As part of the Dangerously Placed blog tour, Nansi Kunze has honored us with her digital presence here at Inklings Read! It is wonderful to have such a talented author stop by and give us some insight into her development as an author as well as some advice for aspiring authors.
Nansi’s Thoughts on becoming an authorI wasn’t one of those kids who dreams of becoming a writer one day. As a teenager, I didn’t really give my career plans much thought – to be honest, I mostly just thought about boys. But I was good at foreign languages, so I decided to become a language teacher. It was only after teaching for a couple of years that the idea of being a writer began to entice me. Once I’d started writing, though, I quickly became addicted to it. Creating my own worlds, making characters do – and be – anything I wanted: what a rush! I soon learned, however, that writing a novel and becoming a published author are two entirely different things. Of course, you can get the writing rush without anyone ever reading your work; writing purely for your own enjoyment is cool too. But if you really want to be a published author, here are some things you might want to bear in mind:
Only a complete idiot would become a novelist for the money! Most novelists only earn a few thousand dollars a year. So you’ll probably need a steady day-job to support your writing habit (I recommend plumbing – it seems to have worked well for Mario).
It usually takes years to become a published author. Just like any other profession, you have to train and practice for a long time to become any good at it. I started writing my first novel in 2000. My first published novel hit the shelves in 2008 – and many writers have to wait longer than that!
Writing a novel means spending months shut up alone with your computer. And then more months fixing up what you wrote the first time. And then more months fixing up what you wrote the second time. And then … well, you get the idea.
So, are you still interested? Then here’s my advice:
Aspiring authors are often told to ‘write what you know’. Possibly more important, though, is writing what you like. I started out trying to write for adults, and it just didn’t work, because that wasn’t really what I liked. I liked reading YA, playing video games and watching the TV shows my high school students watched … so when I began to write YA instead, it felt so much more me. Don’t limit yourself to one genre when you start writing – try a few out, and see which ones fit you.
Successful writers have to walk a fine line between overconfidence and self-doubt. If you want to be an author you have to believe in your ability and the value of what you’re writing in order to keep working at it. But you also have to accept that what you write won’t be perfect. The first novel manuscript I wrote was awful – most first novels are, though I didn’t know that at the time. It took me over a year to write, and it really hurt to hear that it wasn’t all that great! But, looking back, my readers were right. Find yourself some readers who know good writing, and whose opinion and objectivity you can trust. Only let them read your work when you’re ready to hear what they really think. If it’s bad news, go wallow in self-pity (preferably with ice cream) for a few days, and maybe start a new writing project. By the time you’re ready to take a look at your work again, you may well find that your readers’ assessment is useful to you.
Setting goals can be helpful when writing – after all, if you never finish a manuscript, you’re never going to get it published! But goals need to be flexible, too. You’ll need to do several drafts, you may get stuck at some point, and you might need time away from the manuscript – possibly months – before you can see it clearly enough to improve it. (You could also consider sending it to a professional manuscript assessment agency for another viewpoint.)
And finally, remember that you’re writing for the love of it. If you’re finding a chapter less than fun to write, chances are it’s going to be boring to read too – think about changing or removing it. If you’re finding your whole project isn’t enjoyable, put it away and start something else. Don’t despair if that happens. Being an author is totally worth the huge amount of time and effort it takes, because you get to do what you love and share your worlds with thousands of other people. Hearing that your first novel sucks? Yeah, that’s painful. But hearing that a reader you’ve never met loves your latest book? That’s priceless.