When you’re starting out as a writer, waiting to land that first contract, it can be hard to think of yourself as a professional. However, this mindset can get in the way of your success. Fortunately, it really is possible to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ when it comes to writing like a pro! Here are seven tips.
1. Treat your writing like a job. It may not be your full-time job—or even a paying job at all—but when you think of it that way, your feelings, actions, and results will follow. Even if it’s just an hour or two a week, schedule time for your writing job and honor that commitment. During your writing time, WRITE. Don’t open your social media, don’t answer the phone, and above all, don’t wait around for the muse to show up.
2. Educate yourself. Never stop learning. Read books about the craft and business of writing. Read books in your genre. Attend conferences and workshops. Join free writing challenges and Facebook groups online. Take courses or find a mentor. Join SCBWI. Pick and choose the options that fit your schedule and budget.
3. Build your skills. While you may long to write the next literary classic, few writers find a direct route to success. While you’re waiting to find an agent or get published, build your writing muscles by writing for newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. Find critique partners to help you strengthen your story before sending it out.
4. Network. Join SCBWI, attend conferences or workshops, or network on social media. Contribute value to others, and you will find that it comes back to you. In all your interactions, remember to keep it classy. Put your best foot forward, both in person and online.
5. Submit your work. Do your research and target submissions carefully. Remember that there is a human on the other end. Write the kind of cover letter you would like to receive if you were in their shoes – personal, thoughtful, and professional. Follow guidelines and format your submission correctly. If you’re not tech-savvy, ask a friend for help.
6. Expect rejections. They are an inevitable part of the writing business. Even best-selling authors still get them! Eat a piece of chocolate or commiserate with a friend – then put it behind you and send out your story again.
7. Once you’ve received a contract, you really are a pro. Congratulations! Now it’s even more important to act like one. Keep your correspondence friendly but professional. Respect your editor or agent’s time. Follow instructions carefully. Ask critique partners to review your revisions before sending them in. And above all, meet your deadlines!
Lisa Amstutz is the author of more than 100 children’s books, including Amazing Amphibians (January 2020) and Plants Fight Back (forthcoming). She serves as a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story and as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Ohio North. She also offers critique and mentorship services at www.LisaAmstutz.com.
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