When I was in high school I got a very nice Smith Corona typewriter. When something really mattered, I'd type up a final draft on that. In University, I purchased my own computer and parted ways with my pen and paper unless necessary. As I've waded into the waters of "professional" writing (sharing with an agent, getting an agent, being on submission), I've come to realize that there are many more tools necessary for today's aspiring authors. It's more than just the medium we use to get our words down; much more.
In teaching (I teach elementary), we need to be very aware of (and hopefully utilizing) 'best practices'. This means that we are up to date on current research and information on how to facilitate student success. It is very similar in writing. It is not just paper, pen, a list of agencies to query, and some stamps anymore. What does today's writer need in their toolkit?
- Knowledge: know your genre and what the agents you're querying are looking for. Read a lot. It makes you a better writer.
- Platform: in today's 'viral' world, establishing a presence via Twitter, Facebook, websites, or other avenues is going to become important somewhere along your journey.
- Patience: is this a tool? YES IT IS. Perhaps one of the harder ones to hang onto. Be patient. We're used to things happening now, fast, yesterday. It doesn't work like that in traditional publishing. Remember the saying: anything worth having is worth waiting for? How about: good things come to those who wait?
- Networks: my daughter came home with a little piece of paper and four stick figures. I asked what it was and she said, "It's my support network. Everybody needs one." It was a drawing of me, her dad, her sister, and her big buddy. She was right, everybody needs one and you'd be amazed at what a huge network of supportive people exist out there. People that will inspire you, motivate you, make you laugh, answer your questions, and share in your challenges. Find writers on social media that you can connect with and relate to; read about their journeys. Share your own.
- Readers: not just the ones that buy your books. You need pre-readers, also known as alpha or beta readers or, as I recently learned, critique partners. Someone who you can trust with your writing but also trust to give you the truth. When you establish that network, you'll realize how many writers are out there. Find a reader that can help you make your work stand out.
- Passion: when I was lamenting to my best friend that this whole process takes so long, she said, "Aren't you supposed to write for the joy of writing?" Yes, yes you are. If you don't love it, all the hard parts of this industry will be harder to face. If I hadn't been lucky enough to get an agent, would I still be writing? Yes. If my book, which is on submission, doesn't get picked up, will I try again? Yes. We can get a little lost in the idea of actually being a published author and holding our book in our hands one day, but in the end, remember why you started: you have to write because it's part of you. Don't lose that.
- Caffeine: as with most things in life, this just makes everything a little bit easier. If it doesn't, then at least it helps you stay awake to write!
What else? What's important in your writing toolkit? What makes you stronger or more confident as a writer?