Now that we’ve determined you are a writer – beyond the “we’re all writers” scope, unless you’ve already done your homework and are reading to check ME, or you’re a savant your natural inclination to write isn’t going to garner your acceptance as writer. That tasty bovine doesn’t get from farm to table without a lot of work, and so my friend, if you want fajitas you must roll up your sleeves. Your dreams and aspirations really don’t matter at this point, because without foundation you can’t support your craft. And even if you are at a point beyond beginning – you still probably don’t know everything. So pay attention.
Grammar and language matter. Even if you freestyle, you must have some material from which to draw and the verbal skylz (yeah I did that on purpose) to present them in a format acceptable to your audience. Even if your audience is just you.
Let me scare you just a little: your words may outlast you. Even the ones you thought were just your own may be the only thing passed down to a descendant who only gets a shot at knowing you by what you’ve scribbled in the margins of your favorite book or a journal. So put thought into your words. Steward them. And always be adding to your arsenal. Take a class. You can always benefit from taking a class. It can be as simple as a free online webinar addressing placement of commas, or a two-year novel writing course, or a degree in creative writing. While this step alone won’t guarantee financial success should you attempt to transition from hobby to career with your word nerding, it will give you an edge that others competing against you may not have. The most amazing story on the planet probably will never get past the sludge pile if the spelling and grammar must be overhauled before the story can go to print.
The more polishing you do, the less you pay for later. And if you don’t want to do the formalized education bit, get friendly with google and check your work. Often. Network. You are not an island. You are a human. You must associate with others of your own species in order to get your words in front of others of your own species. If you are going for a larger audience, you simply must start with a small group who will read you, support you, and give you honest feedback. Caveat: don’t enlist your family. If you suck – and it’s okay that you suck at the beginning of your project – it puts them in a stressful position to have to read your offal. And it may create embarrassment for you when you go off, ego fed by those who love you only to have your tome gutted by an editor with deadlines and a bad disposition. (like me)
Practice practice practice.
Read read read.
And then go practice some more.
Just like anything else you do, the more you do it, the more proficient you should become. And your benchmark will be whatever form of literature is out there being read by the audience you’d love to have. So once you’ve done all these things, my next instruction, dear one, is: Grab a genre or two or five, build up a collection, and prepare to persist, persist. Persist. We’ll cover some different types of writing next week.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor