This message from a young writer arrived last week via my website:
I am interested in writing teen fiction light novels. The genre I would like to work with is fantasy, adventure, and space. What does it take to become a fiction writer? What steps did you take? and How did you accomplish your work? I am still working on my fiction story. I created a link [omitted]. Just to get a head start.
A few days later, when I had time to provide a lucid reply after sleeping hours and hours, I wrote back:
Welcome to the land of stories! We writers are an odd bunch, living so often as we do in worlds of myth and make-believe.
How does one become a writer? One writes.
Like all crafts, writing takes time and practice. Often, the first book written will not be the first book published. Many writers have manuscripts that will never see publication, because those were their practice books. Maybe book three or book five is the one finally published, the one readers might think is the author’s first book ever.
Dragon’s Rook took twenty years from concept to publication. Most writers don’t take that long. I was busy making a living while writing short stories and poems, submitting them to contests or magazines, and then — at long last — finishing a novel.
However, there are many unfinished novels. Some I threw away, because the time to write them had long past. Some I kept, because I still have a passion to complete them.
I can’t give you any rules or checklists to guide your journey. It’s unique to you. However, all writers become writers by — drum roll, please! — writing.
Learn all you can about constructing compelling storylines, creating intriguing characters, writing dynamic dialogue, and even learn proper grammar and sentence construction. Good paragraphs are structured like good jokes: not that they are all funny, but that they build toward a strong ending. Write a strong sentence, write a strong paragraph, write a strong scene. Repeat until you have a chapter, until you have another chapter, until you finally have a book.
Avoid cliched phrases or trite characters. Avoid lazy writing. There may be only a limited number of stories in the world, but find a way to tell your story in a fresh way.
Be open to constructive criticism. Not nasty put-downs, but honest feedback meant to help your work improve. Be humble and teachable. Be ready to stand up for your story choices, if necessary, but also be ready to consider other options. Be willing to look at the story honestly, and to see its flaws as well as its strengths.
I saw on your website that you have some of your story posted. A word of caution: Avoid offering too much of your work for free, or too soon. A chapter or a scene might be okay, or a short story related to the novel not included in the book itself. (Many writers are offering free short stories or deleted scenes as bonus material for readers.)
I wish you all the best on your journey, and I hope to hear good things about you in the future.
Any other advice you’d give a young writer?