Whenever people ask me when I started writing, I always give two answers. The first answer is that I started in February 2008 when I walked into a Barnes and Noble in Dallas, TX and bought a book on how to write romance. I spent almost three years working on a Regency romance that was, quite frankly, not very good. Back then, writing was a hobby. I wrote infrequently, when I felt like it, which often turned out to be every few months. I knew nothing about the industry. And honestly, my Regency romance was supposed to be single-title length (in my head) but in reality I'd written a category without even realizing it. I know. Embarrassing. I knew nothing about querying and wrote a query letter that racked up rejections and broke every rule in the book. Writing was a hobby. I wanted it to be more, wanted to be a professional, but I didn't give it my all. I didn't even realize I wasn't taking it seriously. But I wasn't. I didn't prioritize writing, I didn't make sacrifices for it, I didn't work hard enough. I didn't educate myself on all the things I didn't know about the industry. So as much as I said I wanted to be an author, I was going about it in a really terrible way.
My second answer on when I started writing is that I started in January 2011 when I joined the Romance Writers of America. You see, my little Regency romance got so many (well-deserved) rejections that I decided I clearly wasn't meant to be a writer. I figured I wasn't any good, because if I was, an agent would have wanted to represent me. I didn't understand the kind of growth writers go through with multiple projects under their belt. I also made the mistake of thinking publishing should be easy. That you wrote a book and that was it and if you didn't get a 'yes' right away, that meant you should give up. I know- also, embarrassing. Luckily, I only thought that for about a day. And then I woke up. I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life. That I wanted to be an author, wanted to write full-time, wanted to write for the next forty (isn) years. I realized I wanted this more than anything. So I worked towards making it my profession.
I joined RWA. I joined my local chapter in Charlotte. I wrote daily. Even just a little bit. Developing the habit taught me discipline. It forced me to write when I didn't feel like it, when the words wouldn't come. I applied for internships until I got lucky and landed an amazing one that taught me so much about my craft. I went to the national RWA conference. I discovered a category and genre that fit my writing style and career goals better than what I had been writing. I revised, I revisited, I worked all the time. It was a sacrifice. It meant that there were times that my husband got stuck with takeout for dinner or I wasn't 100% prepared in a law school class. But I prioritized writing because that's what professionals do. And that's what I wanted to be.
Even after I got an agent, my writing journey wasn't smooth or easy. There were still books that didn't sell, drafts that sucked, times I've felt overwhelmed. And when my book did sell last summer I entered a whole other world of publishing- worrying about marketing and sales numbers and reviews and all kinds of things you can't control. It's part of the journey. My book releases next month and I'm sure there will be so much more to learn and more challenges ahead. But I love it. I love writing, I love publishing, and there's no other job I'd rather be doing.
Publishing is hard. But don't make the mistake I made and think that just because it's hard, it means you aren't doing it right. It's supposed to be hard. It's an amazing creative outlet, but it's also a job. As a writer you have to make the choice. Do you want it to be a hobby or do you want it to be a profession? And are you willing to put in the work to make it happen?
There's no right answer. Everyone has a different publishing path. Everyone has a different journey. But in the spirit of a new year and new beginnings, if you're like I was, and you want to be a published author, ask yourself if you're treating your writing as a hobby or a profession. And if you want to be more, then make this the year you push yourself to make your dream a reality. Whatever may be holding you back, resolve to push past it and become the writer you want to be.
Chanel's New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year. She is represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her own website.