There’s a meme going around on Livejournal about being a professional writer, with a ton of questions about how, when, and how long. It put me in mind of the fact that any number of times, I’ve had people ask how long I’ve been writing/how long it took me to learn to write/how long it took me to get published. That, combined with David’s post yesterday about the realities of writing as a way of making a living, made this seem like a reasonably good post for today.
If you go read my answers to the meme, I look like a bloody overnight success story, as far as these things go. To summarize, I got serious about submitting work in late 2002, got a 3 book contract 14 months later, had my first book on the shelves in June 2005, and have in the 3.5 years since then put out 11 books.
But how long has it taken? My whole life. An ambition to *be* a writer from childhood on. Years of writing a book a year before I got published. Years and _years_ of online roleplaying, which is perhaps not the best way to develop a writing style, but it’s not the worst way either. They say it takes a million bad words before you’re ready to be a professional writer (which is, in my opinion, both crap and has a grain of truth to it), and I did a million words a year for *years* (I added it up once) with online RP. It teaches you to plot on the fly, to respond to unexpected story developments, all kinds of useful things. (It also, with the groups I played with, taught me to write really really long sentences and abuse semi-colons: like I said, not all good!)
While I do know people who’ve published their first novels, it’s the exception. Mostly this is a long term commitment long before it becomes any kind of paying job. A friend of mine who colors comics for a living commented on my blog that it was astounding how much work and effort went into this kind of creative job, and how incredibly long it takes to start making anything like the kind of money you might have made at a “real” job. That’s a vicious truth to the whole matter. On the other hand, we keep doing it. It must be worth it.