A GREAT STORY… that is the driving force behind why most people write. Next, comes the inspiration, “I can do it!” Thus, a writer is born. All the excitement pumps through your veins as you tap away, in the wee hours of the night, not telling anyone you have the next Great American Novel. You imagine yourself giving talks to a filled room, readers’ eager faces staring, amazed how you moved them with your prose. You screech. A top-notch agent calls with news a major studio wants to buy the rights. Your dreams of success are realized.
And then you get your first rejection letter. Then the next. Maybe ten more before you realize there is so much more to this writing gig. Welcome to jungle!
REALITY SETS IN & WRITERS GO TO WORK
The writing process is hard. But we get through it. We finish our manuscripts. We give it to beta readers to judge. We cry. We rewrite. We edit again, and again. We cry more. We take classes–maybe get a MFA. We go to retreats. Attend Seminars. We join writers groups and Facebook pages, read blogs and do everything to learn how to be a better writer. Meanwhile, the rejections keep coming. We look for the light in the few words the agents honor us with, “I was intrigued by your premise, but I felt disconnected to your character,” or, “Your writing is lovely, but I just don’t know where to fit you in the marketplace.” Now what?
One of the many ways I have kept my spirit alive in the publishing world is to write poetry and short stories. I pushed myself into the world of journalism and blogging. Yes, it takes me away from my manuscript, but I don’t say that with regret. It has made me a well-rounded professional writer.
Learning different techniques, writing short, more succinct, to the point is a process. A going-back-to-school process! But, creating for a specific market or topic pushed my writing skills further. All benefiting my novel-writing by helping me gauge my own audience and choosing words more discriminately. More importantly, it has helped me be more technical with grammar, spelling and world building. In other words, I became more professional and skilled at writing words, versus creating just beautiful prose.
BEING A PROFESSIONAL
Novel writing allows you to be sloppy–until the editing process. No one, and I mean all those lovely novels you buy in the store and hope to-be-as-good-as, created by authors you aspire to emulate, writes well–at first. They are sloppy too. Every writer needs editing. But as you travel down the publishing path, scintillating stories and pretty prose are not enough. They are a dime a dozen. You need to be professional. Every writer learns upon submission the “rules” of writing: properly addressing an agent, correct word counts per genre, formatting, and so on. They think, if the submission looks good and sounds good, they’ll be given a chance. But many “green” writers overlook technical writing. English Class-101 should not be wasted when writing. Yes, learning the difference between then and than, which or that, or who’s and whose, means something. Submitting a great story will soon be passed if the writing is not accurate. It will be the thing that separates the writers from the professional.
At this point in your career you should not need another article on how to put words together that is cohesive and interesting. It should be second nature. But this is where many writers fail to reach beyond being a writer and becoming a professional writer. Stepping out of the novel writing, and into the larger world of writing from how-to articles, to ads for your local church’s annual charity event all require a skill set of writing. Learning to write for other venues and purposes helps build your muscle-writing strength. It makes you learn the rules of general writing, and become professional at writing.
After all that novel writing, maybe now is the time to write something different, and try other venues. Try submitting a short story to your favorite magazine. Online has opened up the world for writers to submit. Local newspapers, community magazines, industry blogs, or online journals are a terrific way to gain exposure as a writer, as well as add to your bio. Writing is writing. The skill set is different, but the professionalism is the same. Don’t be sloppy when submitting to other venues because it is a different kind writing. If you are a professional writer your words will still invoke connection, no matter how short, or what the topic. It is a great way to challenge your abilities, and maybe even learn something along the way to add to your true love–novel writing.