Monday, April 14, 2014

My advice to those who want to be writers

I'm not a very successful writer. As Kambei says in Seven Samurai, "I've been in a lot of battles, lost most of them."

So I was somewhat surprised when one of the young men I know as a gamer asked for advice on how to become a writer. I guess I am officially old, I used the geezer phrase "young men." Here is my advice.

I have a bunch of practical advice, here goes. It takes a while to both develop your talent - your "voice" - and to find a market. Most writers have to have a day job in the early part of their careers. Asimov was a chemistry professor, I do believe. Stephen King was a high school English teacher. So develop a day job to fall back on. Next, write every damn day, no exceptions. Carry a small notebook with you at all times to note down ideas. Learn how to touch-type. Either submit to magazines, agents, and publishers or self-publish what your write. Preferably do both. Get it out there, but only put it out after you're satisfied with it. Proofread everything. If you aren't a prolific reader, you're not going to be a writer. You have to love to read, you have to read a lot to be a writer. You need to read widely in history, science, contemporary fiction, and genre fiction. Be prepared to switch genres. Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then switched to contemporary crime fiction. Lastly, develop a thick skin. People WILL talk shit about your work, especially agents and editors. Learn to take what you need from the criticism while letting it slide off your back. Don't take the positive comments too seriously, either, especially those made by friends and family. I think that's it. Remember, day job, write every day, submit or self-publish what you write when it's ready, read constantly, and don't take criticism or praise too seriously. Hope that helps. Good luck!

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.