I’d love to say that I immediately wrote volumes and sold. I’d love to say that it was all so easy. But it wasn’t.
It was a challenge. I had nobody near me who was a writer. I knew no writers. I knew nothing about writing groups or organizations or anything else. So I started studying. I bought books on writing. On submitting. And I wrote. A lot. Mostly short stories, but it was writing. I started several novels, but, like most beginners, I had no idea how to get through the middle. I didn’t know what a black moment was. What I didn’t know would fill a book. Actually, most of the books I bought.
I started submitting my little stories to magazines and newspapers, most of which got rejected. Each one hurt more than the last. I was certain I was doomed to failure. Then the local newspaper called. They liked a story I’d written and wanted to know if I would be willing to work for them as a stringer. Gulp. Would I???? Definitely. And thus, I became a newspaper writer. I wrote the human-interest fluff that fills up the spaces when there isn’t any news. And in a very small town, there wasn’t much news so my stories often became front page pieces. As a stringer, I was paid a flat fee for each piece, no matter the length. But once I sold the piece to them, I had no say in how they edited it. And that sometimes hurt more than outright rejections as I saw my beautiful prose cut down to short, choppy sentences. Now, granted, the editor has to cut because of space limitations. But some of that chopping was downright horrendous. Often sentences ended in the middle of a thought or entire paragraphs were deleted – paragraphs that tied the beginning to the end.
In that year, I learned a lot. A lot about writing. A lot about editing. By the time I left there, I was a better editor than the sitting editor as very few of my last pieces got edited at all. I had learned a valuable lesson. As writers, our words are gold to us. Each one a nugget of value. As an editor, it’s mostly dirt and you have to cut away the grime to get to the good stuff.
Which led to the next step on my way to publication.