Advice for Young Writers

I went to the eye doctor the other day, and my doctor was curious about my writing career as his daughter wants to make a living as a writer of some sort. He asked me for some advice, so I told him the most important thing that I have learned so far.

The biggest thing a writer can do to be successful is to write a lot. The more you write, the better your chances of finding someone who will pay you for it. Even if you’re the best writer in the world, you’re style, content, etc. might not be right for the person you are submitting it to. Right now, I write consistently for four to six clients, depending upon the week. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call it five. To get those five clients, I submitted writing samples to over 200 different places. Not favorable math at all. It ends up being about 2.5 percent of the places that I’ve submitted to that currently give me business.

This isn’t unique. Stephen King had hundreds of rejections before he started out. J.A. Konrath wrote over 1 million words over the course of many novels before he got his first piece published. The fact is, writers need to be in the right place at the right time if they want to get paid. The more you write and the more you submit, the better off your chances of making money will be.

Think about it. Who are the most successful writers you can think of? Stephen King. James Patterson. Danielle Steele. Name a famous writer, the odds are they’ve written more than one book. If you want to mimic their success you need to write and you need to write a lot.

Hemingway had a famous saying that, to paraphrase it pretty inaccurately, was along the lines that you have only a few good words in you, and that the more bad writing you put out, the easier it is to get the few good words out. If you write enough, you can turn those few good words into good novels.

There are exceptions out there. J.D. Salinger made it big on The Catcher in the Rye and hardly wrote anything afterwards. So yes, it is possible to be rich and famous on a little bit of writing. But the likelihood of that very rare writer being you is very slim. Like betting double zero on a roulette wheel with thousands of numbers on it. It can happen, yes. But it almost never will.

So write a lot. Every day. And don’t be afraid of rejection.

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