I sold a short story this week; my first.
It’s a big milestone for any writer, and for me, I consider it a graduation of sorts. After four years of study and applied learning, I have finally achieved the distinction I’ve worked so hard to earn.
I made the decision to take writing seriously and write full time on March 27, 2009. I considered going back to school for an MFA degree, but decided against it; mainly because it took too long and was too expensive. One program which interested me (and I know a couple of people who have completed that 2-year program) advertises their estimated program costs (through graduation) at around $32,000. When I added up the costs for my 4-year ‘customized home study’, it was closer to $37,000. Most of the money came from a small inheritance, my own savings, and a pension I cashed in (the taxes about killed me).
There’s an old saying that a writer must write a million words to purge all the bad writing from his/her system. When you consider an average novel is 100,000 words, that’s 10 novels (and a lot of writing). I (wrongly) assumed that because I’d done so much business and technical writing in my professional life, the rule would not apply to me. Even after thirty years in the high-tech industry (and yes, I havedone rocket science) it still took me more than four years and more than 800,000 words of practice before I was able to put together a story a professional publisher would be willing to pay for.
I don’t begrudge the process a penny or a minute. And I’m not a ‘real’ writer yet, only a ‘neo-pro’. I’ve got a long ways to go. I’ve met wonderful people along the way, and I’m only just beginning to realize how hard I’m going to have to work to make a living at this. I started putting a new business plan together last night. If I can write +45,000 words per month, and sell them all, I’ll be able to cover about half my living expenses before taxes.
Of course it’s not really work if you love what you’re doing, and for me, the writer’s ‘high’ I get from finishing a story is priceless.