How 7 Successful Authors Got Their Start

Every writer has a different story about how they got started – and each story will inspire you in a different way. In this article, a guest author shares how seven successful authors started their writing careers…

Whether you’re a budding writer aspiring get published or curious about the mind from which your favourite story came, then huddle round as Christie Cluett tells you the story of how some of the world’s most famous authors began. She writes for GKBC.

When Harry Potter became a worldwide sensation J. K. Rowling was thrust into the limelight. Many people know her ‘rags to riches’ story and some may even know where she went to school, how she takes her coffee and what’s in her bins, but there are plenty of other authors waiting in the wings to reveal the secrets of their illustrious beginnings.

To learn more about how this successful author got her start, read How J.K. Rowling Followed Her Heart to Fame and Fortune.

And, here are snippets of the lives of six other successful writers…

Early Starters

Some novelists’ first words were probably at least four syllables. Noted children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson got started early, having written her first 18-page novel by the age of nine. She clocked up an impressive 40 books before the massive success of her most famous creation, Tracey Beaker.

Though, compared to Christopher Paolini she’s a slow learner. He wrote the first draft of his trilogy of novels, The Inheritance Cycle, at the tender age of 15. An example to all of us who were too busy looking moody at school discos!

Backed by a supportive family, he self-published it in 2001 at the grand old age of 18, promoting the book at libraries, bookshops and schools dressed in a medieval outfit. The book finally came to the attention of a publisher and went on to become a best-selling, four-book series.

The “Black Sheep” Authors

No art-form is complete without its black sheep and this is where you’ll find them, at the end of a dark alley, in an establishment few people dare to enter, scribbling notes on the back of a receipt.

Like many others, Hunter S Thompson’s writing career began as a journalist but soon swerved off-course. Gonzo journalism was born during an article he was writing on the Kentucky Derby. Having become so involved, the piece ended up being more about his turbulent time watching the race, fuelled by alcohol and drugs, rather than the event itself.

Throughout his career Thompson crossed back and forth between observer and participant, writing Hell’s Angels and most famously leaving readers questioning reality and fantasy in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Edgar Allen Poe was also known for his errant ways, portrayed as a womanising, drunken madman. The original starving artist, he resorted to gambling and burning his furniture in order to survive. His famous poem, The Raven, only earned him $9, not enough to save the table, or the chairs.

However it’s thought his wild persona was created in his obituary as revenge for Poe’s harsh critique. Poe’s soul had the last laugh though, as his new bad boy reputation lifted sales of his books through the roof.

Write What You Know

Most advice on how to become a writer will include the old adage of writing about what you know. If your life is a tumultuous whirl of intrigue and mystery then so much the better.

John Le Carre writes from experience and it shows. His books draw you into a world of conspiracy while wearing a beige Mac and whispering to you from behind bookshelves. Le Carre insists that he was never a spy, however to those of us without a secret handshake, flashing his MI5 credentials would be enough to make most of us admit to anything.

The most famous spy of all, James Bond, was born out of Ian Fleming’s time working in British Naval Intelligence during the Second World War. Fleming’s own codename was 17F, which sounds more like a cleaner’s store room than a deadly assassin.

For Agent 007, Fleming combined the characteristics of all the secret agents he met, shaken obviously but not stirred. He wrote Casino Royale after the war at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica – which he had built himself – and this was the first step in a series of books that would cement James Bond into popular culture.

Are You Headed for Fame and Fortune?

It seems that whoever you are, from the halls of the secret service to the smoke-filled dens of iniquity, life is providing you with excellent fodder for your stories, tales and yarns. For those aspiring writers among you this could be the basis of your first novel, for others simply the source of your best anecdotes.

Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published - Yes, you CAN get published! It's not impossible - but only if you're willing to do the work. Writer's Market 2020 offers thousands of opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards and literary agents — and even new playwriting and screenwriting sections.

If you haven’t read Lionel Shriver’s books, you’re missing out (she’s the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin). Her road to publication wasn’t easy – learn about it in Courage to Write – Tips From an Anxious Bestselling Author.


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