Introduction: What This Book Can Do for You
1. Anyone who writes is a writer.
2. Every writer starts out as a beginner.
3. Some writers are born, but most of us are trained.
4. Writing isn’t inherently noble, painful, or glamorous.
5. Writing is an act and a process, not a definition of who you are.
6. The only way to discover whether you have writing talent is to write.
7. There is no single “right” way to write.
8. Nothing will teach you more about writing than the act of writing itself.
9. Each writer builds their skills at their own rate of speed.
10. You can safely ignore most of the “have to’s” you’ve been taught about writing.
11. Outfit yourself with a few basic reference volumes.
12. To get the most out of writing, write what you would enjoy reading.
13. Getting published isn’t hard, but getting published in prominent places is.
14. Being published doesn’t make you a better writer or person.
15. Beware of anyone who wants money from you to read, represent, or publish your work.
16. Unless you’re rich or have substantial savings, don’t quit your job to become a freelance writer.
17. Ask yourself honestly what you want to get out of writing. Then make that your goal.
18. If you don’t like what you’re writing – or the act of writing in general – you can always stop.
The Writing Process
19. Each person’s writing process is unique.
20. Discover the times, places, and circumstances that help you write at your best.
21. Some writers find it very helpful to keep a journal or notebook.
22. You can start work on a piece of writing almost anywhere – with an event, a person, a quotation, an image, an idea, a setting, or just about anything else.
23. You don’t have to know where your piece is going when you begin writing it.
24. You don’t have to write your piece in the same order in which people will ultimately read it.
25. To help structure your piece or organize your ideas, try outlining or netlining.
26. When you’re not sure what word, phrase, or image to use, skip over it.
27. Write more words than you need – then cut the excess later.
28. Be willing to take risks and make mistakes.
29. Ignore the perfectionist, the worrier, and the nitpicker inside your head.
30. Virtually all writers need to revise and edit their work – often many times.
31. Read your work aloud after each draft – and as you edit.
32. Put your piece aside overnight before each round of revising or editing.
33. The final decisions on writing, revising, editing, and publishing anything you’ve created are yours and yours alone.
34. It’s fine to work on more than one piece at a time.
35. Some writers develop their own distinct style, others change their style from piece to piece.
36. “Writer’s block” has many different causes – and at least as many solutions.
37. Never throw away anything you write.
Building Your Writing Skills
38. Become familiar with some basic writing terms.
39. Get in touch with what inspires you.
40. Take time to meditate and ponder.
41. Fantasize. Ask “What If?”
42. Show rather than tell.
43. Involve your reader’s senses.
44. Write multiple variations, versions, or scenarios.
45. Combine unexpected elements.
46. Writing teachers, classes, and workshops range from wonderful to outright harmful.
47. Get feedback on your writing from people you trust.
48. Consider carefully what others have to say about your writing – but never let their comments overrule your own judgment.
49. Follow your heart and gut.
50. Let your writing find its own way.
Making Money from Your Writing
51. Understand the difference between a salaried writer, a contract writer, and a freelancer.
52. It’s possible to get rich by writing – but it doesn’t happen often.
53. There is far more money in writing for businesses and nonprofits than there is in writing for publication.
54. Plan to start out small, then work your way up slowly.
55. Most communication fields (publishing, film, TV, etc.) are moderately to highly dysfunctional.
56. Nonfiction accounts for 95 percent of all published mateiral, and 95 percent of all the money writers make.
57. There are three ways to publish material in periodicals: 1) Complete whatever pieces you desire, then submit them for publication; 2) Pitch ideas for pieces to editors, then contract in advance to write them; and 3) Write whatever editors ask you to write, on assignment.
58. Unless you’re dealing with the film or TV industries, you don’t have to worry about people stealing your work or ideas. If you are dealing with Hollywood, there is a way to protect yourself and your work.
59. You don’t need to register your work with the Copyright Office, or mail a copy to yourself, or print a copyright notice on it.
60. Unless you become famous, expect to be rejected much or most of the time.
61. It’s quite simple to establish a pen name for yourself.
62. If you’re serious about marketing your writing, you must do your own thorough market research.
63. Use Writer’s Market as one place to begin your market research, but only as a beginning.
64. Some of the best paying publications – and some of the easiest ones to get published in – can’t be found at any bookstore or newsstand.
65. It’s essential to send your work not only to the right publishers, but to the right editors as well.
66. You may send the same manuscript to many different editors at once.
67. Avoid sending query letters to editors, publishers, and producers.
68. Most editors and producers will not give you much feedback on your work.
69. When editors and producers do give you feedback, don’t take it too seriously most of the time.
70. Treat editors, producers, agents, and other media professionals like normal human beings.
71. When an unexpected opportunity arises, don’t be afraid to grab it.
72. Virtually everything in a publishing contract is potentially negotiable.
73. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need.
74. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.
75. Most published nonfiction books start out as book proposals.
76. You don’t need a literary agent unless you want to sell a book, a full-length play, or material for major TV or film production.
77. To get an agent, write a brief letter to twenty to twenty-five people selected from the resources listed in this chapter.
78. Legitimate literary agents earn their money by selling writers’ work and receiving a commission (usually 10-15 percent) – not through any other means.
79. Many of the people who call themselves literary agents operate scams and schemes that can cost you money and do you harm.
80. Don’t waste your time entering lots of literary contests, particularly those with entry fees.
81. Paying a “vanity press” to publish your book actually discourages bookstores from buying it.
82. Self-publishing is a viable option only if you know your market, are good at promotion and publicity, and are willing to devote at least twenty hours a week to promoting and marketing your book.
83. Be very wary of “copublishing” arrangements.
84. Avoid sending your work to poetry anthologies that advertise for submissions.
85. Plenty of jobs are available for writers and editors – but they’re not easy to get.
86. One of the best ways to land a writing or editing job is through an internship or assistant’s position.
The Writer’s Life
87. Building a successful writing career requires skill, time, patience, perseverance, and flexibility. Being good at marketing helps, too.
88. Your successes and failures as a writer will be half the result of your own effort, half the result of luck.
89. Writing is by nature a solitary activity.
90. Most freelance writers have at least one other job.
91. Integrate your writing with the rest of your life. Don’t neglect your family – or yourself – in favor of your writing.
92. When you read something by a widely published writer and find yourself saying, “I can write better than that,” you’re probably right.
93. It is up to you to decide how much to network, schmooze, and socialize with other writers.
94. The opinions of any two writers, editors, or writing teachers will often differ.
95. Expect some negative reviews, reactions, and opinions.
96. When the going gets tough, reward yourself.
97. There are real but limited benefits to joiing writers’ groups, centers, clubs, and organizations.
98. There’s something unique to you and your writing that’s every bit as important as the ninety-nine other tips and guidelines in this book.
99. Keep reminding yourself why you write and what you get out of writing.
100. Enjoy yourself. The very best reason to write is for the pleasure of it.
Appendix: Useful Resources for Writers