I frequently hear clients complain about teachers who gave them compliments on their writing ability over the years, but no constructive career advice. While I cannot guarantee that any of the following information will lead you to success in writing, here is what I know.
Writing is a Career in Entertainment
It’s highly competitive. It takes a long time to break into it, and you are probably going to need an agent. Start early, and be patient.
Blogging is a great way to get started in writing. I often hear people tell me that they’ve been blogging “forever” and “nothing” has happened. Actually, you never know who is reading your blogs. I have been surprised by people who have told me they’ve read my posts, and it is often a long time after I wrote the post that I get the feedback. Most people don’t leave comments. It doesn’t mean they aren’t reading. Also, you need to think beyond your personal blog. It’s important to have a blog of your own as a starting platform. It’s also important to update it as often as you can–at least once a week. A lot of people suggest daily posts, but for most of us, that just isn’t possible. I am a believer in the idea that quality counts for something even in this time of social media inundation, so if you can’t say something semi-eloquently today, it’s probably best to post tomorrow.
If you write good posts on your blog, eventually, you can write for other blogs. This can transport you into the coveted role of paid blogging.
I hear a lot of, “I don’t want to do that.” Here’s the thing: I don’t think anyone wakes up and says, “Gee, I want to be an extra in the movies,” but you know what, if they want to be actors, they usually do it anyway because it’s a foot in the door. This isn’t the only way to become a professional writer, but it is one of the most reliable ways. If you are an aspiring writer and you’re still in college, it’s a good path to look into because it teaches you to write clearly and under deadline pressure. Many of the books I’ve enjoyed most were written by journalists, and they often write the best. Yes, travel is often required and it’s tough. Yes, you have to pepper people with questions and they’re often hostile to you. Nobody said entertainment was for the faint of heart.
Rejection Comes with the Territory
Whether you pursue a career in journalism first or dive into freelance feature writing, short story writing, or writing novels, you will get rejected by editors and agents. People are going to say no to you, and it’s not fun.
Celebrate the wins along the way and get support from your friends to help calm your nerves after a rejection.
Motivation Isn’t Optional
Writing is a product of intrinsic motivation. If you don’t want to do it, it won’t be done for you.
Resources for Fiction Writers
As for working on a manuscript, at some point, you will need a critique group so you can stop torturing friends and family with your drafts. If you are busy and need an online version, try Critique Circle. Writers Relief also offers a state-by-state directory of writers groups here.
It’s important to attend conferences on a semi-regular basis. Every year seems like overkill to me because what you will probably find is there is a lot of overlap between workshops, what agents say, and all the rest. If you are seriously shopping for an agent, as in you have a polished manuscript in hand and hard evidence that it is ready to go, then you want to get as much face time with people who can get it to a publisher as possible. Other than that, if you can make it to a conference every other year, you’re probably fine.