortable living. My current goal is to publish four books per year, and see how close that will get me to earning what I currently make at my day job. We'll see how that goes, but I'm optimistic. I'll start submitting my first “good” novel (my fifth completed ms) this summer. And that will be the start of a whole new journey.
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Thanks Jamie for being a guest for this edition of Writer Wednesdays and thank you to all who took time to stop by and read Jamie's Path to Writing. She also has a great blog that displays some of her work and offers excellent advice to writers Variety Pages . You can also follow her on Twitter @JamieDeBree .
Kristin : )
If you would like more info about this series, please see Writer Wednesday: The Intro