Today is the fifth anniversary of this blog, and this is my 2,015th post.
It seems like an eons ago when I wrote that first post. And, boy howdy, did my world change over the intervening years. Back on 9/14/2005, I didn't have a viable manuscript, didn't have an agent, and--although I prayed that one day I'd have a publishing contract--I wasn't really sure it would ever happen.
I felt like a lonely sailor, pushing a leaky little vessel away from the dock to begin a sea journey without a compass or map, just trusting in the Good Lord and the stars above to point the way.
Here are a few things I learned during that journey:
1) Write every day. Yeah, yeah, I know everyone says that, but there's a really solid reason why you need to do it: If you are constantly producing new material, it's easier to let go of the old stuff.
Everyone who's ever attended a conference knows a writer who's written one manuscript, which is more precious to him than gold. He's so invested in that one manuscript, he can't let go. He CANNOT move on. And let's face it. It's rare that an author produces Gone With the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird right out of the starting blocks.
Keep writing. Your writing won't get worse, and--if you're serious about your craft--it will probably improve.
2) Read at least one thing about writing or publishing every day. I don't care if it's a review, a blog or an article in The New York Times. Don't expect to successfully navigate the publishing industry without learning to understand it.
3) There are many generous people in the industry. When one of them is kind enough to answer a question for you, the proper response is "Thank you very much." Do not abuse their generosity by continuing to pepper them with more questions or--worse yet--by arguing with them.
4) Begin early to develop a list of agents and editors who work in your genre. You'll see them thanked in dedications in books or read about them in articles about the industry. A number of agents now blog (see the panel to the right of this blog).
I invested $3.99 a month for several months to subscribe to www.writersmarket.com (a subscription is now $5.99 a month). I later upgraded to Publishers Marketplace here at $20 a month, intending to drop the subscription in a couple of months. Five years later, and I'm still subscribing because I find the current information about the industry worth the expense.
5) Join writers' groups in person and online. Network. Find critique partners. Do NOT depend on relatives and friends for feedback. They love you. Get more objective criticism.
6) Don't ever give up. Remember Joe Konrath's motto: What do you call a writer who never gives up?