Part of the 52 Week Blog Challenge
My biggest dream – or ambition – in life is the same now as it was when I was seven: to make a living by writing and publishing novels. This blog post is actually
slightly very delayed because I was busy taking steps to fulfil this dream by attending a course on how best to write an attention-grabbing query letter and submission pack.
The desire to become an author is the first decision I remember making about my life. My Year 3 teacher, Mrs. Goode, told me I had a talent for writing and pointed out that, behind all of the books I was reading, there was an author who wrote them – who did it as a job. I loved reading; I can’t explain how much books have influenced the way I see the world, how much they’ve shaped the person I am today. Growing up in a socially conservative family, I consider books at least half the reason I’m an unabashed liberal.
Books open your mind to concepts you might not experience in real life; some can teach tolerance, shape your views on taboo subjects before you even experience them. They test your mettle, your values, the way you think and feel, and they never stop teaching you how to look at life from someone else’s perspective. To quote George R. R. Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
Well, I’ve lived a thousand lives and I’ll live a thousand more, but I want to contribute to the ocean of worlds that live inside books. That’s my dream, to just reach one reader and open their minds (whilst having fun at the same time, of course).
The problem comes in realising this dream. My perspective on reality is slightly different from when I was seven. Back then, I thought I just had to bash out a book, send it off, someone would give me a pat on the back and a chunk of pocket money, and I was all set.
I won’t lie, part of me still hopes that’ll happen, but that’s not the way this works. Writing is a hard slog, and for this reason, I’m grateful my seven year old self had this conversation with my parents:
Me: I want to be a writer when I grow up.
Parents: That’s great, but you’ll have to get a real job too.
Writing books is a real job, but it’s a fickle mistress. It’s an ideal job, which is what my parents were trying to tell me. It’s the dream job, and dreams don’t come true unless you’re willing to work for it.
Even if you manage to write a book, you have to:
- Edit it.
- Once you’re done editing, you need to edit again.
- Then you need to send it off to a literary agent
- And again
- And again, until someone says yes.
- If no one says yes, you might have to edit your manuscript again,
- Or write an entirely new book.
- If you do get a literary agent, hurrah! But then the real work begins.
- They send it off to publishers.
- If no one bites, then that’s that. You have to start from scratch with a new book.
- If they do bite, you still have to go through even more edits to get your work to a saleable level, and even then something can go wrong.
- And if your book manages to get on the shelf? Well, well done!
- But that doesn’t mean anyone will buy it.
- And if they do buy it? They might not even like it!
- And then, when you write a new novel, you have to go through the process all again…
- And you probably won’t even make enough from the deal that you can quit your job and write full time.
I bet this dream is sounding a bit like a nightmare, right? I know.
Fortunately, I have a thick skin and I’m more than a little bullheaded. Most importantly, I love writing. If I never got paid, if I never got published, I would still write because I have to – it’s who I am. I have a day job, thanks to my parents firmly fixing my head on my shoulders, which I enjoy well enough, but it’s nothing compared to how happy I’d be if I realised the dream of being a published author who earns enough from their writing to live on that alone. I’ll keep fighting for it and hey, maybe one day, I’ll get there.