I met Annie Bellet at the Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UCSD. Her no-bullshit approach to writing and rate of output boggled my mind and I was skeptical that she had really done the things she said she had. “No one,” I thought, “can crank out a novel that quickly without it being absolute garbage.”
Over the six weeks of the workshop, however, Annie proved me wrong. Not only was she fast, but her stories were imaginative and compelling, her sense of pace an absolute joy. My skepticism quickly turned to respectful envy and, by the end of Clarion, a deep admiration– she was the real deal.
Annie’s a fascinating person with a background that rivals any of the protagonists in her stories. Check out her interview with the author, Brad R. Torgerson, then do yourself a favor and go buy her books.
QUESTION: When you decided to pursue professional fiction writing full-time, what kinds of conversations did you have to have with your spouse, family, friends, etc? What do you think you’ve learned *since* going full-time that might help aspiring or fledgling writers towards their own goals?
ANSWER: Well, I didn’t really have a conversation with my family or my friends about it. I did have a long talk with my husband though. We’d tossed around the idea before, but once I got into grad school, it became more serious. Then my MFA program wasn’t working out for me and Matt (my husband) and I had “the talk” about what going full-time as a pro writer would mean. I sold him with the numbers, sort of. I told him I’d need ten years to be making a full time living. Remember, this was back in 2009 and the e-book thing wasn’t really going yet, other than a few people right out on the edge. I was watching Zoey Winters and Joe Konrath a little by the end of the 2009, wondering if the self-publishing stuff would turn into a viable option, but when I first decided to go full-time, the trad publishing method was the only one I felt viable. My initial plan was to write a novel a year for ten years and send those novels out and try to get an agent and a publisher.
What have I learned since? Haha. So much. I was so naive when I started. It wasn’t until the fall of 2009 that I discovered Heinlein’s Rules or started reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog and discovered those workshops. I’d finished a novel that fall, in about 5 weeks, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I felt like I was writing too fast, like something was wrong with me, but my first readers were all telling me the book was good, so I was like what do I know anyway?
I think the advice I’d give to people starting out is to go for it if you really want it. While sometimes I just shake my head at my thinking back then, I also am glad I didn’t know too much because I’m not sure I would have had the guts to go for it. Also, learn the business side of things and pay attention to it. If you want to be a professional, you have to be a professional, which means making decisions that make sense on a business level.