by Ron Vitale
I read Why Jessica Lawlor Gave Up Her Dream of Writing a Novel (For Now) and wanted to share a different perspective. I have reached the mid-career point and thought I would share my experiences as a counterpoint to Jessica's excellent article. When I finished school back in 1996, I had dreams of being a novelist and then the reality of my school loans hit home. I made a conscious choice, very much like Jessica's, to put my novel writing on hold. Many years passed until I decided to write and actually publish my books.
Define Your Goal and Work Hard
Early in my career, I realized that I needed to make a decision. The reality of life had set in. I wanted to write novels, but needed money to pay my bills. Choosing to put fiction writing on hold, I worked full-time and opted to write freelance articles on the side. In my best year, I brought home $1,900 in writing and then needed to reassess my goals. I still had not made time to write a book and I saw many of the markets that I sold my freelance articles to go out of business.
I again decided to focus on my full-time job and dropped writing. Yes, I wrote blogs and the occasional article, but my fiction writing languished. I had neglected to set a goal for myself and stick to it.
Be Honest with Yourself
When I look back at my early 20s, I now know how unprepared I was for the challenges in life. I skirted around the big question that I believe is essential for every writer to ask him/herself:
Why do I want to write a book?
If the answer is to be famous and make lots of money, I would advise you to give up now and save yourself the heartache. Yes, some writers make it big and find success, but for every Amanda Hocking there are thousands of people who are unknown.
We can all dream of making it big, but that could take years and there are hard decisions to make:
- Do you wish to have a family?
- What is your financial risk tolerance?
They are all difficult questions that only the individual writer can answer. I chose to have a family and opted for stable income. For me, that meant that my day job would be my main career and that writing would be secondary.
Never Give Up the Dream
Once I made the decision to work full-time and focus on my career, years passed and I came up against the big 40th birthday. I realized that my life could be more than half over and I had not seriously begun to write. I had taken the safe route and worked really hard on everything in my life except writing the books that were in me.
I realized that now had to be the time. The secret to writing a novel is that no matter if you're single or married with children there will never be enough time to write. It took me more than a decade to figure that out. And that's my cautionary tale: I wish I would have thrown caution to the wind and started working on my books when I was younger so that I could focus on my craft as a fiction writer. I found it extremely difficult to adjust from writing freelance articles to planning and writing an 85,000 plus manuscript. The skillset is different and the challenges and need for persevrance are worlds apart.
Change Starts Today
One day I woke up and made a promise to myself. I would write my next book. It didn't hurt that I had an idea that just wanted to burst out of me. Lost: Cinderella's Secet Diary took me 18 months to write and publish whereas the sequel took me 12 months. Practice, dedication and failure helped fuel me. Now when I ask myself: Why do I want to write a novel? I know the answer. I simply must because I have stories that I want to share with readers.
I regret that I didn't forcus more on novel writing during the lost years, but I'm making up for lost time. I have less free time now than I did then, but priorities have changed. And that's made all the difference to me. My advice to people who want to write a novel is to embrace it now. With the industry changing so dramatically, not only will you need to hone your writing skills, but you'll also need to learn the business of writing and that takes years.