(Warning: Language and hardcore de-motivation and motivation. Not for the weak of will.)
A close friend of mine is giving himself 6 months to try to break into the writing industry. Clean slate, just like what I’ve been trying to do for the whole of the year. I’m wishing him all the best of course.
At the same time, I’ve been getting messages and emails from people, asking me how to get into writing and earn money from blogs and books or otherwise. And I am extremely conflicted about this topic.
For one, I want to encourage budding writers to enter the field. But at the same time, I don’t want to be patronizing, where I just simply say, “Oh, just work hard and you’ll eventually succeed!” Because that is simply not true. After all, I am the prime example of that.
This is all so weird, to be asked these questions, since I still have a few questions of my own. I’m not considered a successful writer. After all, all I have is 1 published book which sales is not that amazing. Still, I will try to tell you how to become a writer, and why if you choose to be one for a living (or any art in general), you are screwed.
Writing is hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing, but it’s hard. For every 1000 words which you could put over an hour and all your heart into, it’s entirely possible not a single person would read it. And when they do, it’s very likely that they will hate it instead.
So that’s the first real lesson you have to learn when writing, or doing any form of art possible. People will hate your work. Be prepared to take criticism. Even people close to you will hate you. I have friends and family criticize me for not having a ‘real job’. Who thinks I’m wasting my time by trying to break into writing. And I have to just push through all that. If you cannot do that, you will never be able to walk the path for long.
Second lesson? There should be one somewhere here. Oh! Be ready to be severely disappointed in your reader retention. Most writers with access to analytics of their readerbase will tell you that the retention of readers from chapter 1 is about 0.1% – 1%. So for every 100 people who ‘view’ your first chapter, only 1 will stay on to become a long-time reader.
After that, your readership will degrade by roughly 1% per chapter. Unless you are one of those lucky ducks like J.K Rowling or really entrenched author like Stephen King, you are shit out of luck. Be prepared to constantly come up with new contents from there on then.
Then, once you defeat all the emotional turmoil of insults and low readers, you need to work hard. And I don’t mean ‘sweat for a few days’ hard. Write. Keep writing. And learn how to write. Then keep learning how to write. I’ve been writing for 10 years now, and I still have a ways to go.
I’ve clocked over 700,000 words in that time, and I’ve only managed to publish a little over 150,000. For context, this blog post is just short of 1,000 words. In short, be prepared for 80% of your work to never see the light of day. And once you come to terms with that, continue writing for more of your stuff to never see the light of day.
If you can get pass all that, you now need to know that you must not expect to make money out of this. In traditional publishing, only about 1 in 800 manuscripts sent to the publisher goes through the first round. Half of that makes it after, and a ridiculously small amount will finally be printed. This goes the same for self-publishing, where only 1 in 800 books end up making any decent amount of money.
If you’re going into self-publishing thinking it is easier than traditional, tough luck. There’s just no nice way to say this. Becoming an author is hard. Becoming an author capable of feeding yourself however, is hardcore.
Speaking of luck, there’s also that issue. John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, rejected, and he ultimately committed suicide. That’s also the crazy thing. You could be writing the next big thing, but you might still not get a single reader, simply because, well, life sucks.
If by now, you are thinking, “Well, this all sounds hard!” Yes, it is. And if you’ve noticed, more than half of what I’ve said is related to failure.
I don’t really like rap, but I’ve always appreciated the lyrics from Fort Minor’s Remember the Name, which, to me, perfectly describes the process of writing or art in general.
This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name
Which brings me to my final point. Stephenie Meyers, the “author” of the Twilight series. I want this to be official here.
I hate her.
With a passion.
I seriously hate that woman.
She got lucky. She did not work hard. She have millions of fans. Her writing is terrible. Her stories are below par. She can’t handle criticism. Yet, she is considered a ‘success’.
Remember what Rowling did when she struck it big with Harry Potter? She worked harder, wrote better, and improved herself over the final books. Her works changed the world, creating a following based on heroism and good deeds, bringing together families and shows how love for the fellow living being can triumph over death.
In a short three years, Stephenie Meyer, a pig with stretched face, destroyed all that and created an entire generation of drooling buffoons looking for their ‘one true, incredibly perfect love’.
My point here is this. Fuck Meyer. Wait. No, that’s not the point. But still, fuck Meyer. Because Twilight gave me cancer.
Seriously though, the point is, don’t become like her. Yes, writing is hard. But like the lyrics above states, there’s a 5% pleasure. And that comes when someone reads a story of yours and is touched. When you change lives from a world you’ve created. That’s when the 50% worth of pain pays off. And let me tell you, that 5% is bliss. It’s the best feeling you will ever have. It’s basically drugs.
Most of the time though, if you end up choosing art, be it writing or anything else, you are likely to be screwed in life. You’ll likely work hard for the rest of your life and never have more readers than fingers you can count with. You’ll be chasing that high of success. The greatness of that 5%. Forever. Running without success.
Sometimes though, very, very rarely, you get lucky, and hit it big like those names above. If you do make it big however, make sure what you’re putting out to the world makes it better. Clannad made me renew a love for my family. Harry Potter gave me courage. Velocity gave me hope.
So, how will your story change the world?