October 14, 2010

Writers Write. Writers Learn. Writers Work.

Whether you’ve been writing awhile, starting to get published, or adding to your growing list of publishing credits, you’re the “maturing writer” for whom this blog is most intended. You write. You love your work, but you have seen it’s sometimes just that – work!

If you’ve been following this blog (thank you very much!), you have hopefully seen an eclectic mix of articles ranging from “The Poetic Power of Dyslexia” to “Outline or Synopsis” and “Keeping Your KidLit User-Friendly.” I’d be happy to hear about writing topics you would like to see discussed in future posts, but if you’re fairly new to writing or ready to attempt publication or ready to experiment with a new-for-you genre, you might also be interested in some of the writing basics I’ve been posting a couple of times a week as the National Writing Examiner for Examiner.com.

That new-for-me writing adventure began with my asking readers the central question, “How do you know if you’re a writer or not?” A follow-up article asked, “Do you want to write for publication?” which most writers do. Then subsequent postings presented the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing as fairly and objectively as possible.

Many writers feel strongly about traditional versus self-publishing, but having spent about three decades in a full-time writing career, I feel confident in saying that both routes have legitimate reasons as well as probable problems. A couple of my Examiner articles examined those issues then discussed this important point: “Getting published need not be a writer’s first goal.” So, what does come first?

Writers need to write.

“Real writers” have to write, but getting published is not the starting place if you want to become established as a freelance or assignment writer. The first step comes, plainly and simply, in writing. However, publication is a natural step toward improving your work.

That might not be what you expected to hear, so I will say what I just said in another way in hopes of being clear:

Getting published can help you to improve your writing.

Notice that I did not say writing for publication brings you closer to the fame-and-fortune fantasy that distracts many writers from the real adventures of the writing life. Thanks to everyone’s overnight Internet potential for renown, writers may be more likely to become poor and famous!

So, at first anyway, forget about money. Forget about a celebrity life. Forget about marketing and developing a platform, and simply focus on what it takes, realistically and professionally speaking, to get really, really good at your job:

Writers write. Writers learn. Writers work.

If you keep on writing and revising, your work will improve with practice, and getting published will help. How? Why? Besides activating, energizing, and employing your writing skills, publication encourages you to:

Thoroughly investigate topics that actually interest you.

Develop resources you can count on to be accurate, update, and precise.

Develop the discipline of a regular working schedule.

Research “the other side” of almost anything.

Find a balanced perspective beyond beliefs or unsubstantiated opinions.

Find your voice.

Find your preferred genre – the one in which you’re “a natural.”

Find out what’s being published and still needed in your field.

Become more aware of what publishers, editors, and readers seem to like.

Become acquainted with print and Internet markets for your chosen genre.

Follow writers guidelines with no amateurish demands to be the exception.

Meet deadlines with the same professionalism people usually show in being on time for an important engagement or business appointment.

Get input, including constructive criticism, from potential editors.

Get feedback from readers.

Get the encouragement you need to keep on writing.

Give your writing career the respect you'd show for any worthwhile endeavor.

Give yourself specific, manageable goals adjusted to fit you first as a person, then as a writer.


(c) 2010, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.
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