Several years back I came up on a cross road in my life and to this day I can still remember what the cross road signs in my mind read. One read, “Forget Your Dreams This Way” and the other read, “Follow Your Dreams This Way.” Beyond both signs was pure and utter darkness into the unknown. There were no promises or guarantees waiting for me in either direction, only faith and fate.
What was my quest in choosing “Follow Your Dreams This Way?” To one day write a book. Notice I said, “one day write a book,” not “one day publish a book.” So I set out to learn the craft of writing and sought the guidance of several well respected authors turned teachers and even a screenwriter turned bestselling author. After having spent months which turned into years developing the skills I learned I not only have one finished manuscript, but three!
Now I have come up on a new cross road in my life and this time there is only one sign and it reads, “Published: To be or not to be.” Beyond it is pure and utter darkness into the unknown. There are no promises or guarantees waiting for me, only faith and fate.
As in any well crafted adventure tale where the seeker of a quest sets out to find an experienced guide to lead them on their mission I too set out to find such a guide and once again sought the advice of well respected teachers turned writers even journalist turned authors/teachers for advice on becoming published. Since then the internet has seem to become an unlimited vast sea of information on what it takes to get published and now with self-publishing a click away most beginning writers may think it easy to get published.
But is it really?
Through my studies and experience it is in my opinion there are two important attributes for any writer wishing to become published to have and they are faith and patience. First, and foremost, you have to believe in yourself and what you write and secondly you must be patient as you seek your dream.
The best advice I ever received on getting published is to look at it as you would any other important job you apply for. What does it take to land your dream job? Usually a resume which shows you have years of experience in the field, perhaps it also shows you have had several positions which allowed you to gain the experience and in some cases education which helped you sharpen those skills. Now apply these same principles to your “writer’s resume” and what do you find? Is it blank or is it filled with experience?
Remember back when you were first either out of high school or college and every job you applied for was a rejection due to little or no experience? How about your first application for a credit card? Were you turned down because you had no credit? What were the first words that popped into your mind? If you’re like me the one way conversation went something like this, “How in the (beep) world am I ever going to get (beeping) experience/credit if no one will give it me?!” So now here you are maybe a couple years later or perhaps too many years later to count finding yourself setting sail on that same ship you thought you disembarked a long time ago.
So think back, how did you gain the experience necessary to go after the job you wanted? As for me, I took baby steps. That’s right just as a snow flake turns into a snowball and a snowball turns into an avalanche I took the skills I had learned from school and got the job that allowed me to use them and then gain more and so on and so on till one day I had worked my way up the corporate ladder! Then my cross road came and here I am starting to set sail all over again!
Sure once in a while there comes along a success story which seems to be an overnight success but is it really? Usually what you don’t see is the baby steps most authors have taken to get where they are today.
What were my first baby steps? Another great piece of advice I received in regards to getting published was to submit either a human interest story or an editorial to a newspaper. If published, the single most important thing you can insist on (because it is highly unlikely you’ll be paid) is to demand a byline. Guess what? You now have being published to add to your “writer’s resume.” There is also the magazine route or even short story competition avenues you can seek to help gain experience. The more credibility you can add to your writer’s tool box only helps to strengthen your resume.
What about you, do you find yourself starting from scratch? I would love to hear what kinds of things you have learned along the way to finding publication.
Next week I’ll be exploring self-publishing and whether it could be another skill to add to your writer’s resume?
Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!
The Unknown Author