Seriously, though, I couldn't help but notice in the epic comments section of yesterday's post that a number of you are either relatively young, relatively new to this whole novel-writing business (i.e. are still hard at work on your first manuscript), or both. Well, good news: this is the part where I bust out my grandpa glasses and learn you a thing or two about writing stories.
Anecdote #1: When I was in sunny COLLEGE, USA this weekend, I ran into several visiting alumni. Many of them were in their thirties or forties and were generally more than happy to talk about what they did for a living, what school/work/life was like back in their day, and so forth. Of these gentle folk, one (in his late 30s) told me he's still not sure what he wants to be when he grows up, having had jobs in at least four different (and very diverse) fields since graduation. I told him I worked in publishing, and replied that maybe he'd give novel writing a go. And you know what? I hope he does. He could be at the very beginning of a great writing career.
So, if you're 25 and you've shopped a novel or two and it hasn't worked out yet, it may not necessarily be time to throw in the towel. Not everyone is Jonathan Safran Foer; chances are, you've got plenty of time.
Anecdote #2: This one is apocryphal, but the story goes something like this: a doctor and a novelist meet at one of those parties where you stand around with cocktails and talk about what you do for a living (perhaps a college reunion). When the doctor hears that the novelist writes for a living, he says, "I'd love to be a novelist, if only I had the time." The novelist then takes a characteristically long sip of his drink before responding, "Yes, and I'd love to be a doctor, if only I had the time."
Long story short (Eric said, removing his grandpa glasses): writing is hard. It takes time, talent, time, knowledge, luck, time, and luck (as well as a thousand other factors, like time and luck). It's not all going to magically come together overnight, but if you work hard at it and you've got the skill, chances are you'll see results. Maybe not when you're 20, 30, 40, or even 50, but you won't see anything if you give up now. I mean, come on—if I'd given up on this post at 10:00, you'd have nothing to read. But—o frabjous day!—I kept at it until 10:10, and now look! Results. You can't fake this kind of success, kids.
Tomorrow: more on THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING!