Thursday, August 25, 2011

Learning about your industry or trade...

When I go to events (store signings and such) I frequently get asked about HOW TO BECOME A WRITER.

I truly do not mind helping another writer or giving advice to someone who has a dream of being a writer someday.  I will occasionally look at an aspiring writer's work and give them feedback.  What astonishes me is how few people put the effort in to actually learning about their desired profession.  It's like:
  • an aspiring lawyer not learning about the LSAT exams
  • a travel agent with no idea about world capitals
  • a nurse who gets nauseous at the sight of blood
  • a cop who has poor marksmanship
  • a veterinarian with allergies to cats and dogs
Anyone wanting to pursue the above professions should polish the things required to become or the be a good member of a given profession (study a map, go to a firing range).  It's also good to rule out certain professions if you don't have the right aptitude or attitude for it (a queasy nurse, a vet with allergies).

It's smart to find out the what's and why's and how's of a given profession before deciding to follow that certain path.  For example,
  • an electrician must do an apprenticeship before becoming a journeyman
  • a physician must do a residency
  • an actor/singer/dancer has to go to auditions, many of which will not be successful
  • a lawyer must article for a year
  • a bartender should know the recipes for a few popular cocktails
And so on...

With the Internet, all of this information is there for the taking.  Yet people don't bother to check into it, thus putting themselves at a disadvantage.

I would be happy to help someone polish a synopsis or fine-tune a query letter, but you should know what those things are.  I don't think it's up to me to give quickie workshops on what a  query letter is, or why you need to have a zingy synopsis.

People ask me where they can SNAIL MAIL their whole manuscript.  Asking that question shows me the person has spent ZERO time investigating writing as a profession.  Shame on you! For the record, there are many good reasons why an agent or publisher does not want to receive the entire text - all 422 pages - of an unsolicited manuscript:
  • they don't have time to read that many submissions
  • a manuscript takes up space
  • worries about accusations of plagiarism/intellectual property
  • they aren't taking on new clients
  • it wastes paper and is not environmentally friendly
  • if sent via email, well, SPAM SPAM SPAM and viruses
There are tons of books out there on how to get published.  And there are lots of books out there on how to write.  These are two different subjects.  I'll talk more about writing in another post, but for now, the best book on getting published is:

78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh.

There are lots of other books out there as well - some of them are great - but in my opinion, the Walsh book was the VERY BEST.  Damn I learned a lot from reading it!

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