A reader stumbled on my blog with the search engine terms “Can I be a novelist?”
I don’t know if he or she found the answer to the question, but here it is, in plain words: Yes, you can be a novelist. Anyone can be a novelist. All you have to do is write a novel — get it out of your head and onto paper or into a computer. That’s it. End of story.
If you want to be a good novelist, however, it takes a lot more time and attention. You have to learn how to write well. You have to learn the elements of storytelling. You have to create interesting, non-generic characters (There never was a good generic character in all of literature.) And you have to rewrite your novel and keep rewriting it until its heart beats true.
But if you want to be a published novelist, that is an entirely different matter. Unless you plan to self-publish, or are the offspring of a famous novelist, or Oprah knows you, the probability of you getting published is not very great. Over five hundred thousand novels are written each year, and less than three hundred debut novels are published. (I’ve read that it’s less than one hundred, but I’m trying to be optimistic here.) Even if you don’t know math, you can see at a glance what your chances are.
But don’t give up. After all, debut novels do get published. Keep polishing your novel, and with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, you might become a published author.
As Calvin Coolidge said:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
So, can you be a novelist? In the end, only you know the answer.