For Most Writers, It Is Always Tight…
But the question is real and wow do I remember a ton of years where I had an intense desire to learn and no money. How do you keep learning?
Now, some background on me. I went to three years of law school. I paid my way through college by playing on blackjack teams. I also tended bar and drove school bus and owned a bookstore. Yup, did all of that while going to law school.
I got done with law school and my own desire was to be a writer, not a lawyer. But I had spent all the money and three years of intense work and focus to go through three years of law school and end up only wanting to be a writer, so one day I decided that I would give writing the same focus, the same money, the same intense desire as I gave law school.
But I was no longer playing blackjack, and was newly married. So money was tight, but I managed the same focus and intensity.
Here is how I did it…
- I bought every how-to-write-fiction book I could find. Sometimes got only one or two details out of the book, but still worth the cost.
- I typed in the opening pages of every major writer that I read.
- I wrote a lot, picking up speed as I went along. (My first two written novels were written on a typewriter in 30 days each, about 70,000 words each.)
- I went to every convention to talk with professional writers and editors that I could get to. Sometimes shared rooms with up to seven other writers, often had no money for food, so I grazed the food tables at the convention suites and parties. Many days all I ate was peanuts.
- I sold short stories to anywhere that paid a decent rate. Sometimes that few hundred bucks was enough to get me to a convention.
- I hung around with other writers of my level who were as driven as I was.
- I shared information with other writers through an APPA format. All of us in that information sharing group went on to be bestsellers.
- I lived as cheaply as I could. No car payment, $200 apartment, spent little on food, every extra buck was used to mail a manuscript to an editor or get to a convention.
- I got rid of every friend or family member that didn’t support what I was doing. Sometimes that was the hardest of it all. I was married and divorced twice mostly because they just got in the way of me being me and the writing.
I other words, I wanted it. I did this over years and years and years.
Money or no money, you can still learn to be a fiction writer and sell on an international level if you want it bad enough. Money helps in some places. Just like money was required for me to go to law school. Learning an international art form takes respect and drive and time.
As I often say, the reason I am where I am at is because I have worked harder than anyone else. And I still do.
Why? Because I will never take what I have earned and learned for granted.
Below is a picture of me in early 1988, with an envelope with a large check in it (half advance on my first novel that was like $3,000 for the half, but was such huge money for me at the time (in my $200 apartment) that Kris and I celebrated in a hotel in New York while seeing our agents and editors for the first time. A trip we could not afford without that check.)