By Lindsay Bandy
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but this past year I joined SCBWI and decided it was time to get professional about it. And I quickly felt my brain fizzing like an Alka-Seltzer tablet with all that I needed to learn and do. Patience is not my best quality. But, little by little, I’m learning to take the advice of Dr. Leo Marvin from that great movie classic, What About Bob: Baby steps.
I remember the look in my roly-poly, sitting baby’s eye when she got the idea it was time move. She looked at her favorite toy, just out of her reach, and I could see her thinking, “I really want that.” Pointing and waiting for Mommy wasn’t enough anymore. She wanted to go get it herself, and for the first time, she did.
The road to walking is fraught with stumbles, tumbles, split lips, and bruises, and the road to publication is no different. But if you’ve got that look in your eye, and that determination in your heart, then you’ve truly begun your adventure. Go get it!
As you begin 2014, consider these baby steps to take this year, if you haven’t taken them already:
- Attend an SCBWI conference, and opt for the professional critique. This was the biggest step I took this year, and it was a fantastic one. Sure, I hardly slept the night before, having nightmares that my critiquer would tell me to quit and go home. But she didn’t! And I learned SO much from the workshops, surrounded by people who share my passions and dreams, and many who’ve already achieved them. Did you know that normally closed editors and agents open up for submissions from conference attendees? This is a great way to start making connections!
- Join a critique group. Get your work read, get feedback, and get better!
- Start your social media platform. It’s the buzzword, I know. At the MD/DE/WV SCBWI conference that I attended last fall, I sat in on a presentation called “Dating 101: What Makes YOU Desirable to an Editor” by Bloomsbury Kids Associate Editor Laura Whitaker. It caused quite a stir when she explained that a growing number of editors and agents won’t even consider your work without at least the beginnings of a social media platform. The question was raised from the audience, “What do we tweet or blog or post on Facebook if we’re not published yet?” Ms. Whitaker explained that we can begin by writing book reviews, tweeting about the writing process, tweeting to other authors, following publishing houses, and generally proving to the editorial staff that we really want this. She also assured us that it’s not a requirement to have 1,000+ followers! Prove that you’re trying, that you’re willing to put in the effort to not only write a great book, but help to promote it, too. I’ll admit I had no clue how to start, but I got started anyway. You can, too. I’ll follow you on Twitter. Promise.
- The SCBWI ladies at AsTheEraserBurns are currently running a series about getting started with your platform. Check it out here: http://aseraserburns.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/social-media-workshop-1-where-to-start/
- Read Up. One of the best things for me about beginning to use Twitter has been finding lots of useful articles and blog posts on everything bookish, from publishing news/trends to improving query letters to character development. Read an article or two a day – it doesn’t take long. Pick up a book on the craft and read a few pages a day. Dedicate yourself to mastering the craft and gaining solid industry knowledge, little by little.
- Stop calling yourself a wannabe or an aspiring author. Start calling yourself a Writer. Because you ARE one, even if nobody’s paid you for it yet. Kristen Lamb takes it a step further on her blog, suggesting “pre-published” over “aspiring.”
The thing about babies is, they don’t stay babies for long. Baby steps turn to all-out walking, running, jumping twirling, and climbing the shelves of the bathroom cabinet to reach Mommy’s lipstick. And you know what? Writers grow, too. Revision by revision. Step by step.
We want to hear from you! What are the goals you can set for yourself right now to grow as a writer this year? Let us know, so we can make the EasternPennPoints Blog more useful with articles that help you reach them!