Initially, I wanted to place this chapter at the end, where you'd usually find it, but I am so full of myself… no, wait! You will find so many basics about being an author in this chapter, they might even open your eyes, if you want to become an author at all.
Before you start reading all the things you may need to know about writing, there are some crucial facts about the life of an author you have to hear. Maybe the following lines will scare you enough, then you won’t have to read any further. At least I saved you a lot of time. You can also skip this chapter. It’s your choice. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So, why do I think I should be the one to teach you how to write? Well, I am a published, award-winning, YA author known for books being read even by teens who never finished a novel in their lives.
It's all in the storytelling. I am not some academic buff who knows all the theories but little to none about the actual applications of writing—besides essays. By the way that’s what always perplexed me: I could never trust professors who hadn’t published a novel on their own. How could you teach something you yourself have not successfully achieved?
In that case I will apply to become a professor for organ transplants first thing tomorrow. I can talk about practically anything! And if a professor of Language and Literature Studies needs a new liver, one of my well-educated students can transplant the brown lump for him. Let’s see what he will have to say about that.
What do I have going for me in my self-acknowledged field of expertise? My first YA book, entitled Joyride Ost (English version: For a Spin - taking place in Canada, you find here), was nominated for Best German YA Fiction Debut and won the biannual Hans-im-Gluck Award. Additionally, I gave countless workshops on writing for young adults which isn’t too bad for starters. But first and foremost, I am an impassioned author telling stories because I am driven—not because I have too much free time. I simply have to tell stories. In fact, this non-fiction book is somehow also a story, but I will get to that later on.
I didn’t choose to become a storyteller, the stories chose me. This very one you are reading as well. And I can tell you one thing: it didn’t make life in general anything easier.
Eventually, if you write a fantastic story with or without the help of me, you will get in contact with an editor. These people work for publishing companies, and they read and check the manuscripts that are sent to them for publication. These people are well-read and have a lot of experience.
An experienced German editor once said there were only three types of authors: teachers, veterans and the crazies. Where do I fit in? I didn’t make it into the teaching faculty, next I did my social service year taking care of elderly people and people with physically and mentally challenged people instead of going to the German Army. That doesn’t leave a lot… but I am doing just fine with my craziness, and it demonstrates how much knowledge of human nature this editor had.
So which one are you?
The crazy thing about me is that I don’t feel well if I’m not able to write. That’s not a bad sign for being a true storyteller. If there is something else you deeply miss when you can’t write then you should think about how deep your passion for writing really is! Whatever it is. It may not be writing. The problem is that you don’t always figure this out easily. It happened for me during my training in an insurance office, when I first realized how much I missed writing since I didn’t have the time for it.
At that time I still hadn’t thought of a career as an author. After my social service I went to university and studied Geography. This I was allowed to do with my barely passing high school exam, probably because the powers-to-be thought, “This will stop Thorsten from getting lost all the time when he is walking the streets searching for his place in life,” which would be even more expensive for the taxpayers. In those days there wasn’t a GPS for every scatterbrain like me.
Then the time came when I had to decide if I should work odd jobs in order to go to university or to support my writing. Both wasn’t possible. It was more of a lifestyle decision. Did I really need a car, fashionable clothes, a thneed? The answer was No for all of them. Back then I decided against all that. And I never missed any of it. That is important. If you miss something, it hurts. Writing gave me by far more.
So I quit the academic life and worked odd jobs while I was writing, since it wasn’t possible making any money with my stories, and judging my odds I had to assume I'd never make a living as author. That is called being realistic.
It was a huge decision.
But what freedom I felt.
Even if the myth about million dollar payments for authors remains in people’s minds, don’t be too shocked when I tell you it’s not the money that should drive you to become an author.
In fact, you don’t become an author, you simply are one—or you are not. And then you will hit a serious problem: How can I make a living and still find the time to write? Usually people have to hold down a job. Check out the biographies of authors. Right from the start you will find cab drivers and waiters, but I have also heard of subway station cleaners and swing boat stoppers. Working odd jobs you definitely learn a lot about people and that, again, improves your writing.
But I don’t want to fool you, so let me put it this way: How do ten years without a car, without brand name clothes, and without social and familial appreciation and respect sound to you?
Like your life?!
Welcome to the club.