So one of the reasons I’m hanging out here in Europe is so I can work on my writing career. Ha! Career! Anyway, writing is tough and making money from writing is even tougher. Here, then, is a quick reflection on what I’ve learned, lost and succeeded at over the past couple of years.
1. If you don’t write anything, you can’t submit anything.
I know this shouldn’t be earth-shattering news. But it’s so easy to sit around thinking “I should be writing” and then having a beer or reading a book or having a beer while reading a book instead.
But if you don’t write anything, you can’t publish anything!
I sent a bunch of old stuff off in 2014 and had quite a few pieces published. Literally all I had to do was send them out into the world to the right markets and they got picked up. Who knew! But I didn’t write anything new, so 2015 was a bit spare on the submission front. I was scared to write without the backup of my writing group. How would I know if it was any good? That took a while to get over. Now I spam my friends with my short stories and demand that they take a red pen to them. That has been working pretty well! Thank you friends!
2. If you don’t submit anything, you can’t publish anything.
I’ve been writing for a long, long time. And every year I’d start off by giving myself a big stern talking to and say, hey, you, writer person, you better bloody submit something this year. And every year I’d submit one story. Tops. In a good year. But you know what really helps getting published? Submitting something to be published! Again, not rocket surgery.
In 2014 I submitted several stories and kept submitting them until they got picked up. And they all (except one) got published in the end. 2016 has been a pretty good year for publication, too. Because I actually submitted stories! I did my research, pitched them to appropriate journals, and they were accepted. It was almost too easy, once I got off my arse and actually started.
3. Starting a novel is easy. Finishing a novel is hard.
I’ve started and abandoned two novels in the past three years. Both needed to be started and abandoned. I learned a lot. But novel number three is well under way and only needs about ten days of writing to finish the first draft. It’s been in this position since about March of this year.
Finishing a novel is hard.
I really want to get it done before C gets back from Vietnam, so I can have achieved something. It’s good to have a deadline. There are no excuses. Just get it done! But when you’re this close to the finish line, it’s easy to just take a seat on the track. Not everyone is like this. But I am like this. There’s never a better moment to give up than when I can see the finish line. It’s a sad but true story. But I will finish this novel, and I’ll tell you all about it shortly.
So that’s it. I’ve had short stories accepted in some good journals, and published some non-fiction in commercial markets. I’m three-quarters through the first draft of my first novel. It doesn’t seem like much, when I put it like that. I’ve also published nearly 400 blog posts, but fuck knows how that happened.
This is it.
This is what a writing life looks like.