In Part One, we covered various ways people can serve an apprenticeship in non-fiction. It’s all about learning the ropes and moving up steadily from being a wannabe writer to becoming a professional. It’s extremely unlikely that you will go from zero to literary hero at your first attempt.
Fiction writers also need to serve an apprenticeship. Almost everyone thinks their first novel is the next Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Catcher in the Rye. Similarly, many kids think they will aspire to sporting greatness. The dreams are important, but the reality can be quite different. You must find some entry into a world that is largely uninterested in new writers.
Short stories are often a good way to learn the craft. Once you have a few published, your chances are higher of getting some attention for your novel. But getting that point can be a long and tough road.
Whether you do short stories or full-length novels, your first attempts are likely to elicit nothing more than a deafening silence or some short form letter rejects. A sign you are making progress is when you get personally written rejects. The next stage (and remember it’s still a reject) is when you receive a few encouraging words. That means a very busy person, whose job it is to wade through piles of manuscripts, thought your material was good enough to merit something more than a “Sorry, not suitable.” I remember getting such a letter many years ago. It helped me to keep going.
Competitions are another possible entry point. But again, many people apply. It becomes clear when you try this avenue that you are against a lot of very good writers. The lucky few may win at the first attempt. But for most of us, it’s a case of working up the ladder of rejection and hoping the breakthrough comes.
One lady I know published her fiction for free online chapter by chapter online and gained a large audience that way. She generated enough hits for her fiction to be able to promote herself successfully to agents.
Another fiction writer friend wrote many novels over a couple of decades before he gained his first sale. However, he was able to sell many of his earlier works after his first work was published.
The point here is to find a way to write, write and write some more. If you write fiction, it will probably take a few hundred thousand words before you come into your own. For non-fiction, dozens of articles are needed to find your feet.
Most writers give up before they get that far. Such a shame.