I realized the other day I can tell you how most of my favorite musicians came to be step by step, but I wouldn’t be able to do the same for my favorite writers. A couple of them I know bits and pieces, but not to the same extent as the musicians.
The musicians I can tell you how they got interested in music, how they got started, and what drew them to their genre. I can show you where their influences pop up in their music and how they’ve made them their own. I can tell you about the early days, trials and tribulations, the just getting started getting to know each other moments to the first gigs. If they did something different, I can usually explain how and why they did it and what influenced them to take those steps.
As a writer who wants to make it as a writer, you would think I would be able to do this over the people on my book shelf not my IPod. Maybe it’s because they’re not in my career choice. I just thought it was interesting I know to look at influences but I wasn’t studying my influences for career models.
There is the advice to make your own path, but you can also look at estabilished people and see what they did to become who they are. I know bits and pieces about my favorite writers. One sold their first book based on character sketches. I was incredibly jealous when I heard that back in college. It seemed like selling a promise that your promise would be good.
Another writer fell into it accidentally. They had an extremely colorful life full of misadventures and trying to find himself. In a college class, he started writing down his experiences (he is a non fiction writer primarily, but still) then performing his essays at an open mic. He’s very good and what makes him is his voice and way of telling the story so it’s universal. He has said at Q and A’s he has no idea how to get an agent because his agent heard him at an open mic. As frustrating as that is, there’s also truth to it. If you’re good and out there, people will find.
Some advice and steps are universal and writers can recite them to you in their sleep. We’ve heard it in every writing class, column, conference, or book we’ve interacted with. Write every day. Know what you like, what you don’t like. Read everything. Write what fascinates you and gives you drive; if you know about it that’s great, if you don’t also great. As long as you get the truth across and make a reader believe and feel that truth.
But what are some of the big steps, the getting out there steps? I’ve been told and felt to write novels you should have shorter fiction published first. It’s kind of like getting by the gate keeper. If you can get a short story published, you’re on your way to becoming a good enough writer you can get your novel published. I know many of my favorite authors published short stories on a regular basis before publishing a novel. I’m throwing around the word “published” like it’s as easy climbing onto the next step. Many non writers feel that way and I think many writers feel that way. It is the next step and it does appear easy which is why I wanted to look at writing career models.
I’m going to look further into them but times have changed since many of them started publishing. Yes it used to be get shorter works published then you’ll have an easier time getting the novel published. We have self publishing now. A manager told me get famous first then write. No problem. I’ll get right on that.
Somethings will still be true. You need an audience. You need to tell a good story and the writers we know and love have become the writers we know and love because of their something different, their voice and way of putting things.