From Jane Friedman:
I’m a newbie writer, working on a memoir about a trip I took in 1976. It’s a tad long, and I’ve been trying to pare it down from its three million words to its most important story lines. At what point do I call in an editor for help/advice?
—Needing Help in the Pacific NW
Dear Needing Help:
Writing a long memoir draft is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you’ve collected all the material you’ll need to write an interesting book. On the other, you’ve got to figure out what’s important.
Identifying those important moments and revising is a daunting process for all new writers, but it’s trickier for memoirists. Unlike a novelist, you can’t solve your story’s problems by making stuff up. Instead, you must find meaning in the chaotic parts of your life, a process that can feel a lot like describing your face without looking in the mirror.
Many memoirists believe an editor is the mirror they’ve been searching for. While the allure of a trained eye on your manuscript can be difficult to resist, high-quality editorial feedback is expensive. Before shopping for an editor, it’s important to know when to contact one, and how they might be able to assist you—something your Spidey senses have already alerted you to.
To help answer those questions, let’s talk about the three skillsets new writers need to develop:
Foresight: To revise well, writers need to develop a clear vision of what’s next in both the writing and publishing processes. This will help them create a logical plan of steps to take.
Storytelling: Recording life events and telling a story are not the same thing. Even strong writers, and avid readers, must learn how to do the latter. Cultivating strong storytelling skills makes it easier to hack a million-word draft into the most meaningful chunk, then craft what’s left into a succinct, well-written story.
Stamina: I’ve only met a handful of unicorns who can complete a publishable book in less than twelve months. None were new writers. That means most of us need to figure out how we’ll sustain our enthusiasm throughout what might be a long and bumpy ride.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman
PG knows quite a number of indie authors who write and publish more than one book per year. And, if Amazon sales rank is to be credited, some of these authors earn quite a tidy sum, more than they would likely earn if they wandered down the dusty path of traditional publishing.
PG just checked one of his favorite fantasy/scifi authors, Brandon Sanderson, and discovered, that at the age of about 47, he has published (per his website), 33 novels, 3 graphic novels, 5 illustrated books and 5 short fiction pieces.
Excel says that’s 46 books Sanderson has written or published (Short fiction may be pieces published in periodical form). Sanderson’s first book, Elantris, was published in 2005, when he was about 30 years of age. Per the OP, Sanderson would qualify as an uber-unicorn. Per his website, Sanderson also teaches one university creative writing class each year.