How does an aspiring writer avoid the seemingly endless pitfalls and perils of a writing career when starting out?
The answer to this question is the subject of today’s guest post by Claudette Young.
Claudette has written about craft for Wordsmith Studio and other venues, and has been through the ‘author mill’. Based on her experiences she’s developed 5 Rules For Writers to make the journey easier, and kindly agreed to share them.
It will be interesting to hear which of these rules affect you the most. Please do leave a comment at the end of the article.
“When I began as a writer, no one sent me warnings about what to expect.
I understood that, as in any industry, hard work for success was a given. I also knew there would be steep learning curves. But beyond the study of the writing craft, I was utterly clueless.
Beginning a writing career after the age of 50 creates its own challenges, such as the complexities of internet technology, let alone everything else a writer needs to know. (I can’t claim computer ignorance—too many years working for IBM.)
So how did I prevail?
The learning curve forced me to study.
At 50 I thought I must surely know it all. But after dipping my toes in the learning pool, I discovered something extraordinarily freeing: simply by knowing some basic rules and instructions, a novice could avoid falling into the cold, chaotic slush of the writing trenches.
To save other writers from this fate, I’ve assembled five basic rules to follow, drawn from the hard lessons learned as I fought my way out of the writing trenches.
5 Rules of Conquering Chaos For The Newbie
Rule #1: Know And Understand The Language Of The Industry
Anyone working in a specialty industry like publishing can appreciate the acronym-strewn communications mine-field traversed by the writer.
A glossary of everyday terms and their acronyms is a must. (See resources at the bottom of the post.) Whether the novice subscribes to publishing blogs and newsletters, or simply looks through articles in writer’s magazines, time is wasted when one can’t define terms used in the text.
Solution: Keep a notebook handy!
Jot down any new term or acronym that passes in front of your eyes. If the text doesn’t define its meaning, Google it. Chances are Google will give you not only a definition but also indicate how to use it properly.
Ask other writers for help if you come across something that confuses you. This has worked far beyond expectations for me, and began several fruitful relationships with other writers I now consider friends. I am no longer alone.
In fact, most writers have stumbled along the same potholed path as you and me, and are more than willing to clue you in. Inquire about style manuals and learn the differences between them. But if you still feel intimidated by asking for clarity, use Google to find a website that specializes in acronyms and other jargon currently in use.
Rule #2 Know Your Purpose
This may sound silly, but if you don’t know what purpose you’re serving in the career you’ve chosen, why are you there? Equate purpose with final goal.
- Want to write the tales that keep running around in your mind like squirrels looking for a nesting tree. Non-fiction, perhaps?
- Want to become a working writer for a living.
- Want to expand your influence by becoming a writing coach, editor, publisher, etc.
- Want to make a million dollars and be the next mega-writing star.
Each of these is a goal and a purpose. They are stages of writing development built on each other. As with all career growth, the end has a beginning.
Where are you?
Rule #3 Know The Expectations Of Those Around You And The Industry You’ve Chosen.
Now that you’ve begun walking this road, take the time to ascertain the expectations of those around you, in both the fiction and non-fiction writing fields.
- Expected to have good grammar skills? If you don’t already have them, acquire them, or join a critique group who can help you.
- Expected to follow guidelines for your work? If so, strive to comply. You’ll get nowhere by bucking systems long established.
- Expected to communicate clearly and with confidence? If you have difficulties in this area, take a course or work with a mentor who can help you.
- Expected to see each project through to completion on a deadline? If you’re a writer, this is another critical factor. If you’re writing for yourself and on speculation, you won’t have a deadline. If you’ve promised to complete work for someone else at a specific date and time, do whatever it takes to make that deadline. Your credibility as a writer depends on it.
- Expected to deal well with rejection? Every writer, engineer, scientist, or specialist comes up against rejection. How you deal with it shows others your maturity and your professionalism.
These are just a few examples of the expectations every writer faces. The sooner you learn them, the quicker your career will grow, and the faster your confidence will increase.
Rule #4 Be Gentle With Yourself! Turn Off Self-Criticism And Grow A Thicker Skin.
Nobody likes rejection or criticism.
For all writers, including me I have to confess, self-doubt and self-criticism hovers on the edge of awareness at every turn.
Learning to switch off the ego allows freer creativity without threat of failure. Rejection indicates that you’ve risked exposure to the world. With each exposure, you can grow a thicker skin, which armors you as an experienced writer in the future.
Take time to acknowledge that you cannot succeed without trying, and a 50-50 chance of success waits at the end of the trial.
Rule #5 Seek Personal Growth.
Throughout the learning curve is change. Without change, entropy ensues, and with entropy comes stagnation.
Each risk is a tiny growth spurt. Chances to take risks come in many guises: a new genre explored, an appreciation for how grammar works, a professional friend who likes how you think, or whatever growth experience it might be.
Remember that writers have always acted as the world’s Madam Curie or Marco Polo. They strive to continue developing skills in pursuit of their dreams. They’re often misunderstood and ridiculed. Through it all, they live their purpose, whatever form it takes.
Carve Out Your Place
The only way the novice writer becomes the old-hand is through perseverance, which brings me back to my starting point:
The learning curve is a road that never ends. Today’s technology has ensured the relentless need for continuing self-education.
The publishing industry shifts with the day. The Big Five publishing houses teeter on the brink of their own epiphanies with the advent of digital publishing and print-on-demand. And on these shifting sands, writers are rapidly taking control of their own publishing careers.
The Bottom Line
The truth is, if life hadn’t gotten in the way of this passion of mine, I would have jumped on this adventure much sooner and ridden its trail much farther.
And yet, here I am–a published poet, short story writer, content writer, and working on more large projects than I can contain on most days.
Embrace this revolution that swirls around us. Moreover, embrace yourself as you change and grow into the working writer.
Resources Available For Acronyms Peculiar To The Publishing Industry
For quick and dirty reference: Absolute Write Forums
The Book Designer – ISBN for Self Publishers
IFLA – Glossary of Terms (PDF)
Wikipedia – Markup Language
Legal Dictionary – Publishing & Law
Purdue OWL – Abbreviations.
Guest article by Claudette Young.
Claudette has written many articles, op-ed, travel, and children’s fiction for Yahoo News, fiction for both online and print magazines, and poetry for online magazines and print anthologies.
The first booklet in her “How-To Slay a Writer’s Dragon” series has just been released on Kindle.
Which of these rules resonates with you most, or causes you the greatest problems? Do you run into any other ‘writer’ issues? Please do leave a comment.
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