At the request of a colleague, I'm spending some time talking to some writers far, far away that she's working with, and I thought it would be useful to collect the presentation in a blog post for them, and for anyone else who might be interested. You can find all the posts in this series here.
I can't possibly touch on more than a handful of topics in a single session, so I'll just mention a few that I think are important:
* Stages of a Career
* All Writing is Practice
* Read in Your Genre (and Read the Best)
As question/answers are added during the talk, I'll update this.
I'm Karen Myers, and I've been a writer of fantasy and science fiction books for four years. I came to this late, after an official career building computer software and services companies that lasted four decades.
Today I have eight novels in two series and several shorts stories and bundles for a total of twenty titles, and I'm halfway through the first book in a new series. I aim to produce about four novels/year — that's what I did in 2016.
I'm an independent author — all my books are available worldwide, in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats. I'll be bringing most of the audiobook editions out this year (only one is currently available).
As an independent author, I'm in charge of all aspects of publishing, from writing and editing, to layout and formatting, covers, audio recording and production, distribution, marketing, and all the finances of the business. Almost the only thing I don't do myself are the cover backgrounds and titles (though I do the Photoshop work that adds my author name, imprint, and blurb to the work from my cover artist and I make all the output formats). Independents work with various third parties for those parts of the publishing business that they can't or won't do themselves, and different authors have different needs for those services.
This is not the only time I've taken on serious work in the arts. I picked up a violin for the first time in my 30s, and a camera in my 50s, so I know what it's like to go from nothing to reasonably competent. I'm finding it's no different for writing fiction, now that I'm a few years into it. You can see some of my other interests here.
Just about all the best advice I've ever gotten came to me from people just a little further along on the same path, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do the same in my turn.
Stages of a career
I listen to the advice of others, especially those who have been writing for decades. I've only been writing fiction for four years, but I've read thousands of books in my genre and know what I'm aiming at in the stories themselves. From a skills perspective, I think of myself as an early middle-stage writer. I'm past my first million words, but not by much yet, and working on about 400,000 words/year at this point.
One of the hardest things for me when I started was trying to get a feel for what a typical career would be like for someone like me. That's one of the great unknowns — it's not like a business path, where the career goals are well-understood.
People come to writing for all sorts of reasons and with all sorts of goals. I can only talk about how it works for me, and what I've heard from others that resonates with me.
Beginners — Don't get discouraged!
We all start out as beginners. If you love classical music and pick up a violin for the first time, it's a deadly disappointment. Most people give up right away. It's a cliché that all artists think what they're producing is no good, and will never be any good.
Go see part one of this series for more on this topic. You have to understand that the beginning of any career in the arts is like this, and most people feel like unworthy imposters for much or all of their career. You have to learn to just keep on going anyway. If you just keep at it, and work on improving, you really will get better. It works for writing just like it does for everything else in life.
Got a few books done? — Believe that it will get easier to live with the anxiety.