Helen Ellis tells the writing business like it is in this Wattpad interview for her novel, What Curiosity Kills
1. Can you support yourself as a writer of books? Is this something someone can expect right away?
No. And, absolutely not. While Stephen King and Nora Roberts do a pretty good job of it, most writers do not. When I started writing, I thought I could support myself on writing alone. I could not. Still can't. But, I think you have to believe that you can. You have to have and keep hold of that youthful ignorance and bravado to write books at all.
2. How many times did you submit author queries before you were accepted?
Mine is a strange story. My first novel, Eating the Cheshire Cat, I submitted to five agents and three of them wanted it. Two publishing houses had a bidding war over it. My second novel, What Curiosity Kills, a friend asked what I was working on and bought the book based on ninety pages. However, these events were ten years apart. In those ten years, I wrote two novels that never saw print.
3. How do you get over being discouraged if a publisher says no?
You don't. It's discouraging. But writers write. And, if you're lucky and smart, you'll be given a reason why the work is rejected. If publishers all say they feel no sympathy for your main character, your main character is unsympathetic. Rewrite. Writing is rewriting.
4. Do you have any tips on how to submit query letters?
Submit query letters to agents.
First line: say who you are and how you found them.
Second line: give one to three sentences about your book.
Third line: mention first chapter enclosed.
Sincerely, your name here.
5. Do you have any advise for writers who are not native English speakers but writing about life in the US? Specifically, do you have any advise for authors in developing nations?
Understand that your voice and perspective are unique. Don't try to fit in. Show us a different side of ourselves.
6. What are your top tips for novel writing?
Write everyday for a set amount of time.
Don't censor yourself.
Keep foul language to a minimum.
7. What if an editor wants to completely change your story? What should you do?
Before you sign on with a publisher, your editor will let you know what he wants to change about your book. She only wants to make it better. But if you disagree that strongly, explain why. Rewriting is a lot more than correcting grammar.
8. Do you think it is more important to have an original idea or to be good at the writing and grammar part?
No contest: write well. You may have an original idea, but no one will read it if you can't communicate. You may know when to use who versus whom, but if you bore the reader, he'll stop reading.
9. What do you do if you have a great idea for a story, but someone has written it already?
Trust me. Every story has been told. It's up to you to tell it better.
10. How did you know you wanted to be a professional writer?
When my 12th grade English teacher read my essay to all his other classes. Kids who never spoke to me said "good story" to me in the halls.