You know that food guide pyramid? (It’s recently been replaced by a plate with food divisions, but that’s another story.) Turns out there is a writer’s guide pyramid. I found it in The Art of War for Writers, fiction writing strategies, tactics and exercises (2009) by James Scott Bell. Mr Bell was talking to a woman who attended a conference at which he was teaching. The woman was upset with the idea that she might not ever get published. Mr Bell took a napkin and sketched out the writer’s pyramid for her.
Starting from the bottom and going up, here are the seven writer levels:
7. Wanna be [writers]
5. Finished novel
4. Multiple novels
1. A wheel, akin to the Wheel of Fortune, meaning that no one knows how a book will sell. It’s a game of chance, out of the writer’s and publisher’s control.
Her job, Mr Bell told the woman, was “to keep moving up the pyramid. Each level presents its own challenges, so concentrate on the ones right in front of you. As you move up, you’ll notice there are fewer people, not more. If you work hard, you might get a novel on the wheel, and that’s as far as you can get. After that, it’s not up to you anymore.”
A few years later, the woman wrote to Mr Bell, telling him that she got published.
The book’s structure is loosely based on The Art of War, attributed to Sun Tzu, a Chinese general in the late sixth century B.C.
The idea is to know what you are getting into and have a plan. It worked for Sun Tzu (and many of the readers of his book), it worked for the now-published woman and it will work for others. Like me. (I wanted to write “Maybe me?”, but it is not in the plan to be hesitant, so the “maybe” is out.)