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A difficult time for me was the moment I decided to pursue publication as opposed to writing for myself and wondering if I was talented enough to do it. It meant peeling off the rose colored glasses and admitting to my flaws. To become a professional writer, I had to come to terms with how much I didn’t know. Like many others, I knew zilch about the publishing industry, how to approach agents and editors, and most importantly, how to hone my writing to get it where it needed to be.
I’m still learning and growing, but looking back at what helped me evolve to the point I’m at now, five things stand out the most:
Embrace Learning: This is the hardest and most important ‘mind shift’ every writer needs to go through. We all come into the journey believing our writing is good, special, something that will become great with some polish. The truth is that we all need a lot more than a spit shine. Once we own up to that, we can begin to learn from others. Opening myself to learning allowed me to set my ego aside and start thinking long term for publication, rather than believing my writing was almost ‘there’ now. I read a ton--both on craft and fiction--and made a tower of notes!
Find a Critique Group/Partner: Making the decision to share one’s writing with others is a biggie. It can be scary to ask writers for honest feedback. You want them to love it and say it’s great, but what you NEED is for them to point out the problems. Accepting constructive criticism was a skill I needed to learn, and I found that by taking emotion out of it I was able to see that the feedback wasn’t personal. It took time to develop thick skin, but finding critique partners who were strong in areas I was weaker in was one of the smartest things I did! If you are looking for a safe and helpful critique sites, The Critique Circle is one of the best. I’ve been a member there for almost 10 years!
Conferences: Going to a writer’s conference is an excellent way to build relationships with other writers, interact & learn directly from professionals, and find out real information about how the publishing industry works. They can be expensive, unless you’re lucky enough to have one close by, but still worth it to save up to attend one or two as you are developing your career. The most important thing to do when choosing a conference is investigate. You want a conference that suits your current needs as a writer. If you are looking for an event that centers on writing craft improvement, going to a conference that is heavy on book marketing and industry information won’t help. Likewise, if you are a fantasy writer looking to connect with and pitch to editors and agents for your genre, attending a romance-focused conference will leave you dissatisfied. Attending a conference that is a perfect fit will leave you feeling rejuvenated, and give you the creative energy needed to go the distance.
Network: One of the best things about writers is this: they are EVERYWHERE! Connecting with other people who love to write will help you to build a support system that will help you at every turn. Search for writing forums, blogs, facebook groups and twitter hashtags (#writing #writersroad), and you’ll find writers looking to reach out to others for mutual support and knowledge sharing. A new place to check is WANA Tribe. If you feel intimidated by jumping into something when it seems like everyone already knows each other or you’re looking for something new that focuses on sharing, supporting & learning from other creatives, Kristen Lamb’s WANA Tribe is a great emerging community to try.
Find Freebies: Another beautiful thing about writing is that so much of what you need is FREE. Writing blogs, forums and websites are troves of useful help and info. There are a ton of great FREE writing opportunities out there , too! Organizations like Muse It Up and Write On Con offer free online conferences. Sites like Miss Snark’s First Victim and Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing offer free writing/critiquing workshops. There are free monthly opportunities to win critiques, pitching contests to mystery Agents and lovely free vlogs from incredible Writing Gurus like K.M Weiland & The Plot Whisperer. (The links I provided here are only a few of the great FREE resources out there, too!)
Tell me, what steps have you taken to evolve as a writer? What websites, groups or information sources do you recommend to writers?
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a CC member and Moderator, as well as a co-author of the bestselling writing guide, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression. When she isn't dreaming up cereal monsters or writing about Greek Mythology pychopaths, she blogs at The Bookshelf Muse, a description hub for writers and teachers.