When I decided to take my writing seriously, I did five things.
#1: I made a commitment to write every day.
I haven't missed a single day of writing since January 1st, 2006. I don;t have to work too hard at this as I love to write, and skipping a day is unimaginable to me.
#2: I made a submission plan and stuck to it.
Back in 2006, self-publishing was still basically vanity publishing, and like most writers, I was after a book deal. I write horror, some suspense, and some mystery, and in each case, the way to attract an agent in those genres was to build a portfolio of magazine publications. I set a goal of weekly submissions, and I stuck to that from 2006 until 2012. It lead to my selling well over 1,000 stories during that time, and since then, I've neared the 2,000-story sales mark. (I've cut back to monthly fiction submissions due to the growth of my writing and publishing business.)
#3: I subscribed to several big writing magazines and read at least two books on writing each month.
I come from a teaching background, so I approached professional writing as a student. I knew I needed to learn as much as I could about the craft and the markets, so I studied every single day. Sitting here eight (almost 9) years later, I still read the bigger writing magazines, and my per-month writing book consumption is up to about four.
#4: I joined several local writing groups and got as involved as I could.
Being around writers is important, and many writing groups are a powerful means to learn, connect, and grow.
Today, you can join groups virtually, and there is value there, but do yourself a favor and join at least one local group and meet writers face-to-face.
#5: I participated in and won NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place each November, and writers around the world challenge themselves and others to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you finish, you win.
I've participated and won NaNoWriMo each year since 2006, and I don't plan to end that streak any time soon.
My participation in the 2006 NaNoWriMo changed my writing life. In fact, I think it was the single most important thing I've ever done as a writer.
- I learned to meet a daily word count.
- I learned to write crappy first drafts.
- I learned that writing can be hard or easy, but it has to get done.
- I experienced my characters taking over, and what it's like to simply act as a secretary dictating what those pesky critters tell you.
- I learned I could FINISH a book I started.
So, my advice to new writers? Do these five things, and you'll move leaps and bounds toward your goals as a writer.
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