Think about it this way. Most professions require years of formal training. When it comes to writing, some people go the MFA route, but others decide to teach themselves, usually with the help of critique groups, beta readers, writing guides, and websites for writers. I think both choices are valid, but it would be a mistake to expect one to take significantly less time. Whether you’re training yourself or taking classes, honing your writing skills requires time.
I’ve seen self-taught writers take two major approaches to improvement. Some write and rewrite the same manuscript for years until it’s right. Others churn out manuscript after manuscript, getting better each time. I’ve witnessed success stories both ways, so I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong choice. It’s just a matter of personal preference. Either way, though, a new writer should expect to put in a lot of time and effort.
Self-publishing is an option, but it’s not a shortcut. There are good reasons to self-publish. Maybe you’re writing for a niche market that most publishers don’t want but that does reasonably well in e-books. Maybe you’re a marketing genius and want to control the entire process. But I’ve read far too many complaints from new writers who rushed to self-publish only to be disappointed by low sales or—even worse—to realize that their novel was full of mistakes. There are good reasons to self-publish, but impatience isn’t one of them, especially if you’re trying to build a long-term career out of writing.
The publishing world moves slowly, and this doesn’t change once you get a book deal. Dead Boy releases in about three months, and to be honest, I’m getting rather antsy about it. There’s nothing I can do to speed things up, though, so I just need to take a little of my own advice and try to be patient.
Laurel Gale lives in the desert with her husband and a band of furry monsters that might actually be ferrets. She enjoys reading novels, playing board games, and learning about everything from history to science to grammar. Her debut middle grade novel, Dead Boy, comes out September 29, 2015, from Random House/Crown Books for Young Readers.