Guest blogger: Paris Crenshaw
I admit it. When it comes to professional writing, I’m still a newb. I’m probably the least prolific and most inexperienced member of the Wily Writers team, so when Angel asked me to contribute a blog entry for her site, I was hesitant. I didn’t think I had much to contribute.
After some reflection, some serious discussion, and some friendly nudging, however, I came to realize that my perspective as the “new kid” among the Wilies might be helpful to others in situations similar to mine: namely, folks who love to write, want to be professional writers, and are currently in careers that have little or nothing to do with writing.
As I thought about it more, I came to realize that I have picked up a few lessons about writing for publication over the past few years, either on my own or from folks willing to share their knowledge. Angel’s got great advice here on her website and there are other sites that can give you good pointers, too. If I happen to repeat something you’re seen in one of those sources, it’s either because those lessons bear repeating or because I hope you can gain something from my perspective.
So, with that introduction out of the way, here’s what I’ve learned, so far:
Lesson Number 1: Know why you’re writing.
There’s that old adage, “If you want to be a writer, then write.” It’s true. But like most adages, it doesn’t tell you everything. It’s important to know why you want to write, because your motivation will determine how you approach your writing and your method of publication.
Some people just love to write. They like the process of writing and creating their own characters, their own worlds, and their own stories. Their motivation is the creative process. They don’t seek attention or have any interest in sharing their stories with anyone, except perhaps a small group of friends and relatives. For these people, the writing is its own reward and they have no desire to enter the arena of professional writing.
And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. Not everyone wants to be a professional writer.
By professional writer, I mean someone who wants to have their work published in paying markets, either in print or online (an increasingly popular option, as the Wily Writers site can attest). There are many publishers out there looking for writers, but the fact is writing for pay is still a highly competitive field.
If you’re not interested in jumping into that fray but still want to share your work with the world, you can easily publish your work on your own website or blog. Your work may not be read by as many people (at least, not right away), but your work will be out there and you’ll have the satisfaction of having created something.
If you do want to become a professional writer, your approach to things will be a bit different. Most importantly, you will need to accept that there is more to writing professionally than just, well, writing. The publication process has hurdles and pitfalls that you will need to learn to navigate. Knowing this up front can make a big difference. For example, most publishers have guidelines for submission length and format that must be followed or they won’t even bother to look at your work. And of course, you need to make sure that you have carefully edited your work to remove grammatical and spelling errors.
These things may come as second nature to some writers, but honestly, this is where you begin to realize that writing for pay is actually work. For those of us who love to write, it can be wonderful, stimulating work, but it’s still work. You can’t be discouraged by the effort required to polish a gem of a story until it shines, because the shinier it is, the better chance it has of being noticed among all the other submissions that will cross an editor’s desk.
Paris Crenshaw resides with his family in San Diego, California, but spends much of his time on the Pacific Ocean, serving as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. While pursuing a career as a Naval Officer, he has maintained a love of writing and creating, focusing most of his energy on the sci-fi and fantasy adventure genres. His most recent publications include stories in the first and second issues of Wayfinder magazine, a fanzine for Paizo Publication’s award-winning Pathfinder roleplaying game setting.