Steps Toward Becoming a Writer

Are there discrete steps or stages between non-writer and writer? Do all writers tread the same path?

I got thinking about that after reading Ani Chibukhchyan’s guest post on thewritepractice.com. She claimed to have passed through seven stages in becoming a writer, and guessed all writers climbed the same set of stairs.

Her stages were: Keeping your writing to yourself, Wanting to share your writing, Hiding behind a pen name, Waiting for permission, Coming out, Insecure introductions, and I am a writer.

With due respect to Ms. Chibukhchyan, the steps I went through don’t entirely match hers, though there is some overlap. Moreover, I suspect there are considerable differences in the stages among all writers. Here are the steps I took:

Step 1. My novel will be a best-seller.

I had the world’s best idea for a novel. Sure, I’d never written anything for publication before, but how hard could it be? After all, getting a killer idea was the most important and difficult part, right?

Step 2. Writing is harder than I thought.

It turned out, having a “killer” idea was not the most difficult part. Not even close. My prose was so bad, even I couldn’t stand the stench. I needed help. I went to writer’s conferences, read how-to books about writing, joined critique groups, and took writing classes. Good! Now I was on my way.

Step 3. When will this %&@!^# novel ever be done?

Novels, it seemed increasingly clear, are long. Reading a novel took some time, but nowhere close to the time it took to write one. Who knew? I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote some more. Before I knew it, twenty years had passed. That’s no typo; I meant twenty (20) years.

Step 4. Should I try short stories instead?

At some point in those two decades, I wondered if I should try something else. Short stories might not be any easier, but they were…well, shorter. Perhaps I could get a few shorts published, establish a vast readership that way, and they’d be clamoring for me to write a novel.

Step 5. Do I dare submit this?

I was done with my first short story, and my finger hovered over the Enter key, the button that would submit the story to a market. Was it ready? Was it my best work? Should I spend a little more time editing? Had I caught all the errors?

Step 6. Drowning in rejections.

After overcoming the fear of submitting, and after embracing Robert Heinlein’s Rules, I submitted story after story to market after market. At one point, I had fourteen stories out there. Problem is, I was getting nothing but rejections. All nicely worded, but still. Dejection set in, along with the feeling that I just wasn’t cut out to be a writer. Until…

Step 7. Wow! I got accepted!

There’s nothing like that first acceptance. If only someone could bottle and sell that feeling. First comes the acceptance e-mail, then the contract, then some edits to fix, and then seeing the book come out, with your name in it! I’ve had over thirty more acceptances since then, but still get excited with each one.

Step 8. I’m a writer.

Well, I’m a short story writer, anyway. No novel yet. No movie deals. No legions of adoring fans (that I know of). Still, I’m several steps above where I started. It feels good up here.

More steps remain for me, I’m sure. I’ll update my stair-stepping journey in a future blog post. What have your steps been like? I can almost guarantee the steps for you will be different than they were for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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