Monday, May 19, 2008

Calling All Writers!

From time to time I get an email from someone who is trying to start a freelance writing career asking me for advice. I'm always humbled by these emails. I don't really consider myself an expert in anything, except maybe negotiating with a 3-year-old and convincing her that everyone poops and it's good for her body to do so on a regular basis instead of holding it in until she begins to get a tummy ache, although I'm even running out of ideas in that area. (Any suggestions?)

Whenever a hopeful scribe approaches me, I'm also reminded of all the writers before me who held my hand when I was new to freelancing. I owe a big thanks to Rebecca, a friend and a colleague, who gave me a dream job. She hired me on as an editor of a parenting publication before I even was a parent. (And, oh how I thought I was going to be so prepared for motherhood....Turns out, that reading and writing about how to get your child to take a nap - or poop - is very different than actually doing it.)

Long before Rebecca there were my parents, who always encouraged my dreams - even the ones that revolved around Hollywood and training Seabiscuits. I think they would have said, "Go for it!" if I'd announced I was going to try out for the Olympics' gymnastics team. (People, I can't even do a cartwheel.)

In second grade, there was Mrs. Isaacs who entered a silly, little story I wrote about a plaque detective (see "About Me" section) into a contest and gave me the gift of my first byline. (To the best of my knowledge, her husband was not a dentist). I was hooked after that. Then there was Mrs. Guy and Mrs. Wilhoite in high school who both always encouraged my writing and only pulled out that soul-crushing red pen when absolutely necessary. In college, Dr. Hollifield was my mentor. I remember her telling me, "Whatever you decide to do with your life, don't forget to write about it." What I've most recently done with my life is to become a wife and a mom and Dr. Hollifield, I haven't forgotten to write about it. In fact, my kids and motherhood provide me with an endless supply of ideas.

Of course, a few years back I imagined I'd have my Great American Novel written by now, but things change, babies happen, and honestly, life has turned out a whole lot better for me than any artsy novel floating around in my head probably would.

Anywho...In order to answer some of the questions I'm most often asked by aspiring writers, I've decided to start occasionally including posts devoted to the craft and business of writing. I'd also love to hear any questions you might have. Email me at kmwicker[at]gmail dot com if there's something you want to know. If I don't have the answer, I'll try to find someone, or a website, book, etc. who/that does. (For those of you who could care less about writing, don't worry. I'll still mostly be rambling on about motherhood, faith, and other random stuff.)

Just two quick caveats:

#1 This goes without saying, but I'm, by no means, an expert. I've read many books on the subject of writing. I have my degree in journalism. I belonged to a fiction writing club that included published authors and have attended myriad writing workshops. I've worked with many different editors. I've written everything from press releases to an article on how to raise vegetarian kids. But none of that makes me an expert. I'm just someone who really, really wanted to write and just did it, even when all I had to show for it was lots of drafts, queries, and a growing stash of rejection letters. If you have any talent at all as well as a (strong!) desire to write and get published, you can and will do it. In a way, finding your writing niche is kind of like parenting. You can read all the books in the world about how to "do it," but the bottom line is, you've got to trust your parenting instincts and love your child for whom she is. At the end of the day, you're the only expert your kids need and you sort of just have to learn as you go. Same is true with writing. You can learn everything you need to on how to write, but you'll really only learn how to do it and how to get it published by trying and putting yourself out there.

And that brings me to caveat #2: Even if I was a on staff at the Wall Street Journal or a Random House editor, it would still behoove you to take everything I say with a grain of salt. When you start trying to figure out how to get published, you start hearing all about the "rules" of writing or the "secrets" to a winning query. But one thing I've learned over the past eight years of my writing "career," is that there really are no absolute rules. What works for one editor/publication may not work for another (some, for example, like queries over email; some prefer snail mail). Likewise, what "works" for me may not work for you as a writer. I don't like to outline. I just start writing. Other writers swear by outlining. You'll have to experiment to see what works best for you. Sometimes picking up the pencil or pulling out the laptop is the hardest part. One tip I do stand by is to always be professional. Honestly, I think that's helped me more than anything. I know how to "sell" myself as not only a writer but a professional. Oh, and I meet deadlines. Always. Those two simple things go a long way in helping you to succeed as a writer.

Now stay tuned...I'll be posting my first writing "article" later this week. Until then, what are you waiting for? Start writing!

No comments: