I get asked this question a lot

And despite the picture, I’m not billing myself as some kind of little green jedi master in the art of writing. But I figure I’d write my answer here. For what it’s worth.

What would you recommend to people like me, who one day would like to become a published author?
First, decide what kind of author you want to be. Being an author is like being a musician. You can play pop music, or you can play weirder, off the wall stuff. Either choice is fine, but you should understand you probably won’t be able to do it full time and pay your bills with it if you’re writing the literary equivalent of jazz fusion on a banjo.
Write lots. Give yourself permission to suck. Understand you will likely be shit before you’re good, and being shit is okay as long as you’re getting better.
If you want to be a pop music style author (ie, one that pays their mortgage with their book money and gets on bestseller lists and whatnot), understand trends and the market. Understand what makes big books big. Learn how publishing works – not just the writing part. Learn about publishing houses and the rules that govern them. Learn when to follow those rules and when to break them.
Understand an ENORMOUS amount of this industry is based on luck. Anyone who does well as an artist is lucky, authors are no exception. They might be talented and hard working too, but the brutal fact is, talent and hard work aren’t enough. I know a bunch of talented, hard working authors who have never been able to quit their dayjobs. Success as an artist is about many factors, especially luck, and luck is something you can only marginally control. Anyone who tells you different is a fool, liar or selling you something.
So ultimately, don’t do it to get famous. Because ultimately, you can’t control it. Instead, do it because you love it. Because you can’t imagine doing anything else. Because as crazy as it is, and long your odds of success are, creating imaginary worlds and breathing life into imaginary people is a far better use of your time than sitting in front of the fucking television.
The end. FWIW.

4 Responses to “I get asked this question a lot”

  1. brettmichaelorr says:

    I love posts like these. They remind young writers and even young published authors like myself that it’s a hard road, not an impossible one, but a hard road nonetheless.
    And the writing advice here is spot-on, advice I wholeheartedly agree with because I’ve been there. The permission to suck is just right – when my novel, The Bureau of Time, first started life, I didn’t think it would go anywhere. I was ready for failure, in a way of speaking, and it turns out…that was the novel that succeeded more than anything else.
    This is a really smart and clever post, and I agree completely with it – this is about writing because you have to write, because you want to write, and if you do that – pursue that, you’ll find a way of getting people to read your work.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jay!

  2. You just reminded me I should be writing. :p I love your success story, Jay – it gives hope to the rest of us.

  3. This is so true, I know a lot of people that just write “novels” at wattpad because is a trend now (to write) but not because they have an story to tell.
    Also, when I write I find a lot of problems while making my super-incredible universe and I just want to give up but then I remember the reason I started writing that story and I keep writing it.
    This is a really good post, everyone who wants to be a writer should read it!

  4. Jack says:

    Reblogged this on Wyrdwend.

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