Writer. Yes, folks, this is going to be a writing blog. ;-}
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate my husband for becoming a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. For those of you who haven’t heard of this contest, I invite you to check out their website at www.writersofthefuture.com. In a nutshell, this is one of the largest and best known contests for aspiring writers and illustrators of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. Thousands send in their short stories and art work each quarter, and of those entries, eight Finalists are chosen in each category (along with various levels of Semi-Finalists and Honorable Mentions). Every quarter, from each of those eight, three will be named the official winners. The winners works will be published in the annual Writers of the Future anthology. According to their website, “Winners have gone on to publish over 700 novels and 3,000 short stories, and have appeared on international bestseller lists, even reaching the #1 slot on the New York Times and London Sunday Times.”
I’m writing about this for two reasons. First, I’m pretty darn proud of my husband. And second, I think he’s doing a lot of things exactly right and hopefully others can learn from his example.
Publishing is a tough business to break into. These days, more people than ever are competing for the few select spots on a publisher’s list. True, many people are now choosing to self-publish their work in e-book form, but every single one of them is working hard to grab the public’s attention. So how can an aspiring writer hope to reach a place where their writing is singled out? How does one reach the top? By now we all know there’s no magic formula, but I think my husband is a prime example of someone who is slowly and methodically doing everything right.
1) He has a long term perspective. He’s set himself a goal of being published, but he realizes it might take years of hard work. He isn’t in this for the short haul, ready to drop out at the first big disappointment.
2) He’s done his homework. He knows that in order to build writing skill, it takes practice. So, he gets up every day at 5 or 6 AM in order to write for an hour or two before our toddler wakes up. He’s already written what he refers to as his “practice novel” – an entire book written and edited for the purpose of improving his craft with no intention of submitting it anywhere. There’s no rush to send out every word he types. Again – he’s in this for the long haul.
3) He’s researched his field and made connections with others who are writing in the same genre. We live in the middle of nowhere, so there’s no writer’s group nearby, but he actively participates in two on-line forums and exchanges work regularly with writers he met in these venues. They critique each others’ stories and offer suggestions for improvement. He learns from their comments, and he also learns from critiquing their work.
4) He’s building up writing credits as he hones his craft. Once he learned about the Writers of the Future contest, he started entering stories every quarter. So far, he’s received two Honorable Mentions and now he’s a Finalist. This means, when he’s ready to start sending out query letters to agents and editors, he’ll have some known credentials that are meaningful in his field. It’s worth mentioning that, although almost any credits are better than none, there’s nothing better than a known and well respected credit. So, winning your local town writing contest is great, but winning a well-known, professional contest is even better.
5) He’s making an effort to read as often as possible. Because we have a little one, this is not easy. Mornings are for writing, day time is for working his full-time job as a custom’s broker, evenings are for family time, and at night it feels like there’s barely an hour to relax before we start everything again. I tease my husband about being the world’s slowest reader, but in truth he reads a few pages a night before he falls asleep. And I give him full credit for that. He knows that reading is important and he’s making it happen.
6) Despite being completely busy, and despite the fact that with both of us being self-employed money is usually tight, he still found the time and resources to attend Orson Scott Card‘s writing conference. There are a million excuses that prevent writers from attending conferences, but the truth is, they’re important. And if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen. You may need to be choosy and pick the one that’s best suited to your goals, and it might not be something you can do every single year, but if it’s important enough, it can happen.
7) If it’s not obvious already, my husband is working hard. He has no sense of entitlement that would allow him to slack off and assume that others should recognize his genius. Step by step, day by day, he’s moving forward, improving his skills, learning, reading, writing…
And that, my friends, is what it takes.