Online Writer's Conference 2003

Shades Of Romance Magazine

August 3-9, 2003















Building A Career


by Dena Dyer


As a pre-teen with literary dreams, I was blessed to have a newspaper editor for an uncle. During a visit to his house, he introduced me to a Writer's Market and demonstrated how to submit poems and short stories to magazines. 

That nudge helped me sail my ship. After a few dozen submissions, I received my first byline. I still have the $8 check.

I'm thankful for my uncle's mentoring, and I try to help other writers get started and stay motivated. As a result, I'm often asked by excited beginners, "how do I get published?"

That's a good question. But it may be the wrong question. I believe a person who's serious about writing should instead ask, "How do I build a career?"

My friend Martha Suddarth says: "Wendy Lawton, a multi-published author and dollmaker, said something very wise in a critique group that made a huge impression on me. She reminded us that we don't wake up one day and suddenly become writers. We build contacts, build our resume, and build experience. It's a process."

As I've pondered what the process entails, I've uncovered three important steps to building a career as a professional writer. They comprise the chart for navigating the murky waters of publishing. 

First--Build Confidence

Confidence is the anchor of a writer's craft. Repeat it after me: "I am a writer." Now say it again. Then repeat this exercise until you believe what you're saying.

Kay Flowers, a member of FCW's Online Listserve, says, "God helps to boost my confidence by loving me, no matter what. I can always count on Him--and on my marvelous husband! Every little success helps to offset the pile of rejections."

Another way to build confidence is to join a writer's group, either locally or on the 'Net. Listserve member Sarah Stockton () says, "I surround myself with creative, compassionate, challenging people with whom I can talk about writing, which eases the isolation I often feel. Choosing the creative path requires great courage, a sense of humor, and dogged determination, and having a supportive mentor or community can ease the way."

Your belief in yourself will also improve as you learn about the ocean that is publishing. Like a fisherman trolling unchartered waters, be adventurous--by attending conferences and by subscribing to unfamiliar online and print newsletters and magazines.

There are two reasons to navigate new territory often: first, markets rapidly change, and second, editors and agents repeatedly change positions. The writer with the advantage is the one who stays abreast of people, publications, and trends.

Case in point: last year, a magazine accepted an article of mine (which they had previously rejected) because I re-submitted it when a new editor came on board. I found out about the opportunity through the "market news" section of a writer's newsletter.

Second--Build Credits

How do you get those all-important first credits? Stockton says she took two approaches to building her clip file: "First, I targeted online publications that didn't pay. These are often easier to break into. Secondly, I queried places where I felt I had something to contribute that I felt passionate about, with an idea directly related to their content and an angle that I hadn't seen from them before."

Sand your boat often, by reworking old material. Also, don't forget to revise your new bread several times before casting it on the waters.

Reprints are another way to beef up your resume. After you have a few excellent articles, try selling them over and over again. Each time, you'll receive a new credit, as well as payment (whether it be in money or in publicity) for old work.

Third--Build The Craft

Developing your craft takes perseverance, patience and prayer. Picture Noah, slowly putting the ark together under blue skies. Then feel God smiling on you as you obey Him, even when the rest of the world points and laughs.

Online list member Stephanie Clemons says she hammers her boat by "attending (or trying to) a writer's conference every year, listening to tapes and reading books on areas in which I'm weak, and completing a degree in journalism."

Flowers says, "As soon as a rejection comes in the mail or over the Internet, I send it right out again, with a few adjustments. Just keep plugging away and believing in yourself."
Now grab that hammer, a few nails, and start building your craft. I'll see you in the water!