Lately, I’ve been asked one question a lot by editors and agents, “How long have you been writing?” I hate this question because I don’t want to answer. I’m embarrassed to say, “Oh, I started seriously writing in 1997 and I’m still not published.” And while a true statement, it leaves out a lot of details.

I joined RWA in 1997 and attended my first National Conference in Orlando that same year. I didn’t have a clue. Through the years, I’ve been active. I joined my local chapter, found a critique group, volunteered and served my chapter at the board level, and yes, became a professional writer.

As the years went on, I finaled and won contests, attended workshops and conferences, and came very close to selling, but no cigar. I’ve had the “good” rejection letters, had full requests, garnered the interest of some big name editors and agents, but I still have not sold a book. Why? I’m still trying to figure that out, but I am not giving up.

So, how do I answer this particular question? I put some thought into it and here’s what I came up with: My first book, bound and covered, was titled, “The Adventures of Roland the Pig”. I was in the third grade and the cover art was my own. Unfortunately, this epic tale has been lost to the ages, misplaced during one of my many moves.

Another true statement, but this time, it’s positive and funny. What do you think? How would you answer this question?

20 Responses to “How long have you been writing?”

  1. B Irwin says:

    Since Mrs Woods’ 1st grade. Which gave me an early start on apostrophes, as you can see!

  2. jan says:

    Yay! Love this, Beth. Very pithy. Hope your revisions are going well.

  3. Dee says:

    I’ve been writing forever and ever. I have sold to newspapers and magazines, non-fiction and fiction, but I have NOT sold a novel. Yes, I’ve had nice rejection letters, I’ve had advice given to me, thought I fixed the problem, but still no sale.

    Like you, Jan, I still keep plugging along. Why? Because I cannot stop writing, no matter how discourage I get. I swear I’m never going to write again, but something inside me makes me write. I do wonder if I’ll ever sell a novel.

    I guess we’re two of a kind, we have to write. It keeps us sane. Well, sort of sane!

  4. jan says:

    Dee, I love your brand of “sane”. As you say, I share it. I am still keeping the faith. Writers write. Another true statement.
    Hugs.

  5. Maria Connor says:

    Jan,

    The length of time you have been writing (without publication) is nothing to be ashamed of. There are hundreds of reasons talented authors don’t get published. The good news is that today’s market is opening up new opportunities. Sadly, this means many untalented, unprepared, uneducated writers are finding their way to publication.

    I would minimize the issue by developing a standard line, such as “I joined RWA in 1997 when I decided to pursue a career as a published author. Since then I have continued to hone my craft and develop my writing skills. My writing credits to date include articles in my chapter newsletter, blogging and book reviews. I also have five completed manuscripts.” (Or whatever your credits do include.)

    Good luck!

  6. jan says:

    Wow, I love all the responses on here. So fun and interesting to hear about the different paths our writing journey can take. What I’m most grateful for is the support I get from other writers. Thanks to everyone and I wish us all book contracts for Christmas!

  7. jan says:

    Thanks, Maria. Really appreciate the support. Reading all the comments here has given me a new perspective.

  8. Selena Fulton says:

    I began writing at age 9 with poetry. But I finished my first novel length manuscript in 2002.

  9. jan says:

    Congrats on the completed manuscript Selena.

  10. Martha says:

    I wrote my first “novel” during typing class in 8th grade, but I’d been telling stories to my stuffed animals and imaginary friends since I could talk. My only publishing credit was a Christmas poem I wrote in 1st grade. Something about Santa is fat and I am skinny. The teacher liked it so much, she sent it to the newspaper, which published it. :o)

  11. jan says:

    Your first publishing credit at such a tender age. Way to go, Martha.

  12. Cheryel Hutton says:

    I’ve got you beat. I started writing as soon as I could put words on paper. In 1975 I took a writing course. I soon got married and had kids and stuff. And was terrified. I would submit. I got rejected. I climbed into my cave and pulled a blanket over my head.

    I got my first short piece published in 1999–the same year I married my wonderful, supportive husband. My first novel was published in 2007. I’m still struggling, getting rejections and wanting to go hid in my cave. I can’t quit, though. I’m addicted to writing and I love being published.

    Now, back to my manuscript.

    Good luck, Jan. You’ll get there when you least expect it. 😉

  13. jan says:

    Congrats on publishing your first novel, Cheryel, and for not giving up. I have the perseverance, but my patience is wearing thin. I so want to be a published author and have a writing career. Thanks for the encouragement.

  14. Connie Mann says:

    Jan, my first book was also an epic tale. Susie’s Babies was about my hamster, penned in the third grade. I found it a few years ago. That was where it started. Like you, Dee, every so often I decide I’ll never write again, and then…well, the stories won’t let go.

    Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing!
    Great post, Jan.
    Connie

  15. jan says:

    A hamster book, LOL! I bet that was an epic tale. And yes, we shall never stop writing.

  16. Debra Jess says:

    Great answer, Jan. I don’t have an “Adventures of Roland the Pig” in my past, but I do have script that I won’t even begin to describe on your blog. LOL.

  17. jan says:

    Aw, come on, Deb. We’d love to hear it.

  18. Carla says:

    Jan, It’s a matter of time before you are published. Too bad “The Adventures of Roland the Pig” has been lost through time. I’ve been writing since I was in grade school as well. One that I recall was a romantic suspense called “Underwater Revenge”. Thank you for reminding me of my young, and long lasting passion for writing. Keep the faith, friend. We’re in this together.

  19. jan says:

    Thanks, Carla. I am holding on. More adventures to come in the future.

  20. Ruth Owen says:

    Jan, this is a fantastic topic. And congratulations on the request. And, oh yes, my first book was titled ‘Orbit Cat’. A masterpiece in purple crayon.

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