Being a writer is really simple. If you want to be a writer, write.
Often when people talk to me about being a writer, what they’re really asking is how to get their work in print. That is a much different story. Here are my suggestions.
1) Start small and celebrate little successes.
I sold my first article to the Cleveland Plain Dealer while still in college. Submitting weekly articles to potential publishers was a class requirement. I think I was paid $25.00. That sale gave me an enormous boost of adrenaline.
2) Save what you write.
Were you published in a high school newspaper? Put that in your portfolio. Do you write a column for a church newsletter or some organization to which you belong? Add that. You will need clips of your published writing when you contact editors about publishing more of your work. Additionally, all those random items might end up being an article or book someday.
3) Keep going.
When I was freelancing I kept every single rejection slip. I figured each one moved me that much closer to getting an article accepted.
4) Determine you purpose.
I write because I can’t not write. I also write to inform and hopefully inspire others. Various authors have accompanied me through every crisis I’ve ever endured. I hope my writing might do that for someone else.
5) Pick your preferred audience.
It’s pretty difficult to be equally effective at writing for small children, young adults, fantasy fans, political activists, engineers, history buffs, and who-done-it enthusiasts. While you don’t have to limit yourself to just one age group or interest group, it helps if you can limit your focus to a few groups.
6) Read what you want to write.
All the successful authors I know are avid readers. Reading helps develop your writing skills, helps form your personal style, gives you examples of how to handle plot, settings, and characters, and gives you ideas for your own work. Great writers are also readers.
Though the actual writing process is a do-it-yourself venture, publishing is a team sport. You’ll need to know editors, marketing professionals, media professionals, website managers, bookmakers, publishers, and bookstore owners. If you become really successful, you’ll also probably need to know accountants and tax professionals. You can often meet these people at writing conferences and local writers’ meetings. You can also ‘meet’ them via social media contacts.
8) Keep learning.
Though I’ve sold articles to dozens of magazines and published five books, I still take writing courses. The most recent one was just last month while attending a summer learning institute. I learned a new trick of the novel-writing trade that I’ve been applying this week. In today’s Internet world, the options for courses are virtually limitless.
9) Get help.
It’s hard – no, make that – it’s impossible to accurately edit and critique our own work. Thicken your skin and let people who aren’t your relatives give you honest feedback on your work. However, if anyone consistently gives you feedback that only manages to squash your morale without helping you improve your work, delete that person from your contact list and move on.
10) Get exercise.
Walking outdoors does wonders for releasing the creative juices lurking in your brain. So does swimming, biking, or a round of tennis or golf.
11) Talk to people.
Start conversations with random people when you’re in line, waiting for an appointment, or enjoying an exhibit at a museum. My husband and I recently invited the docent who led a tour we took to join us for a snack afterwards. We learned about his fascinating career as an Air force pilot. With his permission, he’ll be the subject of a future blog.
12) Say ‘Thank you.’
It’s amazing how few people bother to send thank you notes. That means those who do, stand out from the crowd. Say ‘thank you’ to editors who take time to reject your work, because that means they took time to look at it. Say ‘thank you’ to all the people who help you get your work in print. Never underestimate the power of an old-fashioned ‘Thank you’ note.
Thank you for visiting my website. I wish you all the best with your wordsmithing efforts. If you have a specific writing-related question, you may contact me via this website.