The Four Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer

categories: Cocktail Hour

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paleWe are thrilled to announce the publication of old friend Daren Dean’s novel Far Beyond the Pale. It was great years ago when I first read it and I know it’s even greater now. Click here to find out more from Fiction Southeast.
And Daren was also generous to offer us these tips:
Famous Writers Course: The 4 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
-Harper Lee
So how do you do it? Where do you get your writing ideas from? I would write too if I only had the time. How much money did you make? These are the kinds of questions and comments writers hear all the time. Why won’t writers just answer these simple questions? I have the answer. They are holding out on you. I’m going to tell you the secrets. Let me just tell you the easy way to write novels and get them published. It isn’t that hard really. I will help you with these 4 easy steps:
1) Arrange your life for many years to do the writing life.
What’s the writing life? Well, as far as I can tell it has something to do with writing a lot even when you’re not particularly inspired. What do you do? You push through and you write anyway on a daily basis. Abandon all plans of professional jobs that you might fall back on. Those plans will turn into your reality. Then, you will have a good job you hate, which is fine until your mid-life crisis hits. Besides to a writer trying to make it, just about everyday is a mid-life crisis. Writers dredge up old hurts, sometimes their own and sometimes others, turn them into 3D models and examine them instead of trying to forget them like normal people. You are a writer…now write.

2) Make Time to Write. It sounds like rule #1? Sorry. I just want you to know most of the writing you will get done is through sheer force of will. The muse is closed on Mondays and she doesn’t sell beer on Sunday until after Noon. You can text her if you want but she’s a bit of a Luddite and doesn’t like cell phones and sometimes she waits a week or two before she gets back to you. And that’s if you can figure out what the hell she’s talking about when you do get the message. She’s got fat fingers and autocorrect doesn’t help matters either.
You don’t have time for writing? Well, unless you have some amazing connections then you’re not likely to write much or very well. So this idea that writer time works different from clock time is something maybe only a physicist could really get into that with you. But go back to rule #1 before you ask anymore questions. I wrote the entire rough draft of Far Beyond the Pale from roughly August 2001-January 2002 by writing 6 days a week for about two hours every morning before I went into work. Then, when I was waiting for comments from other writers, I wrote the rough draft of a second novel in about 6 months. People like to throw their slings and arrows at writing programs but it gives you the time to focus on your writing and then it gives you built in readers in the form of other like-minded writers.
3) “You’re a Genius All the Time.”
Does that sound crazy? (I stole it from Kerouac but I’ve always liked it.) Yeah, to me too but writing consistently like I mentioned gave me the momentum to keep writing. Did someone promise me they would publisher either book first? No. The common wisdom would say don’t do it if no one is promising to pay. But for 99.9% of new writers no one will promise you anything. You need tenacity in the face of failure.  Any writer with some talent has an inner vision of the world that they draw from. They write “from their continent” as writer Michael Pritchett once said. I say it’s that amorphous convenience store of emotions and memories you’ve got to draw from. What’s your vision? Trust it. Go on instinct. Write and develop your story over time. You might be talented but really it takes guts to keep writing, especially in the face of rejection. Write for yourself. Write the kind of book you want to read. You have to have faith in yourself and the process of writing.
4) Rejection, Rejection, Rejection…and How to Avoid It.

You can’t avoid rejection. That goes for writing just like everything else. You can toughen up to it. When you’re rejected try to take it as well as you can but don’t let it break your spirit ultimately. Jump into a bottle of beer if you must but then a day or two later start writing again. A certain writer I know (his initials are DG) once described the writer’s life by using the metaphor of Dante’s Inferno. DG, the Virgil to my Dante, told me about the circles of hell that exist for writers and at the time he told me I was just in the first circle and he was closer to the 5th or 6th circle. Hopefully, you read this long before you feel the cooling winds from leathery wings in the 9th circle. Cue Vincent Price laughter.
Publishing ain’t easy. I have a good friend named David Baker who has a novel about to come out from Touchstone called Vintage after many years. I can remember years ago we commiserated about the hopelessness of publishing our novels over beers. If being a writer is anything, it’s about taking an idea and making it real. You could say this about plots and characters, but turning your life into a writing life is making your life into what you imagine it to be. I’ve worked in scholarly publishing and I’ve been teaching for a number of years now and this has kept me anchored to my own writing life. Many well meaning people told me you couldn’t make a living being creative. “What are you going to do . . . write the great American novel or something?” It’s tough to make a living being creative but you just might be able to make a life. I remember my very well meaning stepdad (he passed away back in 2001) was pragmatic to a fault. If you pointed out a cool car he’d say, “You wouldn’t want to pay the insurance.” Likewise, if you mentioned how nice someone’s house was he’d opine, “You wouldn’t want the heating bill.” It was funny on the one hand but also it seemed to me like a point of view that did not allow room to dream. Well, last semester I taught two sections of creative writing at LSU. One day I was standing in front of the class talking about writing and then it hit me. Hey, look at me. I’m making a living being creative but really this is the life I’ve made with my wife and kids. See rule #1.


  1. Debora writes:

    Congrats on the novel Daren. Love your 4 Easy Steps, and especially, Making your life into what you imagine it to be.

    Fiction Southeast is awesome–was my first visit!