How I Got Started

Hannah, The Novelist

I’ve known I wanted to write since the 8th grade. My mother was astounded when, at a guidance meeting with a teacher before entering high school, I announced that I wanted to write books. My parents have always been supportive of that choice, and my mother’s astonishment simply came from the fact that I had never voiced this desire before.

“You never told me that,” she said with a somewhat flabbergasted smile. “When did you decide that?”

I believe I shrugged, but the truth is, I hadn’t even known that was what I really wanted until it popped out of my mouth at that meeting. I stuck to it, though. It wasn’t a whim. I started writing my first manuscript that summer, and though many of the writing tropes and the character development are rather childish, I’m still pretty proud of that first book. It was a supernatural epic fantasy with a rather exciting plot line, if I do say so myself. My vampires and werewolves were the bad guys, and they most certainly didn’t sparkle.

I completed two more manuscripts in high school and started another in college (not to mention a slew of short stories), but publishing was a giant I was afraid to tackle. I’ve begun to delve into that world a little in the past two years or so, and I plan to share what I’ve learned thus far. However, searching for a publisher for books I wrote in high school doesn’t make money, it spends it.

Hannah, The Intern

As college graduation drew near, I started to get the typical panic attack: “Exactly how am I going to make a living?” I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. I’d tried a minor in education and decided it wasn’t for me after just one semester. I minored in communications instead, to give me a wider range of writing skills, and with what I know now, I’m very glad I made that decision. The reason is a topic for a later post.

Initially, my goal was to work for a publishing company as an editor, proofreader, or copywriter. So, I managed to create my own internship working for a small formatting/publishing company called 47 Journals, which was run by a professor of mine. Let me just say now that if you are a junior or senior in college and don’t have an internship yet, get one. Now. You want to build your resume in college so you don’t have a blank piece of paper when you graduate. I wish I had done more than one. As it turned out, I had to take another non-paid internship when I first graduated copy editing a book manuscript, but it was worth it (not to mention fun). I worked hard and made an impression, and now that company is a regular, paying client of mine, along with the professor who gave me my first internship.

Hannah, The Freelancer

It sounds so grown up to say that I have clients, and it makes me both giddy and a little bit nervous every time I do. I’m a serious introvert, and networking always terrified me, but I’ve learned that it’s not as difficult and terrible as it sounds. Thanks to some good internship sites and freelancer sites (which I will highlight and explain in the very near future), I currently have four recurring clients that I can rely on for semi-steady work, in addition to short term clients who come and go. And I haven’t even been out of college for a full year yet.

Two of those long-term clients hire me to ghostwrite. Ghostwriting means the client has an idea for a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, but they don’t have the correct skills to write it. That’s where I come in. Ghostwriting also means, of course, that you are a ghost. Your name is not on the work. This is supposed to mean that you get paid a larger sum up front since you don’t get any royalties. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t exactly work out like that in the beginning, but if you stick with it, you will see improvement in your rates.

Ghostwriting is actually quite common. You didn’t think Khloe Kardashian actually wrote a book, did you?

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with freelancing, especially with ghostwriting. Sometimes you have difficult clients. Sometimes you have to decide whether taking a fun job with lousy pay is actually worth your time. Sometimes you wonder why you have to settle for low rates for quality work just because you’re a twenty-something with a freshly printed degree. Sometimes just finding a job you’re interested in and getting through the application process is a headache.

When I first graduated, I desperately searched for someone who could give me concrete steps and lay out my available options for me, and all I seemed to find were vague lists that outlined possibilities without telling me the practical how-to steps for getting started.

In the posts to come, I want to share what I’ve learned about the writing industry (so far) with you. I may not have all the answers, but I promise I will tell you all the details of what I do know. I’ll give you those concrete steps that I had to fumble around on my own to find.

I would also love to hear from you. Feel free to comment with any stories (good or bad) about your experience as a writer, questions you have, or resources you can’t live without.

If you just want to write for a living, you’ve come to the right place. I’m in the same boat as you, and I’m going to do my very best to make sure we keep our heads above the water.

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