Did you know that writing is big business? Not actually writing itself but selling stuff to people who want to be writers. I don’t think anyone could count all the services and products being marketed to wanna-be writers. So many. They’ll help you sell your stories, publish your books, build your platform, get organized, jump over writer’s block, and tell you how to write. They all seem to promise that if you just buy their products and follow directions, like baking a cake, you will have the books, the fame, and the money. But they can’t guarantee it. Most of the people who buy these things don’t get all the goodies. They don’t become full-time writers. I don’t want to discourage you, but what you really need to become a success writer doesn’t cost a lot of money but it does take effort, time, and faith.
First, you have to write well. Not only must your writing be grammatically correct, with proper spelling, but it has to say something original, something that is not just a copy of everything already published. It has to touch or help people in some way. It has to have substance, details, more than just what you pour out of your head. A million would-be writing coaches tell you to write every day, but they don’t tell you what to write or how to write it. You need to learn and practice the craft of writing. Take classes, read books, join a critique group or find a friend who will tell you the truth about where your writing works and where it doesn’t. And keep writing, even when you don’t have somebody prompting you to do it. That’s what makes you a writer.
Start with an idea, add information and thought, write it out, and revise it, revise it, revise it.
And yes, you need to market, to offer your stuff to appropriate editors in appropriate formats over and over again. Sure, there are books, magazines and blogs that will tell you how to do this, but it’s all the same information. Once you have learned the process, you just have to keep doing it. You will be rejected more often than not. Revise it again and send it back out.
Writing is like dieting. You can’t do it for a week or two then go back to living on burgers, fries and Coca-Cola. It has to become a lifestyle. No one can guarantee that you will become rich and famous. But if you write well and keep sending your work out, you will have some success. You will be published. You will be a writer.
Every time somebody offers to sell you something to help you be a writer, be suspicious. Ask yourself if you really need it and if they’re just in it for the money. Sometimes a product or service can help you work better or inspire you when you’re feeling blocked, but in the end what you really need to be a writer is hard work and persistence, something you can’t buy.
End of sermon. Go write something good.
>I have taken hundreds of classes. I’ve taught quite a few, too. The one thing I keep hearing from my former students is that they wish I would teach some more so that they could start writing again. They can’t seem to get going without a class that gives them deadlines to meet. Until recently, I thought these people were just lazy. All they had to do was sit down and write. But lately, with a million other things on my mind, I’ve been thinking about taking another class. This freelance life can be lonely and formless. A class would give me deadlines and people to work with. But then I look at the price and the content of the class and know that I wouldn’t learn anything new. For me, it’s not time to take a class; it’s time to get to work
However, a writing class can be a real boost for many people. The key is to find a class that offers what you need at this time. Is there a skill that you want to learn, such as writing queries or writing great leads? Do you need a general overview to help you get started? Is someone you really admire teaching the class? Are you thinking about trying a new kind of writing? Do you need someone to critique your work?
There are lots of good reasons to take a class. Maybe you do need a class to help you get going with regular assignments and deadlines. Just know that like riding a bike, sooner or later the training wheels have to come off and you have to balance on your own or park the bike on the grass and go do something else.
I didn’t set out to advertise, but since we’re talking about this, I offer several online classes which you can read about at my website, www.suelick.com. Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, has some terrific classes for both beginning and advanced writers. Check out the listings at www.ChristinaKatz.com. Do a search for writing classes and you will find plenty of listings. Just make sure to check out the teacher’s credentials before you spend money or time on their classes.
And if, like me, you know what to do but don’t seem to be doing it, let’s all just try to do one thing to further our careers every day. You’re welcome to report here if you need to be accountable to someone.
Have you purchased your copy of Freelancing for Newspapers yet?