I just returned from Dragoncon this week, and while I was there, attending panels on writing and teaching my Basic and Advanced Writing Workshops, I began thinking about the "profile" of an aspiring writer who stands a good chance of "making it" into publication. Assuming, of course that the writer is creative and has a good style and can put a story together, there are other attributes that help immeasurably in succeeding these days.
Aspiring writers who stand a good chance of achieving success:
1. Write...and re-write. They write consistently, not just when the mood strikes them. They complete projects, and they rewrite them until they're polished and as good as the writer can make them.
2. Accept constructive criticism. These writers know that the story comes first, and their ego comes last. They listen with equanimity when their work is critiqued, and they strive to maintain professionalism when working with a critique group or beta readers. They do not allow themselves to become defensive, angry, or sullen when readers find problems or mistakes in their work.
3. Network. They network with their peers in writing groups, and they network by attending conferences, etc. where they can listen to agents and editors speak about the publishing industry. They find out everything they can about how the industry works. Knowledge is power.
Caveat about writing groups: avoid the ones where "bashing the unpublished newbie" is considered an acceptable sport. These groups are useless at best, and can be amazingly destructive. A good writing group is composed of people who are writing the kind of work you're writing (for example, mixing poetry and fiction is not a good idea) and working toward the same goals. The group is supportive, but honest, and it doesn't degenerate into a kaffeeklatch atmosphere where people read their works, get praised to the skies, and never get around to submitting anything.
4. Submit. Let's face it, no magazine or book editor is ever going to come knocking on your door asking to see those manuscripts you've got filed in your cabinet. In order to have a chance of getting published, the work has to be submitted. We all know people who just want to TALK about writing, rather than actually working on their craft and actually submitting their stuff.
5. Accept rejection in a professional manner. Rejection is just part of the game. Even established professionals get rejected, you know? I know it’s no fun, but don’t allow yourself to take it personally. There really isn’t a cabal of publishers/agents out there who are just slavering at the thought that they’re going to crush the hopes of another newbie. Really. Honest. Pinky swear. I know a lot of publishers and agents and all of them, every single one of them, really hope that when they start reading submissions that they’ll find something they love and can accept.
Anyhow, hope this has been helpful.
-Ann C. Crispin