I've been writing seriously for 12 years now. I say "seriously" because I hate when people say that they have been writing since they were in elementary school as if that was the question. Were you submitting your writing to editors and publishers when you were nine and ten? No? Then it doesn't count! Yeah, I started writing horror stories when I was twelve but they were far from being ready for publication.
My serious run at a literary career began in 1999. I put together a ten year plan with the goal of being published by a mass-market publishing house before 2010. I had some moderate success in the small press with a few infamous short stories, novels and novellas and then I got my deal with Leisure in 2007. I was lucky in that I got that mass-market deal three years early. Now, people expect me to know what I'm doing because I've got a few fans and I've written a few books. But I'm still a new author. I'm still learning.
Whenever an aspiring writer asks me for advice I am simultaneously flattered and terrified. Who the fuck am I to be giving advice? Ask Wilson or Ketchum or Piccirilli or Clegg or Keene or Braunbeck or Monteleone. All I'm going to do is parrot something one of them told me anyway. How did I get published? I don't know. Intimidation? And please don't ask me for grammatical advice. My proofreaders hate me. I still have to repeat "I before E except after C" to remember how to spell "piece". And I always misspell "their" because the damn rule doesn't work for "their"!
What's worse for me is that my mentors are starting to treat me like a peer. Whoa! Slow down there. I still need your help! It may seem like I've been around forever but 12 years is not a long time in the literary world. A writer grows just like a child. We don't reach maturity until at least a good twenty years have passed. I am far from a seasoned vet. I am a mere adolescent in this game.
Getting a book published is not easy and I am not trying to trivialize it. It is an amazing accomplishment and anyone would and should be proud of themselves for reaching this major goal post in their career but it is just the first of many. Getting published does not automatically mean that you have "made it". Not artistically and certainly not financially. I have so so much yet to learn about the craft of writing. I am always looking for classes and workshops to attend. That's why I attended the Borderlands Bootcamp a few years back and why I encourage anyone and everyone to attend. I'd go again if I could afford it. That's why I am excited as hell to have Mort Castle's writing workshop as part of KillerCon this year. It's why I am reading Michael Knost's anthology of literary advice "Horror Writer's Workshop" and why I read every book about the business and craft of writing I can get my hands on from Stephen King's "On Writing" to Robert Mcgee's "Story". And that's why I will probably start taking a few English classes at the local college. Because I ain't there yet and if I don't continue to learn I'll never get there. "Man is like fruit. When he ceases to grow he begins to rot." Or something like that.
My next ten-year goal is to be in a position where I can write full-time by 2020. I have a two-pronged approach to this goal. #1 Write more, get a good publishing deal, and increase my readership/fan-base and #2 help my wife get through college, get a really good job, and then kiss her ass religiously so that she'll sup;port me and never leave me. Both plans are currently in the works. Maybe by then I'll be a seasoned vet and fully capable of talking anyone else out of making all the mistakes I've made.