Deborah Raney dreamed of writing a book since the summer she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a Kansas farm girl could, indeed, grow up to be a writer. After a happy twenty-year detour as a stay-at-home mom, Deb penned her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, which won a Silver Angel Award and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Since then, her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, as well as twice being finalists for the Christy Award. Deb teaches at writers’ conferences across the country. She and her husband, Ken Raney, love small-town life in their native Kansas, the setting for many of Deb’s novels. They have four children and four precious grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com
Taking Your Writing Seriously
Whether you are published or not, if you desire to write and routinely take part in the action of writing, you are a writer! But how can you continue to view writing as a calling or a career, before you have “evidence” of published work, and despite the discouragement of rejections?
To slightly paraphrase Romans 12:6-8: God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you…[an ability]…take the responsibility seriously!
You can’t use your talent for God’s intended purposes if you don’t first develop your skills through study and practice, and then pursue avenues where your gift can be used.
While I worked on my first novel, I told only a handful of my most trusted friends and family. To be honest, the reaction of some caused me to be even more secretive about the “silly little hobby” I’d taken up! It was hard to justify 5-7 hours a day spent writing, when I had no idea whether my work would ever see the light of day.
And yet, who, upon beginning piano lessons, or medical school or flight instruction, would feel guilty about time spent trying to realize a dream? Why should pursuing a writing career be any different? Whether you’ve been published or not, you have every right to take your desire to be a writer seriously. Here are some suggestions I believe will help you––and others––view your career/calling with the respect it deserves.
• Set aside a separate place to write. This can be a dedicated office or a corner of the kitchen table, but it should be a place you can leave the tools of your trade set up so you can grab writing time whenever opportunity arises.
• Organize your office space. Even if you are not yet ready to seek publication, keep detailed records of what you’re writing and where you’ve submitted each work. From letters, poems, magazine articles, short stories…everything you write is part of your “opus.” Many times, I’ve pulled bits and pieces of an old writing project to incorporate into a new work. A publication once paid me several hundred dollars for an e-mail I’d sent to a writers’ loop. Of course I jazzed it up a bit before submitting, but hey…not bad for an e-mail!
• Start small. Use your talent as a writer to influence and encourage through letters to the editor, e-mails to politicians, notes to friends and family. Volunteer to write your church or neighborhood newsletter. Any time you use your writing––no matter how low (or non-existent!) the pay––you’re perfecting your skills. And you never know––a letter to the editor might lead to an offer to write a newspaper column.
• Invest in subscriptions to writing magazines. Start a collection of writing and research books. You’ll learn much about the publishing industry and gather tips on the craft and business of writing. And remember, when you’re attempting to get a writing career off the ground, anything you spend on that pursuit––from reference books to office supplies to mileage, etc.––is tax deductible. Talk to an accountant about the tax advantages of having a business that is UNprofitable for a few years!
• If you’re not already in a critique group, find (or start) one. One of the marks of a working writer is being able to accept an honest critique. I know very few successful writers who don’t depend heavily on others to critique/edit/proofread their work.
• Join a local writers’ group. Even the small town where we lived when I first started writing had an active writer’s group. I doubt it was a coincidence that there were six published authors in that town of 3500. If your area doesn’t have a writers’ group, start one!
• Start saving now for a writer’s conference. These conferences can be expensive, but they’re an investment you’ll never regret. Besides invaluable workshops, the contacts you make with editors and publishers are priceless.
• Enter writing contests. Besides the possibility of winning awards that may garner the attention of an editor or publisher, entering contests forces you to write and write well. And if you succeed, it’s a boost to your confidence.
• View rejection letters as proof you are a “real” writer. The writer who never submits may not face the disappointment of a rejection, but neither does he have any chance of experiencing the elation of landing a contract. And save those rejection letters. They serve as a record of what you’ve submitted and what the response was (and may also serve as proof of your efforts should you be audited by the IRS.) Besides, it will be fun, someday, to read those rejection letters and quietly thumb your nose at the publishers who turned down your bestseller! (Do not send letters. I’m only kidding on that last part!)
But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave.