READY, SET, GO!

(Originally featured in Arizona City Independent Edition, September 4, 2002)

If you've read my articles on writing and you've been thinking about writing, you should be ready to write. Now it's up to you to make the most of what I've told you. I do promise that these articles will lead you to the resources you need to set and reach your writing goals.

Writing is a profession with many specialties. Unlike other professions, writers learn more by doing than by studying. Having a degree in English, journalism or creative writing is not a prerequisite for being a writer. Even high school dropouts have become bestselling authors.

Neither is "talent" the key to success. Talent is a lump of clay. Without work it sits there, accomplishing nothing. The best writers work hard to develop skills, molding raw talent into satisfying careers.

Writers write because they must. If you choose to write because you think you'll get rich, try mining for gold instead. On the other hand, if you consider writing to be another form of communication, and you're burning to express yourself, then get to it.

Where do writers get their ideas? The flip answer is, if you have to ask, go bake a cake. The kinder response is, start writing about things that interest you, and the ideas, like bamboo, will grow beyond your control.

Writing something that someone assigns, as in a class or highly structured writers group, may be good occasional exercise for the creative muscle, but being a writer means developing your ideas in your own way. Generally, groups that critique only assigned material or those in which members are overly critical rarely produce a diversely successful crop of writers. In my experience, groups of writers which spur both creativity and individuality are the most effective.

First drafts are rarely satisfactory, but you must put words on paper before you can revise them. Ninety-five percent of writing is rewriting. The more you re-read your work, the more changes you'll want to make. At some point you must show it to someone who can give you a truly objective opinion. Rarely do relatives and friends have that insight, unless they are either writers or voracious readers. Beware of "vultures" who only want to tear your work apart. Listen carefully to people who tell you what you're doing right and what still needs work. Then do what you know is right for your work.

Nothing will ever be absolutely perfect. There is no rule about how many times you should revise, but when you reach the point where you're making only minor changes, it's time to submit the work to editors and agents.

Rejection doesn't always mean there's something wrong with your writing. Many of the biggest-selling books received dozens of rejections before they were accepted. Rejection letters often say little about the real reason the work wasn't accepted, but if the message is specific--and objective--you might learn something from it.

Since competition in the writing marketplace is so tough, writers who don't use computers, or at least word processors, will soon find themselves out of the running. Writers and computers are inextricably linked, so you'll usually find computer support in the same places you learn about writing.

No one has all the answers, and everything any one person says will not be right for you. Writing--indeed, any creative pursuit--is a personal experience that, in the end, only you can judge.

If you are willing to work hard, the information I share with you will help you accomplish your dream: You will become a writer.


Debbie Jordan