Sunday, April 10, 2005

Be On The Move

I’ve got a book on my shelf of writing books which I purchased several years ago,  but haven’t read.  Before I tell you about this particular book, you should know that for the last twenty years, I’ve purchased many how-to writing books—and read them.  Usually I read a writing book each month.

When I read these books, I use my yellow hi-lighter for sentences that catch my attention. I make notes of ideas and concepts which I carry into my writing life.  I’m actively reading these types of books. Then I follow the advice in these books. Whenever I teach and speak at conferences (like next week), I recommend these books to other writers and I encourage them to get the books.  Also I’m an advocate for the Writer’s Digest Book Club and have purchased many books from this source.

Whenever I attend a writer’s conference, I make a point to go to their bookstore and look over the various offerings.  Often I will purchase books in this setting, then get these books on my reading schedule. Writers are readers.

Yet one of these books I never read. I’m always trying to figure out why I didn’t read a particular book. Often that choice has to do with the title, the back cover or the general contents.  I purchased Confessions Of Shameless Self Promoters by Debbie Allen because I was intrigued with the content about marketing and networking. The book includes stories from 68 Marketing Gurus (according to the cover).

It was the word “shameless” which put off my reading. Self-promotion is a part of the writing life.  I love what Jenna Glatzer writes in her article, “I’m Not Shameless” saying: “If you're going to be a professional writer, you have to believe that self-promotion is not a controversial, emotional act that you must approach with embarrassment or with egotistical bravado. It's just a simple job requirement. Plumbers learn how to unclog drains. You learn how to get people to read what you write.”

To get published, you have to be out there with your writing.  First, you have to learn your craft (then keep learning your craft) and try different types of writing. If you are stuck writing a long novel (fiction), then I suggest you try some shorter magazine articles. If you are mired in a nonfiction book proposal, then balance with some shorter magazine articles where you can find some success (publication) while you continue to move ahead with your longer project. Or maybe you need to put some of your writing energy toward a children’s book.  Find some people to critique your work before you get it out to editors and agents. Freelance writing can be learned—but you have to work at it.

Often I meet writers who have been writing for years. They have a drawer full of attempts but haven’t put their work out to an agent or a publishing house.  Your material will never be published if it remains in your file drawer. You have to be on the move in this business. It means meeting editors and other writers. Learn in the craft, then faithfully submitting your best possible effort.

Years ago, I heard the late Paul Little speak about finding direction for life—and it applies to writers as well. He said, “God can’t steer a parked car.” We have to be on the move.


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