After many years of writing bits and pieces for my own amusement I can no longer silence the voices in my head, their stories simply must be told. At this stage I have a handful of stories sketched out in very rough form and no idea how to get from point A to published author. So my questions are:
1) Where the hell do I start? Should I quit my job and devote the next year of my life to writing my first novel or do I need to start smaller i.e. writing short stories, entering local competitions, taking courses etc. before I attempt to write a full-length manuscript?
2) Is there any point in trying? Based on your previous blog entries it seems that getting a first novel published is next to impossible so what hope does an unpublished, 26 year old, public servant with a young family and no experience have? Am I just setting myself up for an epic failure?
3) Can an author publish works in different genres? Most of my work would be best describe as ‘chick-lit’ ranging anywhere from romantic fantasy which some might call bodice-ripping trash (although there’s nothing wrong with a bit of trash now and then) to more serious, dramatic, occasionally darker stuff based loosely on personal experience including the odd bit of poetry. Should I be concentrating my efforts on writing in one particular style or is it possible to get work published in more the one style/ genre? And if so should use a pseudonym? I’m torn between wanting to be the next Jodi Picoult and my secret desire to write for Mills & Boon.
And finally 4) If by some miracle I actually manage to produce something worthy of sending to an agent/ publisher should I focus my energies on getting it published here in Oz or is it worth having a crack at submitting it to an overseas publisher/ agent i.e. UK or US? Is it even possible?
I broke up the last lot of multiple questions into three posts but I think I'll keep these together ... just because I feel like it.
1) Under no circumstances quit your job unless you are independently wealthy. But all those other things you suggest are okay. You don't need to enter competitions and whatnot before you write a full-length manuscript - you can do them in tandem. Basically, if the stories are pressing on the inside of your skull then you have to write them the way they come to you, whether they're novel length or not. And as to 'where you start': you start where you are. You sit down, turn on the computer or whatever you're using, and write. No amount of thinking about it or trying to plan it is going to make a difference. Just start.
2) Is there any point in trying? I really can't answer that for you. I wouldn't - couldn't - write a novel if my life depended on it; that's why I'm not a writer. So I don't feel that same urge to tell stories that you have described. And if that urge is as strong as you say, of course there's a point in trying. (Okay, I think I did answer that for you.) If you're terrified of failure, that's fair enough, but - at the risk of sounding like Ol' Horsey Teeth, Anthony Robbins - it's really not a good reason to not try. Sorry.
3) An author can publish in different genres - and with different names - but I'd recommend you just pick one novel to submit at a time. You'll exhaust yourself if you submit a lot of things at once, and agents/publishers will usually only read one submission per author.
4) If you live in Australia, it makes sense to submit it here. I am always bemused by authors who constantly hanker after the US and UK - it seems like residual cultural cringe: 'Australia isn't good enough - to be a real writer I need to be published overseas.' There are many Australian authors who get published overseas - being published here first won't hinder that. And it's really nice to be able to talk to your agent, publisher, editor or publicist in the same time zone.