Hey everyone. It’s been some time since my last post. In the interim, I was interviewed by Pretty Owl Poetry, one of the finest (relatively) new online literary magazines. If you’d like to read my Q&A where I share my thoughts on writing, editing, and publishing, please click here.
As writers, the process by which we compose our writing is generally a slow one. Few writers take the track of Jack Kerouac, composing whole novels in mere weeks. For the vast majority of us, composing our novels can take years, and our short fiction and other literary projects can take similarly long periods of time to complete.
This aspect of our profession lends itself to one of the biggest problems that faces aspiring writers today – a lack of action after the completion of their writing. When you complete your writing, you need to move on it. You can’t let your stories sit gathering dust. While we all would agree that writing is a deep passion of ours, and that’s why we write, realistically, we also long for others to appreciate our writing. Writing is borne out of a desire to share your soul. You can’t share your soul if you let your writing sit on a computer file for years.
I imagine that few people reading this are actually able to financially support themselves from their writing; however, that should be the goal of every writer who is stuck in a soulless job. Shirley Jackson worked at Best Western. Charles Bukowski worked for the USPS. If you’re flipping burgers at a fast food establishment now, that doesn’t mean you should, or will, be doing that your whole life. You should burn with passion to get your writing out there, so you can do what you love.
Rapper Mos Def had a great quote, “I’m a hustler. And my hustle is trying to figure out the best ways to do what I like without having to do much else.” If you are a writer, and it’s not just a diversion for you, then you need to figure out a way to be able to write more often, and be able to support yourself from your writing. It’s not an ugly thing to say. It doesn’t mean that you’re writing just for the money. Let’s face it, few writers, other than say a Stephen King or a J.K. Rowling, are making millions from their books. That said, you CAN make a living from your writing, or other similar endeavors, and leave other unnecessary endeavors behind. Furthermore, you should! Being stuck in bad situations, or time-consuming situations, will only hinder you as a writer.
So, how do you get this done? Well, you need to publish NOW. Are you going to send your manuscript to a literary agent and immediately get a $10,000 advance from one of the Big 5? It could happen, but realistically, that’s not likely. Here are a few steps that all aspiring writers need to start doing RIGHT NOW:
1. Work with a skilled editor – You need to hire a qualified editor. I’d be happy to help shape your writing to a publishable standard. If you are struggling financially, there are ways around this, as you can probably find some literary-minded friends who would be willing to volunteer their time to help you. This very approach worked for me. My friend Rairigh Drum offered her time when I was struggling financially and vetted my writing for free, and it led to a slew of publications. Of course, make sure that your friend is actually a skilled editor/writer, as your fawning mother or boyfriend/girlfriend won’t do. Regardless of whether you choose to work with me, another editor (hopefully not), or with a friend volunteering her/his time, partnering with an editor is a necessity. No writer can escape the myopic view we have of our own writing. Of course we think our writing is great and there are no visible problems. That’s never the case, and that’s why editors are absolutely essential.
2. Publish NOW – Are you going to get your writing into Ploughshares, Tin House, PANK or Word Riot immediately? No, of course not, that’s about as likely as landing that $10,000 advance from a Big 5 publisher. However, find places to publish your writing, and then actually submit your work. You can use Duotrope to find appropriate literary journals. The Writer’s Market book also has a great list of publishers. Of course, if you’d like a more personal touch, and to save a lot of time and effort, as well as receive the insight of someone who has published before, I am certainly able to assist you as your publishing consultant. Understand this, no matter what you write, there are many literary journals and independent publishers that would welcome your writing. Find them. And if your premise is great, and your writing is as perfect as a Madison Bumgarner start in the World Series, then hey, it’s possible that you may even get the nod from the top literary journals or publishers, even as a newcomer.
3. Hustle – Make yourself known in the open mic circuits and the writer’s workshops in your local area. Leverage social media, YouTube, and the blogosphere. Ensure that people begin to know your name. You can’t be afraid to self-promote. Doesn’t this whole process seem a bit ugly? Well, nothing is as ugly as a starving artist – it’s your choice. On that note, nothing is more appealing to publishers than a platform. When you’re talking about the Big 5 publishers, it’s not a labor of love – it’s a cold business. Your writing could be stellar, but if NO ONE knows who you are, and you’ve done virtually nothing of any note in life, and haven’t published on smaller presses or online, the chances of you getting published are nearly zero. So don’t just embrace moving forward as a writer, move forward as a person, and get attention NOW.
4. Embrace Speed – You don’t have a second to lose. The field is competitive, but so many writers are making the mistake of not pushing hard enough, and that’s why they aren’t breaking in to the profession. Will many publishers reject you? Yes. Will your editor force you to change your entire premise and rewrite whole chapters that you worked so hard on? Yes. Get through it ASAP. Execute. Execute. Execute.
If you want to move forward as a writer, you need to embrace your killer instinct. Don’t wait around forever; you have to embrace the attitude of wanting to advance now!