Don’t know if I count… two anecdotes in Reader’s Digest (12 years apart!), short essays in various publications, two time “winner” of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an impressive collection of rejection letters from publishers… BUT I currently have a manuscript under consideration at Sophia Institute Press.
SO, for what it’s worth…
Difficulties in writing. Yeah. Oh, yeah. First off, finding time and motivation. You come to the realization that, like everything else in life that matters, you have to MAKE time for it, not just wait for a chunk of unclaimed time to fall in your lap. If it matters to you, set aside some time EVERY DAY (15 minutes, an hour, whatever you can reasonably commit to) and concentrate on writing. Which leads to motivation. Somehow, just having a great idea is not enough sometimes. A tube of butt-glue (to keep you in your chair) and shutting off e-mail, internet and solitaire on your computer helps. Setting aside your writing time and wasting half of it writing grocery lists, sharpening pencils and filing your nails is a very real pitfall. On the plus side, if what you really want is motivation to clean your pantry or organize your spice cabinet… never mind, focus on writing!
No one formula for writing works for everyone. Some people start with a character and write a story about them, others think of a story and, as they write, discover who the character is. The main thing is, you have to know what it is the character wants. You have to have some idea where the story is going. Getting there is half the fun… that’s where your conflicts and characters are introduced, interact and make the story interesting. If possible, take a class in creative writing through community education (offered by a lot of colleges and universities) or join a writers’ group (if being motivated is your problem, having deadlines is a great way to keep writing!) Just putting words down on paper makes you a writer… becoming an author (and a published one, no less) takes a lot of work and is a continual learning process.
Above all, LOVE writing, regardless of whether you get published or not. If, God willing, things work out with my manuscript submission, it will have taken me over twenty years to be an “overnight” success. In the meantime, I have written five full-length novels that may–or may not–see the light of the publishing day. But I enjoyed myself thoroughly in writing them and hope I have learned something along the way (at least, I hope each subsequent one was better than the last… I’m still learning!)
As for your last question: I write stories about people who are Catholic/Christian. Some of them are very good Catholics/Christians, a lot of them are works in progress. I write stories about what happens to them… and it’s not always good things. They don’t always make the right decisions. They sometimes get angry, or fail, or act in an unChristian manner. I don’t think it can be labeled as Catholic/Christian fiction (think Mary Higgins Clark or Aimee and David Thurlo) despite the Catholic main characters.
I hope I answered your questions. And I hope you write!