Lesson 2: Anyone can do it, hah!
There’s a widely held assumption that writing a book can’t be all that hard. After all, everyone can write, can’t they? We write stuff every day of our lives.
At conventions and writing festivals I often meet people who assume writing is easy. They say, “I’m going to write a book one day when I get the time,” or “I’m going to take six months off and write a novel, then I’ll use the advance to write full time/go round the world/pay off the mortgage.”
No matter your command of English, writing a novel isn’t easy and, even after you’ve been doing it for a few years, you’re still a learner. If you want to be a successful writer, be prepared to work as hard, and as long, as if your ambition is to be a violinist in an orchestra, a professional cricketer or a brain surgeon. Rarely, someone will write a book and get it published straight away, but that’s unusual. I was once in a roomful of writers when that question was asked, and only 3 writers raised their hands. Most writers work for 5-10 years before getting their first novel published (my first took 9 years).
Remember the 10,000-hour rule, which has been around for decades if not centuries. 10K hours is roughly how much work and practice it takes to most people become truly accomplished in any field, whether it be sporting, creative or professional. Sure, there are exceptions, and geniuses, but look behind most geniuses and you’ll find a lot of perspiration. 10,000 hours is 5 years of full-time, focused hard work with no distractions or, more commonly, 7-10 typical working years. To become a virtuoso, triple that amount of work.
I’d done over 14,000 hours of fiction writing by the time my first series, The View from the Mirror, was published in 1998. But I’m slow.
I’m up to 40,000 hours now and I’m definitely not a virtuoso. I still hate my first drafts, and when I pick up any of my published books (usually based on the 10thdraft, sometimes the 20th) I see things that could be done better on every page. I’m constantly reading about the art of storytelling, constantly studying it and how other writers write their novels, trying to gain new insights into how stories work and the best way to tell them, yet sometimes I feel I’m only scratching the surface. I’m amazed at how much there is to learn – yet excited, too.
Storytelling a wonderful way to make a living, and spend a life. I wish your all the best in your own efforts to master the craft.