By Chris Manion
Three aspects of the writing craft furthered my career and cost me something. I put them off initially because I didn’t want to pay for them. It costs you nothing but a few minutes to consider what I learned.
1. Conference Jolts
Before I was a writer, I was a direct sales independent contractor. I knew the isolation of working alone in a giant industry. My experience as a home-based businesswoman paralleled many obstacles writers face: procrastination, doubts, fear of failure, discouragement, and questionable self-image.
Eight months into that career that generated a six figure income, I attended my first business conference. After saving money to pay for it and lining up babysitters, I ventured into a crowd of 300 people who did the same at-home work. The experience invigorated me. Reading can’t provide the myriad of human experiences and observances our senses collect at conferences. We store this knowledge in our minds like rain in barrels for when our ink dries up and computer screens act like deserts.
Part of your identity as a writer comes from your tribe. Conferences are one of the best and easiest places to find yours. As blueberry plants need a mate to pollinate, so writers need partners and a tribe to flourish.
Your first pitch usually takes place at a conference. If it’s anything like your first kiss, it probably won’t be your best. Mine was rushed and full of awkwardness. A pitch is like asking for a date. You experience rejection, false hopes, letdowns, and delight. The respect and help you receive at pitching sessions, especially at Christian writers’ conferences, is something you deserve.
2. Consistent communication
Before becoming an award-winning author, I was a business writer. A business writer with a team that grew from five to over five thousand. My role as a leader relied on consistent communications through monthly newsletters: one for my leadership team, another for my entire organization. These newsletters had a self-imposed deadline and a purpose: to connect my team and me.
At first, I was inconsistent in writing or sending them. When team members didn’t feel acknowledged, they didn’t feel connected. When they didn’t feel connected, their sales were inconsistent. The result? My income dropped and they missed their goals. Lesson learned: consistent communication and acknowledgement matter.
When we forget the lessons we learn, they show up. Again. After retiring and publishing my first book, little work got submitted. The problem? I needed a consistent writing habit, a new tribe and new inspiration.
After meeting with local critique groups, a dilemma arose. I was a Christian writer. Local writing groups gave meaningful feedback but didn’t provide the spiritual support I craved. I Googled Christian writers’ groups and discovered Word Weavers. With the closest group six hours away, I formed a new chapter.
Writers who opened and closed meetings with prayers inspired me. Understanding nods at scriptural references encouraged me. Chapter meetings simulated writing deadlines and editor critiques. I found my tribe and my purpose.
This group helped me grow exponentially as a writer. I encourage you to join writing guilds, societies, and organizations. Get your work before others. It is scary but essential.
Tips to get started:
· Google writers critique groups in your community. Try one out.
· Pitch a column idea to your local paper – something you’re passionate about.
· Sign up for guest posts or articles or contests.
· Find an accountability partner who loves you and shows up.
3. Editing: How, when and with whom?
When: An electrician worked in our front yard recently when the heat index rocketed to 118°. He met our suggestions to finish the work another day with stubborn refusals. His recessed eyes, reddened face, and sluggish movements pointed toward symptoms of heatstroke.
Writers can be just as stubborn about letting go of cherished chapters or being edited at all. Unedited writing risks rejection. Before submitting your work, invest in an editor, beta-readers, and critique groups.
With whom: Without my developmental editor’s counsel, I probably wouldn’t enjoy multiple awards on my first book. I didn’t know enough about story arc to realize I had written past the ending. She did. I didn’t know there are three kinds of editors—line, copy, developmental—who improve writers’ works. Now you do, too.
How: Editors’ comments on manuscripts teach us how to improve our writing. Before investing in an editor, a critique group or writing partner may introduce you to editing rules you never knew existed. Read classic writing craft books like The Elements of Style by Strunk and more current works like Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide. See more book recommendations here.
Invest time and money into editing. Don’t put it off. Discover how each person finds something others missed, how publishers hate adverbs, and how a few tweaks in your work make the difference between acceptance and rejection.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master,” wrote Hemingway. I love to learn. While some apply Stephen King’s advice “kill your darlings,” I’m learning to surrender my adverbs. Editing is the heart of writing just as chiseling is the heart of sculpting. Editing is well worth paying for.
In summary, attend a conference; join a critique group and invest in an editor to improve your work.
Click-to-Tweet: Three aspects of the writing craft furthered my career and cost me something. I put them off initially because I didn’t want to pay for them. It costs you nothing but a few minutes to consider what I learned.
Take action prompt: Write for five minutes about what you are putting off in your writing. What price are you paying for this behavior? Or write a personal ad seeking a match between you and your ideal writing group.
Chris Manion is a honors graduate of the University of Dayton. She is an inspirational speaker and award-winning catechist from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Chris lives with her husband of over forty years near Destin, Florida where she kayaks, plays the cello, and photographs the beauty of the Emerald Coast.
She is the author of the book God’s Patient Pursuit of My Soul.
Drop by and visit her Facebook Author’s Page to learn more about her writing and professional endeavors. Or, connect with her online at:
- Amazon: amazon.com/author/chrismanion