Last week I spoke at Career Day at a local high school. I’m the last person to enjoy public speaking, but when it comes to talking books or writing, I have no problems at all and was looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with young writers. The night before I was to speak, I asked fellow authors on Facebook for words of wisdom to pass on to these aspiring authors. I received some great suggestions.
I started off the Facebook list with “get a real job first” which was echoed by a few people, but aptly revised by one author to “earn a degree/learn a profession to earn you a steady paycheck while you are writing your books.”
“Never give up. No matter how long it is taking. You never can tell how close you are to having that big break until it actually arrives. Took me twenty-four years.” Kendra here: This is amazing. This is someone who was determined to be published!
“If you want to be a writer, BE a writer – and say it out loud every chance you get. Claim it, even while you study English Lit or History or Journalism or PR or Marketing. Make a writing related discipline your career choice (there are lots of ways to make a living with writing skills, just not necessarily as a novelist)” Kendra: I told NO ONE at the day job that I wanted to be an author. No one knew anything until I had a Golden Heart nomination. I think I finally felt validated at that point.
“Ditch dreaming and learn the business. Editors and Publishers are not interested in your dream. It’s a career, to those who are lucky to make it. If you enter the business with stars of dreams in your eyes, it’s a rude awakening. Take time to learn the business, to understand it. Then you go into armed and ready to make it.” Kendra: I tried to drive this point home. They’d all heard about the rising stars who hit it big with their first book.
The students had good questions. They wanted to know how long it takes me to write a book and what I do during the day. One asked if I had trouble stopping a story or if I ever felt like I just wanted to keep going and going because all sorts of other little ideas were popping in my head for the story. At this point, I touched on the general length of a marketable book and the point of story structure to hone the pacing of a story. But I tried not to discourage anyone from writing their 500K word fantasy.
One asked if I’d read any of my fanfiction that had to be in existence by now. I tried not to smile too broadly and said I was pretty certain there wasn’t any fanfiction based on my books. Another asked why I write romance. I said because I love the emotional journey of two people exploring their relationship with each other and I’m guaranteed a HEA! I was impressed that a few kids lingered and shook my hand and asked a few more questions one-on-one.
I loved it. The teacher told me the next day that my presentation was very popular and hinted she wanted me back again. I immediately offered to do so. Oh, did I mention I got a zit the night before? Totally made me feel like I was back in high school. Beauty School Dropout from Grease was going through my head the whole time I wrote this post–I had to find a photo.
If you had a group of high school students asking for advice about becoming an author, what would you share with them? Did you follow the career you thought you wanted in high school?