Yesterday I saw this tweet from literary agent Mandy Hubbard:
As someone who has dreamed of being published since I crafted my first hardcover in second grade, the Tweet resonated. She followed it up with a few clarifications: although you may need a laptop, Internet access, and/or a few pens and notebooks, you can reach the Publishing Mountaintop without really spending a dime.
I’ve spent a few dimes in the twenty years since that second-grade masterpiece. In high school, I signed up for the Writer’s Digest correspondence school, back in the days when you actually swapped printed manuscripts through the mail with a mentor. Later, I spent a few more dimes (albeit not many, since I was a single mother and didn’t have many dimes to spare) to get critiques from the Editorial Department, then a few more to attend my first writer’s conference.
I spent many dimes on craft books. Here’s the thing about craft books, though: When you’re a beginning writer, you think the Craft Book Writers know more than you, so you take it all to heart. It takes a while to figure out which ones don’t apply and which ones do (for me, the only one that mattered was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers). The only way you can figure out which craft book speaks to you is to know your craft. [If my editor were reading this blog post, she would circle each usage of “craft” and write AVOID REPEAT in the margins]. How do you cozy up to your craft? Keep writing, read great books, network with other writers, start submitting, and get rejected. None of that costs you anything, except maybe a few hits to the ego—but without that, you can’t get better. When it comes to becoming a better writer, rejection is priceless.