How to Become a Great Famous Writer

Wonderful award-winning writer Stephanie Feagan has a great post about how to succeed in the writing business without really trying…to stop. It’s a great essay, and I took a good deal to heart. Write great books, yes, we knew about that. Quite important. Improve, yep, trying to improve. She really hammers on the “get an agent” rather than trying to get in through the slush, and is very convincing.

I have one wee problem with this post: write four hours or more, every day, no matter what. She iron fists this point. It’s four hours or “no soup for you!”

So, I’m taking a few minutes to write this, and I went grocery shopping, did the laundry, cleaned the apartment, said hello to the cat, talked to my mom (she needed it today), and now I’m getting to writing on MY DAY OFF from my 50-hour minimum a week day job. Oh, wait, I filled out two cover request forms and blurb sheets. And I did a little promoting.

Is that it? I’ll never be able to write good books, because I have to work for a living? Make a career of it, not a hobby? Sounds great. Now if someone will pay my rent, make my car payments, etc., I’ll be golden. On an average work day, I’ll be very, very lucky to get two hours of quiet time to write. It’s usually one. I live in a little place and can’t tell my husband to leave. I can’t stay up all night hoping to muddle through the day job in a writing-induced sleep-deprived fog.

Well, I have two choices–quit writing because there’s no hope, or take the good of Ms. Feagan’s post and ignore the rest. Sometimes you have to find the way to make things work for you, and if it takes me longer, or it never happens, so be it. Can anyone say reality check? Read her blog and tell me what you think.


14 thoughts on “How to Become a Great Famous Writer

  1. Angela James says:

    I’m pretty sure Stef also works, as a CPA, so I don’t think she’s giving advice as someone who doesn’t have a dayjob. But I could be wrong? Ask her. She’s fabulously nice and I’m sure she’ll answer any questions you hav.

  2. Ciar Cullen says:

    Crickey, then she’s superwoman. Okay, as long as you don’t think she’ll beat me up.

  3. Laurie D. says:

    If what she says strikes a chord then I say pick out the bits and pieces that you can really use and disregard the rest. There’s always someone who has a better way of doing things – but better for them doesn’t mean it’s better for everyone. Whatever you choose, don’t lose confidence in what you are capable of, regardless of how long it takes. You have been given a gift, a real talent, and you need to continue to share it.

  4. Lyric says:

    Yep…she was brutal…but painfully honest. Write 4 hours everyday…I don’t know about anyone else….but I can’t do it. I have a full time job, husband, kids and a house to keep clean. I do try to write everyday…with a 4 page a day goal.

  5. Shelley Munro says:

    A lot of what she said made sense. Writing every day is a great habit to get into even if it’s only for half an hour or an hour at the very end of a busy day. Four hours? I don’t know about that…
    The agent thing – not as easy as it sounds!

  6. Ciar Cullen says:

    And Stephanie’s generous (and a little less dogmatic) answer:
    Hi Ciar – cool name! No, I won’t beat you up – rumors of my hoss-ness are all wrong, I assure you.

    This email was written to a woman who doesn’t work, who has no children at home, and whose husband is retired. They travel a lot, but when she’s home, she has the time to devote to writing. What I wanted to get across was the conviction I have that a writer should write EVERY DAY. At a minimum, every business day. Some writers take off the weekend, to clean, do laundry, hang with the kids and husband, wash the dog, whatever. In my honest opinion, if a person wants to sell, and sell regularly, they have to write regularly – with a schedule they stick to, day in and day out. If all you can manage is an hour a day, make damn sure you stick with that hour, every day.

    I say this from my observations of successful, prolific authors. Those who treat it like a job, like a career, who schedule their time and use it wisely – i.e. don’t blog, email, play games, etc. during the time they’re supposed to be writing – who write consistently, those are the ones who sell a lot of books. Breaking in is hard, and sometimes selling again is hard – but writers make it that much harder when they skip around and don’t write a lot of material. If a person has a schedule and sticks to it, that person can put out a lot of work. Yes, it’s about quality – but it’s also about quantity. The newbie needs to constantly have something headed out the door. The barely sold needs to get a proposal out there as soon as possible after selling. This business can be slow as molasses – but it can also catch you by surprise, and so many writers miss opportunities, merely because they don’t have anything ready to send.

    So…the key is consistency, and a lot of hard work done during whatever amount of time you’re able to devote to writing.

    Stephanie Feagan:
    August 7th, 2006 @ 7:38 pm
    p.s. – Yes, I have a day job, but it’s only full time from mid-January until April 15th. I’m a CPA. During tax season, I sometimes put in 16-17 hour days. Not kidding. And no, I don’t get much writing done during tax season – but I did finish a book one year, during tax season, because I had an agent waiting on it. She rejected it – silly woman! – but by God, I wrote the f’ing thing from midnight ’til 3 a.m., for weeks and weeks.

    The rest of the year, I work maybe 15-20 hours a week, and as of last August, I’m now an empty nester, so I have a LOT more time to write. Except I ran for the board of RWA, so it takes up some time. And my girls came home this summer, so I haven’t been quite as on point as I’d like. They’re about to head back to school, however, so I’m going to go back to 8 hours a day writing – if I have to see a client, or work on a tax return, I’ll shift the time around. Work on tax stuff in the morning, and write until late at night. But either way, I’ll get in 8 hours a day. And I’ll write boatloads of books – then pray and hope somebody buys them.

  7. Charlene Teglia says:

    Four hours a day is probably more than the average person with a family and a day job can manage, but you do have to set some time aside because you’ll never magically have more time. When I got serious about writing, I realized time was going to have to come from somewhere and I cut out a lot of things. Mainly volunteer and social activities. I haven’t regretted it. : )

  8. Natalie Damschroder says:

    I was going to point out that Stef manages to write during tax season, but she already did that. 🙂

    I think a serious writer should WORK UP TO four hours a day (or more, depending on what else they have). Sure, if you have a demanding infant, two other kids under 5, a day job, and a big house, it’s going to be harder than if you have no day job, no kids, and don’t care if your house is dusty (that last is, IMO, a prerequisite for success).

    But back to working up to it. When I first started, 13 years ago, it took me 3 years to finish my first book. I wrote my 11th in 8 weeks, WITH a day job, a preschooler, an older child, and being president of my local RWA chapter. How did I do it? I exercised my writing ability so that I can write 10 pages in 40 minutes to an hour. If you can work yourself up to that, you won’t need four uninterrupted hours.

    Also, “uninterrupted” is a pipe dream. I write while I cook dinner, while my kids are in with the dentist or swimming at the pool, during commercials while I watch football in the fall (you can’t give up everything!). I did 40 pages one weekend, just with those 10-minute periods.

    And football. 🙂

  9. Ciar Cullen says:

    I guess we’re all different. I doubt I’ll ever write 10 pages in 40 minutes, or whatever you said, nor can I write in ten-minute chunks (I can blog or post during a ten-minute coffee break at work). We’re all wired differently, so I suppose we each have to do our best.

  10. Lauren Dane says:

    I don’t think the key point in her post was the number of hours but the “don’t treat it like a hobby and be consistently writing” part – which I agree with 100%

    I have three young children. I don’t write during the day because I can’t, I don’t have the uninterrupted time to do so. But I write every night after they go to bed. It’s my time and I try and use it wisely. Sometimes I can’t get out more than 10 words before I pass out, other times I blaze through four grand and stay up til 1 knowing I’ll be shot all the next day.

    Essentially, I didn’t see her entry as dogmatic but a general guide to taking your writing seriously. Some people can’t write from 8 to 4 every day like Nora, some people can.

    the point is to be a writer and not to let anyone put your work as hobby status. Take it seriously because it is serious. However you can do that, do it.

  11. Ciar Cullen says:

    Yeah, I see that you’re right. Maybe she hit a nerve, as I said to her on her blog. Sometimes the truth hurts. I like your point about not letting anyone else put your work into a hobby status… I wonder how many of us “downplay” our goals out of fear? Next blog…

  12. Natalie Damschroder says:

    You’re right, Ciar, we ARE all wired differently, but I wasn’t necessarily trying to say my way is the right way, just using it as an example. None of us can find our method if we don’t try, and don’t push ourselves.

  13. Ciar Cullen says:

    I think you make a good point, Natalie. Your determination is really admirable, and it’s a good reminder to toughen up a little and get busy! It’s too easy to get lazy and whiny. Everyone has to find their own way, but we can probably all do a little more (or in my case a lot more). Except for you and Nora–you’re doing superhuman stuff LOL

  14. December Quinn says:

    I agree. I thought the point was more to be dsciplined and really work hard, than to write for exactly x hours per day. You do get faster as you go–I’m faster now than I used to be, and I haven’t written that many books.

    Great blog!

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