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The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing

Introduction

I didn’t start writing until I was twenty.

I don’t mean I didn’t start taking writing seriously until I was twenty, I mean I didn’t write anything that wasn’t for a school assignment until I was twenty.

No short stories.

No poems.

No novels.

No nonfiction.

OK, scratch that last one. I did write about thirty pages of a memoir on my old IBM Aptiva. I have no idea where that partial manuscript is, and that’s probably for the best.

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When I transferred to Beloit College, I decided to become a Creative Writing major because it seemed like fun, and it was, but back then I had many, many, MANY misconceptions about what being a writer meant.

Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Writing As A Twenty-Year-Old Absolute Beginner

1. Writing is rewriting.

You just finished your novel. Great. Now the fun really begins.

2. Rewriting is not a quick process.

God may have created the Earth in six days; however, you will not complete your manuscript in anywhere near that time frame.

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3. Working with an editor isn’t optional, but necessary.

My short stories wouldn’t have been published without the assistance of Rairigh Drum, who was my developmental editor. My screenplays wouldn’t have attracted the attention of a New York Times best-selling author and a screenwriter who has worked with Spielberg without the assistance of a developmental editor. My non-fiction book wouldn’t have…you get the point.

4. Writing well isn’t enough, you need to think like an entrepreneur to get noticed.

Is it ugly? Yeah, maybe, but the days of the pure writer who refuses to attend to the business end of things is over. Those writers are doomed to obscurity.

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5. Success doesn’t come overnight.

Trust the process. If you know that you’re good, go out and prove it. Stay the course, and don’t lose your confidence if you don’t rapidly advance.

6. Networking with other writers (and, if possible, with editors, publishers, and agents) can open up many doors.

Remember that saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, it’s both. Don’t be isolated.

7. Most publishers will have zero interest in your writing and will reject it, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have talent.

Publishers and agents receive an incredibly large amount of submissions. They also usually have very strict criteria about what types of work they publish/represent. Receiving rejections is inevitable. I’ve had over 60 short stories and poems published and scout publications carefully, and still only have an acceptance rate of about 25-30%.

8. You can’t half ass your way to quality writing; you have to whole ass it.

If you’re planning on going through the motions, just put down your pen and give it up.

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9. Not all writers are miserable people, and you don’t have to be miserable to write.

Although I won’t lie, sometimes it helps. 😉

10. You don’t have to drink to excess to write well, but sometimes it can be fun.

Nostrovia!

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Conclusion

“He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory.” – Lao Tzu

Don’t make mistakes based on incorrect perspectives about being a writer.

Make writing a consistent habit, work with an editor that you can trust, network, realize this is a process, and try to keep a sense of humor. If you do all that, and you have some talent, you’ll be more than fine.

What Do You Wish You Knew When You Started Writing?

Leave a comment below!

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In Need Of An Editor?

Check out my editing services page.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

How To Land High-Paying Writing Jobs

I landed a five-figure screenwriting gig without ever having sold a screenplay before.

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I landed a similarly lucrative non-fiction writing gig without ever having written a non-fiction book before, or anything longer than a short story.

Regardless of what my mom told me growing up, I’m not special. If I can do it, so can you.

Moral Of The Story: Listen To Lauren

My fiancée Lauren and I have a relationship that’s like a sitcom. A problem arises. She proposes a solution. I go my own way in a bullheaded fashion. My own devices fail. I reluctantly try her way and succeed.

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Yes, she is always right. I hope she never reads this admission. Let’s make this our special secret, okay?

Anyway, one day, after years of providing editing services, I wanted to get my feet wet and land a client as a writer, not as an editor. Lauren suggested Upwork.com

I decided to give it a try, and after a few searches, I turned to her in disgust and said something to the effect of “Why the hell would anyone write a 50,000 word book for $100?”

If you’re willing to write a book for $100, and you live in the US, EU, or any other developed country, you’re a fool. Believe me, I told this to Lauren. Over and over again until she got sick of hearing my self-righteous statement. And a couple more times long after she had grown tired of my ranting.

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But, Lauren told me to stick with it. Reluctantly, I did.

And I landed a five-figure screenwriting client.

Without having sold or optioned a screenplay at that point.

Five figures certainly beats $100, right?

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Full Gordon Gekko Mode

Okay, quick interlude. I know some people are probably annoyed at the money talk. To those people, let me quote British author Samuel Johnson, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

There is NOTHING ugly about getting large sums of money for your writing. If you want to turn writing into a career, you’re going to need those large sums of money. If writing is just a hobby, that’s fine, but if you want to make writing your primary profession, then you’re going to need to be able to get people to pay you for your work.

And pay you more than $100.

How I Landed My First Client

So, how did I land this client? Let me walk you through the steps:

Step 1 – I applied for the gig.

As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Step 2 – After no response, I sent a follow-up message.

No response does not mean no. No response means you need to do more to convince me.

Step 3 – I steered the prospective client to a phone call.

We established rapport, shared values, and a willingness to learn about the topic.

Step 4 – I sent writing samples.

I sent him a previous screenplay I had written.

Step 5 – I kept sending follow-ups after he went cold.

He agreed to work with me, and gave me insights into writing his screenplay, but then went cold for ten months. I kept sending him follow-ups, spaced long apart not to annoy, but regularly enough to be assertive. I never was judgmental or passed blame. I’m a professional and I acted the part.

Step 6 – I flew out West to meet with him.

There, I got a chance to further develop the rapport, learn more about the project, and iron out the details. It was a success!

And he wasn’t the only client I landed.

With A Little Help From Your Friends…

Ever hear the old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know?

Yeah, sometimes that’s true.

I landed another great client as a referral from a friend. She knew that I was looking for writing clients. Another friend of hers was looking for a talented writer.

Yes, sometimes it’s really that easy.

A Whole Bunch Of Other Ways To Land High-Paying Writing Clients

Of course, these aren’t the only ways to land high-paying clients on great writing projects. Here are a few other methods you may want to consider:

  1. Craigslist. Yes, there are a lot of flakes there, but there are diamonds in the rough.
  2. Create a website and blog, and hit social media hard. Get yourself out there online. Lots of people do, though. The key is quantity and quality. Provide immense value and provide it as often as you can.
  3. Develop an expertise. Coupling talent as a writer with a subject expertise puts you ahead of nearly all competition when finding ghostwriting gigs.
  4. Target business leaders. Use your professional network to find the alpha dogs of the business world. They’re often far too busy to write books on their own, and pay ghostwriters well.
  5. Make business cards and leave them in well-trafficked areas. Go to affluent neighborhoods and leave business cards behind in coffee shops, libraries, hotel common areas, etc.

Conclusion

Whether through a friend, Upwork.com, Craigslist, a website/blog/social media presence, sharpening up on a skill, targeting your friendly neighborhood CEO, or hitting the rich neighborhoods with a stack of business cards, writers don’t have to be poor (even if it’s fun to joke about).

Now go out and land a high-paying gig and make me proud!

What’s Your Story?

Have you ever landed a high-paying writing gig? How did you do it? Share in the comments below. I’m open to guest posts for compelling and insightful stories about this topic.

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If you have any questions about landing high-paying writing gigs, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso