As of the time I'm writing this, I'm handily on schedule to have written four and a half books in my first year. The half comes from a book that I got somewhere between a third and half-way in and then fell thoroughly out of love with. I've sent it off to be read over by some other people for some insights as to whether it can be saved or not.
Of the other four: two are mostly nonfiction resources for RPGs that are being publisher by Mystical Throne Entertainment, one is a novella that is off for potential publication with a publisher as we speak (continuing on the no news is good news bandwagon here), and the fourth is the novel that I'm going to polish and polish and hope like heck I can get an agent with, then sell it. So its in polishing at the moment.
Either way - that is a lot of writing. On top of this I've had numerous articles I've written, a pile of short stories (including a great many that will never see the light of day), and interviews, podcasts, and much much more.
That's a lot to go to from nearly zero a year ago. Prior to 2015, I had a small handful of publications of short stories and a play in school journals, then some other things I had written over the years. Back then though I would write when I felt "full" when there was a story that I had to get out and I'd usually write it out in a single sitting, then they'd sit, unedited, and without homes. That's a big difference, and looking back at my first year, I think I've figured out some lessons from it.
This was a big, and strange, decision to make. I made a very conscious decision to treat my writing like a business. I knew, and still know, I'm going to have to keep picking up other work that isn't the "all creative writing all the time" variety. Despite that, I made the decision to be as professional about this as I could.
This meant doing my research; this was an industry and I had to learn about it. I'm still learning about it, and there are a lot of idiosyncrasies about the industry to get the hang of. This also meant self-improvement. Every day I work on my writing. I listen to podcasts about plotting my novel and having better dialogue. I get more and more intense about my own editing. And I accept that I'm going to have to find ways to monetize this.
No, Seriously: Go Pro
Seriously - if you want to be a professional writer, whatever that means, you've got to be serious about it. A major reason that I was able to have the success that I did in my first year was that I kept writing. I might not have written in the same manuscript every day, but I wrote at least six days every week. And I had deadlines and numbers I had to hit or I failed. That means something to me, and its got to be how its set up. There were days that I didn't want to write a specific piece, and I'd write something else if there was time. If there wasn't, that's kind of too bad. I would sit and I would write anyway.
And I think that's the biggest takeaway. You've got to write. Butt in chair time (or in my case lying with the laptop slowly cooking my innards) is the way you get better, its the way that you create the stuff that you can sell or show to people and tell you that it needs to be better and then you just keep at it until you've got it. I think that's it.
Here's to another year of getting better, pushing further, and all that other good stuff.