I was asked today, for perhaps the hundredth time, whether I have any advice to offer a new writer, or someone just starting out toward a career in writing. There is so much I could have said, and other things I wish I'd said, but figured upon arriving home that this should be the topic of my first blog post for my new website. Below I have accumulated the finest points of wisdom my short experience in publishing has taught me.
You are not a new writer
As artists, we have a tendency to pull ourselves down where no one else can do it. It's just as damaging. If you are considering, or driven to, a career in writing, chances are that you are not a new writer. Chances are that you have always done this, or have for a very long time. Not yet having a book in print or not having told anyone before that you write does not make you new. New has other connotations, like 'inexperienced', 'unseasoned' and 'not to be taken too seriously'. So don't sell yourself short. If you write, you are a writer.
Write what you want to read
If you love something - a genre, a trope, a character archetype, a style, a format, whatever - then chances are that someone else loves it, too. I really think this is so important. Regardless if zombie pirate reverse harem is the hottest stuff right now, if you don't care for it, don't bother writing it. You'll probably miss the trend anyway by the time you're done snoozing your way through your draft, and your lack of passion and knowledge of the genre will show through to the readers at the other end. If you love the book you are writing, you will want to work on it even when the going gets tough. And if you love what you are writing, your excitement and passion for it will come through when you talk to prospective readers.
Be prepared to fail indefinitely
If this statement makes you feel uneasy, a career in the arts is not for you. Creation is the end product of experimentation and playfulness with concepts and ideas that rarely pan out. No one talks about the hard drive full of unfinished stories that belong to the bestselling debut author; no one thinks about the stacks of sketchbooks on the shelf of the graphic artist receiving her first paid commission or the thousands of throwaway jingles, tunes and riffs played by the fingers of a 'new' musician. Success is built on foundations of failure. Failure, therefore, is good; it is also necessary and infinite. Rejections, writers block, judgemental looks, mean reviews and zero feedback are all part of the game. They make you better, but if you don't like them, don't play.
Learn and improve, always
Even the best writer you can think of did not start out that way. They have read widely and analytically to understand what their idols and competitors have done before them. They reread their own work and look for ways to make it better. They do their own edits before they send on to the editor. They go to talks, network with others in the industry, listen, ask questions. Neither you nor I are the best writer in the world, and we are not yet the best writer we could be. If you're asking for advice on how to become a professional writer, a good starting and ending point is to treat your writing in a professional manner. Invest in upskilling your one and only staff member (that's you!) and like any workforce you will see the results in the quality of the output.
These are the biggest lessons I have learned as an author. I am certain that there are many more still to come as I continue learning, experiencing and growing in this career, but for anyone who was just opening their mouth to ask the question, and even for those who weren't, this is the advice I give to 'new' writers. Do with it what you wish, but all the best to you regardless <3