Write a letter to yourself when you first started writing toward publication.
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I’m going to dispense with the party line here, the platitudes, the idealism, the writing as art BS that will be shoveled on you from the moment you set fingers to keyboard and call yourself—no matter how hesitantly—a writer. Simple truth: this is the 21st century. Anyone can publish a book and slap it up on Amazon. Know at the outset the chances of your writing making you rich, famous, or even putting food on the table are near-infinitesimal. Is writing a labor of love for you? No? Then this would be an excellent time to consider knitting or spelunking instead. It is a labor of love, you say? Then writing is its own reward. Keep writing.
That said, don’t believe the hype. It’s not all about the writing. This may sound cynical, but far better you go into this endeavor with your eyes wide open than end-up broken and disillusioned. Publishing is first and foremost a business, and sublime writing matters not one whit if it doesn’t fit the current market. While I would never advise you to write for the market, only a fool would ignore that mercurial beast, and I know you’re no fool. Also, let me warn you, the wheels of publishing turn slow. No matter how patient you are, you will at some point be waiting and wondering what the hell is going on with a query, a submission, a contract negotiation, or a publisher. It is what it is. Be patient, don’t dwell, and keep writing.
While we’re on the subject, make sure you have the right tools for the job. Don’t wait. Install Scrivener on your computer now. Yes, I realize you are an MS Word power-user and that you’ve taught others to use that venerable Microsoft product. I don’t care. Writing a novel requires project software not a word-processer. You need a program that will hold your research, photos, websites, and notes all in one place. That will allow you to drag and drop scenes. That will provide you with ready outlines and copies of every draft. Word provides you with a document. Scrivener provides you with an ecosystem for your manuscript—the perfect digital environment to keep writing.
Rejection can be harrowing, but you’re tough, so hold your head high and put yourself out there. Consider submitting to writing contests. Many offer an opportunity for valuable feedback, as well as the chance to get your work in front of agents and editors. Make sure the competitions you choose are legitimate, well-established, and respected. A contest can also buoy your confidence, which may be exactly what you need to keep writing.
Finally, stay passionate and persevere. I touched on perseverance above, but it bears repeating. When seeking publication, the dictum keep calm and carry on isn’t just a slogan, it is a requirement. The second half of the equation—passion—is about you. Your personal journey must be about the writing because writing is the only piece of the puzzle you control. If you love words (and you must), let them be your joy and solace. Learn “The Rules,” then break them to find your voice. Write every day, and read everything, not just your genre. No matter how superb your prose, you will never achieve perfection. Appreciate the infinite possibilities and never stop learning. Be encouraged by praise. Pay attention to criticism. Never ever let anyone tell you what to write, but keep writing.
The writer’s path is fraught with struggle and obstacle. There will be disappointments and many ups and downs. Let the words see you through. Never forget what a glorious privilege it is to express yourself on the page and share your stories with others. Most important of all? Keep writing.
Now, go out there and make me proud!
Wishing you boundless success,
Author – psychological & literary suspense
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