There was a time when being a career author was a pie-in-the-sky idea. Sure, I knew there were authors out there making a living at it, but to me, that was a daydream. It was something to think about on the days when my actual career as retail buyer was less than fulfilling. Or maybe it was something to think about on the days when my life was less than fulfilling. Either way, it was something to think about. And I did. I thought about it while I was literally in the sky—on flights to and from the various locations my job sent me. I hated flying (still do) and distracted myself by writing a book.
Writing a book was more fulfilling than anything I’d ever done in my life, but the possibilities of leaving my job to write were too unrealistic. I’d been climbing a corporate ladder for over a decade, and my income supported a lifestyle that had become the norm. That remained my reality until I got divorced. My whole life changed. All of a sudden, my future was about me: how hard I was willing to work, what sacrifices I was willing to make, and how willing I was to put my work out there for potential rejection.
I knew I wanted to be a writer. And after seven promotions in eleven years at the retailer where I worked, I knew success was linked to hard work.
What I needed was a plan.
Here are the four steps that made all the difference.
Tell people your goal. It’s scary to admit you think of your writing as more than a hobby, but until you do, you will always make apologies about the time you spend on it. Once you admit what you want, you are forced to take it seriously! One day, I went in to work and told my boss I wanted to get off the corporate ladder, move to California, and focus on getting published. (I later heard after the head of HR picked himself up off the floor, he said they’d support my decision.) I transferred to a sales position in Los Angeles which limited me to 40 hours a week but gave me a financial safety net. It also gave me a 1-hour lunch break in the middle of each day, where I sat in the stockroom between broken mannequins and designer clothing back stock and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. (I wrote four full manuscripts that first year.
Make sacrifices. I downsized to a one-bedroom apartment that I shared. I sold, gave away, or donated 90% of my belongings. I lived like a pauper before I moved so I’d have a meager savings account in case of emergency, and I read this article by fave author Lawrence Block and took every piece of advice to heart.
Learn from criticism and failure. I submitted my work to contests, sent queries to agents, hired freelance editors, and swapped manuscripts with other writers. I didn’t always like what they had to say, but it was necessary that I heard it.
Join a professional writing organization. I joined Sisters in Crime. I joined the Guppies. I joined Romance Writers of America. I asked questions. I volunteered for board positions, attended in-person meetings, wrote for newsletters. And when the opportunity came along to submit for a new anthology, I did that too. And that became my first publication credit.
These four steps legitimized my writing in my own mind, which made all the difference. Some days, I drink tap water; some days I drink champagne. To me, that’s the reality of being a full-time author.
And you know what? That reality gives me wings.
Diane Vallere After two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder. DRESSED TO CONFESS, #3 in her nationally bestselling Costume Shop Mystery Series, came out August 2017. Diane is the president of Sisters in Crime. She also writes the Madison Night, Samantha Kidd, and Lefty Award-nominated Material Witness mystery series and is soon to tackle outer space. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.