So, here I am again, staring out at the stranger sea, the turbulent tides in constant motion, awesome, infinite. My final year at university begins a week today, and then life.
I want to be a writer, but how the hell am I going to achieve that? I’m far from prolific – one look at this blog will confirm that. Nearly everything posted here was written for a university assignment, and I haven’t completed a piece since we broke up for summer four months ago. Sure, I’ve got some stuff on the back-burners: my fantasy story (which has grown so monstrously big that I have a mini panic attack every time I even think about how to begin writing it); an idea for a sci-fi series titled Violent Skies which will take place on numerous floating cities in the atmosphere of Venus; and I’ve got about four journals full of notes just waiting to be mined and refined into solid subjects for stories, poems, articles, essays and so on and so forth.
But even if I produce something worthy of publication, how do I go about it? One way to increase your chances of being published is to author a successful blog with plenty of followers, gathering a potential readership, a preexisting audience.
Well, so far I have sixteen followers and at least a third of them are my creative writing classmates who’ve followed me as a mere courtesy, or because our tutor told them too.
It’s terribly daunting. I’ve been told I can write well, but well enough to succeed? Is writing well enough to succeed alone enough to succeed? Well, no.
To become a Writer – a Writer by trade, not only a Writer by heart or whatever – I need to be prolific, tenacious, determined. I need to work my balls off. Here’s my five-stage plan-of-attack.
- Milk my degree for all it’s worth. This is the most important and immediate of all the stages. University is such a rich well of resources and I need to get as much out of it as I can. My tutors, published poets, novelists and non-fiction writers, are here to give me invaluable advice not only on the creative and editing aspects of writing but also the publication process, self-marketing and the tricks of the trade. First year was frivolous, second was serious, third year is going to be (thesaurus).
- Read. Read, read, read and then read some more. “I am one of the few people you’ll meet who’s written more books than they’ve read,” says Garth Marenghi. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why reading widely is essential to becoming a writer, so I won’t. As Stephen King writes, ‘[i]f you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’
- Write – a lot. The King hath spoken. This summer has been literarily lazy, as in I’ve written very little. That stops. Now. I’m going to write something, anything, every single day – at least five hundred words, hopefully a thousand a day by Xmas. Alongside my notebooks and my location journal, I’ll write blog entries, fiction and non-fiction, experimenting with different techniques and styles. Poetry, too, and lyrics. I started out by writing lyrics, then poems, and found that both genres informed and adorned my prose with vivid imagery, rhythm and music. I believe that since I stopped writing poetry my prose has suffered. I need to exercise the poetic part of my brain, regularly and rigorously. And I need to write my blog.
- Build up an ‘internet presence’. This blog began as a means to an end: it was an assessed part of one of last year’s modules – ‘Audience & Context’. Since then my WordPress has floated forlorn and forgotten in the Cloud. With this post, expect many others. Not only will my blog help me to continue writing, but it will give me a platform on which to exhibit my writing, hopefully accumulate a following and perhaps even grab someone’s attention. I need to keep it moving, building momentum, with fresh-off-the-press posts and a steady stream of new material. I, Samuel H. Birnie, will update this blog at least once a week with poetry and prose and inconsequential ramblings – I swear it.
- Grow a beard. Fact: a man with a beard is 63% more likely to get published than a man without a beard*. Though I turn twenty-four next month, I’m still struggling with a prepubescent sorry excuse for facial hair, sparse, thin and wispy. It is growing thicker, however, thicker every day. I expect that by mid-to-late 2016 my ‘beard’ may resemble something worthy of the word that I’ve used here in inverted commas to describe it.
*This may seem like a bit of a tangent but when I was writing that (false) beard fact, I couldn’t help but think of the sad truth that a man, with or without a beard, is more likely to get published than a woman. Sexism is still deeply entrenched in our society. I won’t say any more than that now, it’s far too big a issue to cover in a footnote. But I will cover it in this blog at some point in the near future.