As a pre-teen with literary dreams, I was blessed to have a newspaper editor for an uncle. During a visit to his house, he introduced me to a Writer’s Market and demonstrated how to submit poems and short stories to magazines. That nudge helped me sail my ship. After a few dozen submissions, I received my first byline. I still have the $8 check. :)
I’m thankful for my uncle’s mentoring, and I try to help other writers get started and stay motivated. As a result, I’m often asked by excited beginners, “how do I get published?” That’s a good question. But it may be the wrong question. I believe a person who’s serious about writing should instead ask, “How do I build a career?”
As I’ve pondered what that process entails, I’ve uncovered three important steps to building a career as a professional writer. They comprise the chart for navigating the murky waters of publishing.
Confidence is the anchor of a writer’s craft. Repeat after me: “I am a writer.” Now say it again. Then repeat this exercise until you believe what you’re saying.
Your belief in yourself will also improve as you learn about the ocean that is publishing. Like a fisherman trolling unchartered waters, be adventurous—by attending conferences and by subscribing to unfamiliar online and print newsletters and magazines.
There are two reasons to navigate new territory often: first, markets rapidly change, and second, editors and agents repeatedly change positions. The writer with the advantage is the one who stays abreast of people, publications, and trends.
Case in point: recently, a magazine accepted an article of mine (which they had previously rejected) because I re-submitted it when a new editor came on board. I found out about the opportunity through the “market news” section of a writer’s newsletter.
How do you get those all-important first credits? Author Sarah Stockton, says she took two approaches to building her clip file: “First, I targeted online publications that didn’t pay. These are often easier to break into. Secondly, I queried places where I felt I had something to contribute that I felt passionate about, with an idea directly related to their content and an angle that I hadn’t seen from them before.”
Sand your boat often, by reworking old material. Also, don’t forget to revise your new bread several times before casting it on the waters.
Reprints are another way to beef up your resume. After you have a few excellent articles, try selling them over and over again. Each time, you’ll receive a new credit, as well as payment (whether it be in money or in publicity) for old work.
Third—Build Your Craft
Developing your craft takes perseverance, patience and prayer. Picture Noah, slowly putting the ark together under blue skies.Then feel God smiling on you as you obey Him, even when the rest of the world points and laughs.
Other ways to build your craft: attending a writer’s conference every year, entering contests, listening/reading books on areas in which you’re weak, and completing writing courses, whether in person or online.
Now grab that hammer and a few nails and start building your craft. I’ll see you in the water!