First you scribble aimlessly, because you love it.
Then you start attaching the fact that you love reading books to the fact that you love writing stories - all the books you are reading started out as stories someone ELSE wrote - hey, people *publish* their stories.
Then you start reading with a slightly more critical eye, and you start having the reaction which can be summed up as, "Hey, I can do better than this! I *have* done better than this! If this dude can get published... *so can I*!!!" (You'd be surprised at how many authors started with that sentence.)(Well, actually, you probably would not be....)
But so far, so good - you've been coasting, writing because you're writing, for little reason over and above that.
NOW, the hard work starts. You're writing with one eye towards seeing YOUR name on a book spine, on bookstore shelves, alongside the names of the writers you have known and loved.
The pitfalls and sinkholes and thorny hedges along the way are many and various and have been elucidated in a lot of different places - how-to writing books, authors' blogs, interviews - they're everywhere you care to look. For the purposes of this particular post, we'll take a detour around them all, and assume that you've successfully navigated the mine field and arrived safely at the far shore, and the ink on your publishing contract is just starting to dry.
And this is where it begins. The Thirst.
You send in the contract, and you wait. In due course (anything from a month to eight months) your on-signing check arrives, and then you wait. The publisher whisks away your MS, and you wait, and then it comes back edited and you do that work and you wait. The book is published, and you get a shiny copy to hold in your hand, complete with your name on the spine... and you wait. You wait for everything. For the contracts. For the money. For the reviews and the reactions. For information of any and all description - for instance, how many copies in the print run? Was there more than one print run? What the heck do all those weird things in your royalty statement actually mean? When are you going to GET your royalty statement (they are traditionally wrapped up by the publishers in June and in December, but authors quickly learn to expect the June edition in September and the December edition in March...)?
The Thirst for NEWS.
Things kind of float by, and you might trip over a review that you didn't know was there - especially in the cyber-age when you can trawl for them on the Net if you're so inclined. But it's like waiting by the phone for that boy who said "I'll call you", and you don't want to move from the phone's side in case he DOES call, and you can't do anything else because your attention is on the silent phone, and when and if he does call it's usually not what you expect anyway. The information that you crave is painfully slow in coming. WHEN is that book whose contract you signed going to come out...? In hardcover...? In paperback?... In Dutch...? How is it selling? Is it selling? What do people think about it?... Reviewers?... Readers...? What's happening with the proposal you sent in for the next book you want to write? What precisely does the editorial "I'll be in touch soon" really mean, in terms of cold hard hours, days, weeks or months? You start to get to know other people who are also writing books, and when YOUR new one comes out and so does someone else's it's almost inevitable that you are going to start seeing, almost exclusively, every blog and every comment and every review on the Planet Earth referring to THEIR book and not YOURS - and it's almost a given that THEY will be watching the same phenomenon from THEIR end and wondering why on earth everyone is talking about YOUR book and not THEIRS. And you wait. And you wait wait wait wait wait.
Oh, sure, in the interim period, if you're any kind of writer, you are writing something else, another book, another step forward on the path, closer to more waiting to come. But just in case you thought that becoming a published author makes one a King or a Queen... well... maybe. Eventually. VERY eventually. In the meantime, folks, each and every one of us out there is a Lady- (or a Gentleman-) in-Waiting.