I'm a writer and a newspaper editor. I've been writing fiction since 1988 and have seen nine novels published since 1992. Every writer has a different story and a different style. Some major in English and go straight into the world of Capital-W Writing, maybe getting an MFA along the way, maybe making a few bucks as a graduate assistant or adjunct at some college.
Not a bad way to do it. Maybe I should have gone that route. But I didn't. I majored in journalism because I believe that old saw that says find something you love doing and you'll never have to work again. I love journalism. Sometimes, these days, it doesn't always love us back, but it's honest, rewarding, creative work, and I laugh a lot most days. And if you screw up, there's always the next edition in which to get it right.
But there came a point, when I was about 40, when I wanted something else. A lot of people tell themselves that someday they're going to write a novel. At 40, I thought it was time to find out if that was possible. It took me a couple of months to put together the characters and setting and the outline of a plot for my first novel, and the first draft took 100 days. Recently, when I gave my papers to Virginia Commonwealth University and was going through early drafts, I realized that the first novel, Littlejohn, was rewritten a lot more than I'd remembered. I found six different versions, with three different titles. As with childbirth, you forget the pain, I guess.
Anyhow, I got an agent, the agent sold the book to The Permanent Press, which sold it to Random House after it got some good reviews, and I was off and running.
My 10th novel will be out in June of 2012 ("Oregon Hill"), and I'm working on No. 11. I don't take sabatticals, and I've worked for newspapers non-stop except for vacations and weekends through the whole time. My 'secret' is one hour a day, every day. You can do practically anything in 365 hours a year. The key is writing every day, though. When I don't do that, things turn to crap.
Karen and I have been married 37 years, and we have a very active social life. You can write and have a life, too. All it takes is a lot of consistency and a good imagination.