Lately, a lot of interviewers have been asking me to lend some advice to newbie writers, especially
young people just starting out. So I decided to offer some of that advice here on the Vox. For better or worse, here it is:
1. Stay in school. No writer who has to work three jobs as a dishwasher just to pay his rent ever managed to write the great American novel. Course I could be wrong here.
2. Read everything you can, starting with the classics, the Hemingways, the Faulkners, the Fitzgeralds, the Mailers, the Conrads, the Tolstoys…Skip the Dickens except for Tale of Two Cities. Especially read novels in your favorite genre. If you love noir, read all the Parker, Hammett, Spillane, Huston, and Zandri you can get your hands on. Then read some more.
3. Write like crazy, even if its just character sketches. Learn to pack the biggest punch using the least amount of words possible. And always keep a notebook with you at all times.
4. Be a newspaper reporter first. Write for an editor who demands timely, terse, 100-300 words pieces twice a day. Pieces that require a beginning, a middle and a resolution in the smallest amount of space possible. The job should be extremely low paying, and extremely high pressure. But do it anyway. Not only will you build up clips, but you will learn to work under pressure, when you don’t feel like it, when you’re hung over, when you’ve just found out your girlfriend is sleeping with your best friend behind your back, when an asteroid is approaching planet earth… Trust me, even Hemingway will tell you there is no better training for a would-be novelist.
5. Don’t be a newspaper reporter for too long. 3 to 5 years max. Then become a freelance writer and split your creative time between articles for magazines and newspapers, both online and paper (by 2020 it will be all online), and writing fiction. Write some short stories and try and get them published. Then start your novel. Don’t stop writing the novel until you have a complete draft, even if it’s crap. You can always edit or start another one.
6. Don’t get married or have children. You won’t be able to afford it. Also, for ten years or so, your writing will be both spouse and mistress. You're legal sig other won't be able to compete. have a boyfriend/girlfriend instead.
7. Share an apartment with friends if you can and don’t buy a new car. By a beater.
8. Get a passport and travel to as many destinations as you can. Never stay home for more than a couple of months at a time.9. Live in Europe for a year. Europeans are different from Americans. They don’t place as a high value on making money the way we do.
10. Persevere, even when the dream seems impossible. Never give up!