So you want to be a successful author? You want to be up there with Brown, Archer, King, but what price are you prepared to pay? You might be lucky and your first book could be an overnight success but the chances are you'll be hacking it for years before success knocks.
If you decided to become a lawyer, an accountant, a bricklayer, or even to start an 'ordinary' business then you would be prepared to make sacrifices, to invest in the future. Why expect it to be different??
The amount of effort you put into your apprenticeship will dictate how successful you will be as a fully fledged tradesman, a successful author!
Are you prepared to spend a year putting a novel together to have it rejected by not one, not two, not three but four publishers? Are you prepared to take the novel sit down and do a major rewrite! If you are then you might, just might, be more successful second time around.
Harder still are your prepared to accept that the book just doesn't hack it and bin it!
There are very few real overnight successes: role up your sleeves and do some hard graft, learn the trade. Then you'll succeed.
Competitions are a good starting point. You are continuously challenged to meet deadlines. You should aim to enter at least one competition a month and you should aim to enter all the major competitions for new writers. For details on current competitions see my website http://www.abcwritersnetwork.co.uk/competitions.htm Remember that as far as major competitions are concerned you can 'win' without collecting the first prize, though that would be nice! Get a good mention and it will do your career the world of good. Publishers are often asked to judge competitions, think name recognition.
Competitions also help you understand what it is you are doing wrong, and what it is you are doing right. Contact the winner, congratulate them on their success, ask them for a copy of the winning entry and see how it differed from yours.
When entering a competition you are effectively asking someone's advice, you are asking them is my entry the best in the bunch. And they will say either yes or no! The price here is rejection.
If possible get your own personal critic. Your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling. Anyone as long as they are prepared to give you a good, fair, honest opinion and not just say for an easy life, 'that's a fantastic story.' If they're not prepared to give it to you, warts and all, then let them wait until they eventually see your name in print.
A good place to find honest critics is at your local writing group. Join one, join two - but join! Some people underestimate these groups; think that they are just a bundle of middle age women playing at writing. In many cases that is correct but there is always one or two serious authors there and it is those you want to meet. Together you can knock ideas of one another. Believe me you will learn and grow.
You wouldn't dream of becoming a lawyer or a doctor without buying the books necessary to study. Granted you'll not buy them all, you'll borrow some, perhaps most, from the university library but there are key books you'll need throughout your career and these you will buy and use again and again.
Why on earth are you not prepared to invest in your chosen career by buying your own trade books? I've given a list of the most popular ones over on my website. They're not all essential, like all reference books there is some cross over. But please: beg, borrow or steal (no skip that last one!) at least three of them. I've suggested the main ones. It's all part of the price.
You've decided on the genre you're going to specialize in. You have, haven't you!! Well then make it a point to read at least one, if not two, books in that genre each week.
We all like to go to our local library and borrow books, and I'm all for supporting my local library. Be honest though, they are totally under-funded and while my librarians are wonderful they can't come up with the goods.
I'm not suggesting buying a new book every week but I do suggest buying one every four to six weeks. You must keep up with what the market is producing. My site carries information on what is current - http://www.abcwritersnetwork.co.uk/reviews.htm.
For those of us who are forty plus tax there is the added danger of reading what we like: be careful, ask yourself the question would your favourite author hack it today?
Consider collecting the works of a particular (modern) author who you appreciate and admire and don't be afraid to use the yellow marker, after all they are text books, not collector's items.
What ever you do, don't try to be the same.. Why be a second rate Stephen King, or Jeffery Archer when you can be an original!
© Kevin Hart MA BA(hons) ABC Writers Network 2005
ABC Writers Network: an indispensable resource for creative writers with competitions, suggestions, reviews and general market advice.