So, how have I accomplished this? What is my particular recipe for success?
100g of Maths
Hemingway said you needed to write 1,000,000 words before you were publishable. Okay. I’ve written 5 books. That’s 500,000 words. Plus short stories this last year. Call that 30,000 with all the rewrites. Blogging for a year, four years at university years ago if I can count that… All in all I’ve probably raked up 700,000 words. I’d say once you hit the half million mark, you are seriously on your way.
Someone else said it took 10,000 hours of practise to become the top of your field – an outstanding sportsman or great concert pianist. Okay. For the last 6 years I’ve probably written a minimum of 15 hours a week, minus 2 weeks hols. 50 weeks x 15 = 750, 750 x 6 years = 4500 hours. Plus all the extra stuff – uni etc – I’ve probably racked up around 6000-7000 hours. So, again, whilst there’s still great room for improvement, I’d say rack up around 5000 hours of writing practise and that first rung of the ladder should be in sight.
50g of Networking
Networking in itself will get you nowhere if the writing is not good enough. But it will open doors into getting your work read, hearing about new agents setting up and looking for clients, making friends with other writers who will introduce you to their agents. Over the years, through contacts, I have had large chunks of my novel read by certain agents. They’ve never offered me a deal, clearly I wasn’t ready yet – but their feedback was always invaluable. Join an online forum and get to know other writers on Facebook. Blog. Attend literary events. Get yourself out there.
50g of Feedback
Join an online workshop. Upload your work to get critique and, just as importantly, critique other writers’ work – it will teach you a lot. Over the years I’ve also had several editorial reports done, from which I’ve probably learnt the most.
I medium-sized eye for the market
Don’t write in a vacuum. Keep an eye on what is selling in your genre.
A pinch of madness
Only a fool would put themselves through years of rejection, right? Treat with large quantities of chocolate and Chardonnay.
Ice with a huge dollop of determination and sprinkle with sweat and tears.
For some the recipe is more straightforward and may contain nothing more than an appearance on a celebrity reality show and a ghostwriter. But for most of us, the combination of ingredients is more complex. Whatever your own personal recipe turns out to be, I wish you the best of luck. Don’t give up. The final taste is worth it.