If These Acclaimed Authors Started From Nothing, You Can Too!


The idea of writing a book from nothing, which most of us fledgling writers are attempting to do, is an unimaginable task – one that weighs heavy on our minds and souls.

I don’t know about you, but just the thought of labouring night and day over a novel I care deeply about, to have it rejected by every publisher I send it off to, scares the living crap out of me!

I suppose that’s the problem with book writing. If you don’t have a contract or an established agreement with publishers, your hard-work could quickly become a pointless and tiring escapade not even worth a single ounce of effort – or, the sweat on your brow.

Luckily, there are some very inspiring success stories out there concerning writers both world-famous and award-winning, who managed to publish their works from practically nothing.

These stories boosted my confidence, so I hope they serve you and do the same!

Sandra Cisneros

Born in 1954, and raised in a rambunctious family consisting of six brothers and a doting mother and Father. Sandra struggled in her childhood to find solid footing – both in the literary world and in her home-life. This was due to financial instability – she often had to relocate with her family from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and rarely got to stay in one place for a long period of time.

In spite of the poverty and near-constant relocations, Sandra managed to hone her writing skills and publish her first novel “The House on Mango Street”. She has now written countless works, and has gone on to win several awards. These are inclusive of but not limited to: the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award, the McArthur Fellowship Grant of $225,000, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

According to Sandra, her unusual childhood helped to mould her into the capable writer she is known as today – “Because we moved so much, and were always in neighborhoods that appeared like France after World War II—empty lots and burned-out-buildings—I retreated inside myself.”

Charles Dickens

Hailing from an impoverished background where his Father was imprisoned for failing to pay debt creditors, Charles indeed started from nothing.

Slowly working his way up the ladder, Dickens worked in a boot-blacking workhouse, then taught as a school teacher, and after that landed the role as a junior clerk in a law office. Through this steady rise in job credibility, Charles honed and mastered his craft.

Later writing as a parliamentary journalist via sketches, Dickens travelled all over Great Britain – meeting an uncountable range of individuals with intriguing peculiarities. This, one can undoubtedly assume, is where Charles refined his descriptions, imagery, and unique literary style.

In 1838, Charles finished one of the greatest works of our time – the undeniably brilliant and world-famous novel, Oliver Twist. And, after gallivanting across the United States and journeying through Canada, he proceeded to write ‘A Christmas Carol’, one of the most re-purposed and recreated Christmas stories in human history.

Toni Morrison

A professor at Howard University and now Princeton University, Toni had no real intentions of sitting down to write a best-selling novel. But, she ended up doing just that.

Looking for something fun and entertaining to do between her prestigious career and home-life, Toni decided to join a writing club. Inevitably, she had to write something in order to maintain her club membership – this resulted in the beginning notes and musings of ‘The Bluest Eye‘. A story, that stemmed from Toni’s experience with a young African-American girl in her primary school years, who desired terribly to have sparkling blue eyes.

For a while the plans and rough drafts of The Bluest eyes picked up dust – that was before Toni moved to Syracuse after the divorce of her ex-husband. After her move, she decided to pick up the remnants of her story, and allow it to grow into the fantastic and wonderful novel it is today.

David Foster Wallace

While in college and spending time with his at-the-time girlfriend, David noted something unusual that she had said. She had revealed to David that she would rather be a fictional character in a book, than a living-breathing person in the real world.

This pondering caught David off guard, and he couldn’t help but deliberate over it – Thinking on what she could have possibly meant by such an odd comment.After a while, he started to mull over what differentiates a real person from one that is fictitious. This deliberation eventually led to his thoughts concerning how language contributes to our interpretations of what is fictional and what is literal.

Soon – he had an idea for a book on his hands. One, that centred around a woman who has no belief whatsoever in her own reality. He handed in the story as his senior year thesis at Amherst College, and after a couple years, his story, The Broom of the System, was published.

J.K. Rowling

We all know her, and a lot of us understand she toiled for quite some time through financial instability and heartache, before finally unleashing one of the most coveted and sought-after books in the modern age. But, what did she really go through before success hit her like a steam train?

Diagnosed with clinical depression, skirting homelessness by a hair’s width and living off the welfare system’s meagre paychecks, all while trying to fill three young stomachs, J.K. grabbed every moment she could to write.

Making trips to local cafes to escape her decrepit apartment, she worked profusely on the Harry Potter books we all know and love. She had no idea, or so she says (The novels are terrific, how could she not know!?), that the first book she was writing, would end up leading to a multi-million dollar franchise both on-screen and on paper.

After publishing her book for £10,000 in the United Kingdom, a US publishing house bought the rights to the story for $100,000. After that? The story of ‘the boy who lived’, skyrocketed, and fame and fortune cleaved onto Rowling like a bear claws at a bee’s nest – hungry for the sweet nectar inside.

Now, the once struggling and despondent author, has spawned an unstoppable and unforgettable franchise that has stolen the hearts of millions. She’s also not doing too bad where money is concerned – she is the richest author of all time, harbouring in her coffers close to $900,000,000.


In the end, when we think about it, every author started from nothing at some point in their lives. They worked their way up, little by little, and honed their craft with every waking breath.

Through blood, sweat, and tears, they eventually broke into the writing industry – and the book, or books they had written, finally were devoured by the hungry eyes of readers.

Never give up on your dreams or aspirations. Because if you set your mind on them and focus on ’em? In time, you will live those dreams and reach those aspirations. The only way you won’t? If you give up. So, don’t give up!




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