I am often asked for advice on how to become a traditionally published writer and the answer is always the same. I don’t have any platitudes to hand you. I don’t have any formulas I follow. This is what I do:
1. I read voraciously (and not just one genre!). Writers have to read. If you don’t read like crazy you have no business trying to write. Sorry.
2. I write. Even if it’s absolute crap – I write. For the most part I write something every day. When I don’t write every day, I write something every few days. Except for vacations. Then and only then I’ll take a week off and not write anything.
3. Finish what you write. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. If you can write something from the beginning to the middle to the end, that’s half the battle right there. Many would be writers just never finish anything.
4. Edit what you write. No author, no matter how good or how famous, ever got away without editing. We all need editors and we all need to revise our work (sometimes several passes are necessary). Accept that and you’ll learn to love the revision/editing process. For most authors – this is where we do our best work. (Yes, I just said first drafts are crap – even Stephen King’s.)
5. Once you’ve done numbers 2-4 above, find a market and submit it. If it gets rejected, find a new market and submit it again. Continue this until you run out of markets, then throw it into inventory (just in case a new market shows up) and move on.
6. Start writing the next thing. No author ever made a living on selling one thing and chances are you won’t sell the first few novels or stories you write anyway.
7. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It’s really that simple. You want to be successful you’ll follow steps 1-7 religiously, you’ll be persistent, and you’ll eventually find yourself published.
Now if you want advice on how to sustain a writing career, find an audience, go indie and other such things – those are different balls of wax.
It seems to me a lot of people who approach me are writers who don’t write. Or they only have one or two books in them. Or they write all the time, but never finish anything. Or they write a great deal but never submit anything. Sometimes you just have to piss or get off the pot. Your choice.