By Bev Walton-Porter
There is a truism I've learned about writing, and here it is: you can still write what *you* want to write, but realize if you want to publish your work and have others read it, you have to learn your writing is a product. If the product -- your writing -- doesn't fit with what is going to sell in the marketplace, you'll never see it published unless you self-publish it.
As for articles, do not write them first and then try to sell them. Query first, interest an editor and then write the entire article. The vision for your article or book may not be what the same vision your editor/publisher has. A prime example would be my book Sun Signs for Writers. My proposal and sample chapters were not of the same vision as the editor had. She liked the idea, but what I presented was too text heavy for what they had in mind. Thank goodness I didn't write the entire book -- what a waste of time that would have been! Instead, she had me rewrite a 2,000-word sample, crafted to her specifications, and then they decided to contract the book.
The same thing happened with Writer's Digest in 1997. I queried an article and the editor liked my idea, but her vision of how the article should read ended up much different than what I had in mind. She asked if I'd slant it their way (of course I said "yes!") and the article was published in February 1997. Had I written the article ahead of time and tried to sell it my way, they wouldn't have purchased or published it. Because I wrote it their way, I ended up with a nice $100 check and a clip in a prestigious writing magazine for my files.
Talent counts for something in writing, to be sure. But I submit that just because you have talent, it doesn't mean you automatically have what it takes to be a published writer. Beyond talent, you must also have the mind of a marketer as well. You must know your audience, know how to sell your work to others (editors, publishers, agents) and be willing to work well with others. Sometimes that means you aren't always going to get your way...but hey, do you want to be published or do you want to be labeled as a difficult writer? I'd rather work in a harmonious relationship with my editors/publishers, thank you.
If you're a bestselling author or famous, maybe you can afford to be difficult; but if you're not, you better give yourself a reality check -- and quick! Sure, feel free to gripe and moan about the ‘the system’ and all of that, but don't be surprised if you find yourself seeing most of your work gathering dust on your writing desk rather than published in the pages of magazines and books. This doesn't mean you shouldn't make the best decisions for you or that you should let yourself get screwed, but I have seen too many writers who cop an attitude and rant about trivial matters rather than seeing the bigger picture. The question is this: do you or don't you want to be published? If the answer is yes, you know what you need to do.
The bottom line is this: writing is a journey. Despite all the advice and blathering (including the rambling I've done here), no one knows everything about writing. No one has the ultimate secret for writers. And there's not one right formula for every writer or every writing situation. You have to find what works for you and go with it. Take bits of info here and there, test it out, see what works and then hone it to meet your needs. And while there are tons of rules you'll read about writing, once you learn them you can break some of them. But you have to know the rules first and when you can get away with breaking them. It all depends on circumstance!
In the end, if you are a writer you will fail at some time, in some way or another. Get used to failure. Get used to rejection. Then get up off the floor, dust off your jeans and get back up on that horse. You may fail a thousand times (I'm probably up to 2,000 by now!), but the mark of a true writer is that you continue to try over and over again -- and those failures serve as lessons for the future. How many times did Edison fail with his inventions? Look it up. What about Abraham Lincoln? He failed at most everything he tried. But neither of them gave up. You shouldn't, either. True writers never give up. No matter what. And eventually, after banging your head on that closed door a million times over...it'll open, ever so slightly. When it does, wedge your foot in the door before it closes again and propel yourself forward.
When it comes to writing, I've never given up and I never intend to. Ever. Will you?
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