From 2006 – 2010, I wrote for the site Fiction Scribe on the 451 network (neither are now operating). This post is from that time. Because of that, some comments may be dated.
I’ll do both.
Short answer: Run! Run fast and run far. Get a job – a real job. One that will keep your stress level low and your family fed and housed.
Long answer: People think that writing is easy. And it is. What could be easier than sitting down and typing your thoughts? All it takes is a basic command of the English language and the ability to type. Yes, writing is easy.
Getting published is one of the hardest things in the world to do!
Getting published requires more than just having some basic English skills. It means having above-average language skills. Knowing the difference between you’re and your, or its and it’s. Knowing you can’t depend on spell check. Knowing how to build sentences, then craft those sentences together into interesting paragraphs, and then place those paragraphs in an order that makes sense when read.
It means having more than just a 1-sentence idea. A writer has to create believable characters and situations, has to be able to get the reader to suspend disbelief when the hero is chasing a vampire or ghost. And then there is dialog. People don’t all speak exactly the same, so the characters in a book need to have their own ‘voices.’ A book must also contain description. You can’t just say the character took a walk in the park. You have to make the reader feel as if he or she is in that park, smelling the flowers, tasting the ice cream cone, feeling the breeze on their skin. And don’t forget sub-plots: is the main character going through a divorce in addition to chasing the monster? Is he or she suffering from an illness? Falling in love with the wrong person? About to lose a job? Books are like a house of cards, or a puzzle – fitting different pieces together in the hopes of creating something that is not only interesting, but makes sense.
Okay, so let’s say you’ve beaten the odds and finished a book that meets all the basic requirements: well-written, with a good plot and believable characters. Does that mean your job is done? Heck no! Now you’ve got to find someone to publish it. “But JG,” I hear you say, “Can’t I just publish it myself on Amazon or pay to have it printed?” Sure – if you want to get lumped in with a bazillion other people, 99.9% of whom can’t do what you did – write well. Thanks to self-publishing, the internet is littered with books written by people who don’t have a fifth-grade grasp of English. So, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to get a real book publisher to publish you. And by real I mean a company that actually gives you cash in order to publish your book. Unless you’re just interested in writing for fun, you should get paid for your hours and hours of hard work.
So, finding a publisher. Easier said than done. The book publishers who actually pay their writers get hundreds – if not thousands – of submissions from writer EVERY MONTH. A first-time writer has as much chance of getting noticed as a brown rock at the bottom of a river. So you submit. And submit. And submit. And you keep doing it until someone finally notices your genius. Sometimes it happens with the first book. Sometimes you have to writer 3 or 4 or more before one of them catches an editor or agent’s eye. In my case, I wrote 3 additional novels and countless short stories while waiting for my first novel to get picked up by a publisher. Five years, from the time I wrote it to the time I sold it. After that, things picked up a bit. But my case isn’t unusual. I know writers who’ve sold their first novel in less than a year, and some who waited 10 years before getting that first big break.
So, what’s the point of all this gloomy news? Being a writer is easy. Being a published writer is really, really hard. You need a thick skin to deal with the rejections. You need to continually hone your skills and do whatever you can to be the best you can be. You need to work hard not only at your writing but also your submitting. And you need a lot of patience. On top of that, a dose of good luck is also a necessity.
Is it worth it? Well, I won’t deny there’ve been times when I just wanted to say the hell with it and focus on my photography and music hobbies. I’ve felt rejected and dejected. I’ve wanted to toss the computer out the window and shout to the world, I give up! I suck!
But then magic happens. You get that acceptance letter, the one that says we love your book and we want to give you money so we can publish it. And they do. And then readers send you emails saying how much they like it. And you not only feel vindicated, you feel ecstatic. It’s a rush that lasts for months, and gives you the confidence to write the next book. And the next. It’s like hitting a homerun every day, or a hole in one every time you play golf.
Writers, like athletes, movie stars, rock stars, artists, etc., are a bit narcissistic. We want to entertain people, we want to make people laugh and cry and hide in fear. And we want to hear people say they love our books. When that happens, there’s nothing better.
So, if all of this sounds like something you’re up for, then sit down and start writing. Because if there’s one piece of advice every writer will give you, it’s this: Write, write, write. And then write some more. It’s the only way you’ll get good enough to get published.
JG Faherty has a varied background that includes working as a laboratory manager, accident scene photographer, zoo keeper, research scientist, and resume writer. Growing up in the haunted Hudson Valley region of New York, some of his favorite playgrounds were abandoned houses and Revolutionary War cemeteries. His hobbies include urban exploring, photography, exotic animal rehabilitation, and playing the guitar. In addition to Cemetery Club, 2012 will see two other books published, The Cold Spot and He Waits. His past novels include Carnival of Fear and Ghosts of Coronado Bay. You can find out more by visiting www.jgfaherty.com, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, or www.twitter.com/jgfaherty.