A writer’s graduation
If you are on a journey to become a professional writer you need to understand one thing. Like any other profession, you need to graduate from the school of writing.
Professional qualifications can take anywhere from three to seven years. A bachelor’s degree in science typically takes four years, a law three years on top of that, and medicine up to seven years. Graduation in writing can take many years ( a lifetime in my case), but four to five years if you are committed and working on the craft full time.
But most of us are doing it part-time.
That takes looooooong time.
It is true that you don’t have to go to university to get the qualifications and you can learn the craft through self-study but you become a writer by writing and that my dear takes years. We got to be writing a lot, and for many years, before our work gets anywhere close to publishable quality.
But the major drawback of a writing degree is that we don’t automatically advance one level per year. We can be a freshman for years. I know that because I have been a freshman for twenty years.
Randy Ingermanson, the guy I have been harping about for some time now, the same guy who invented the Snowflake method, has also devised a method to figure out where you are on the road to graduation as a writer.
He lets you self-judge whether you are a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior or Senior. Here are the criteria:
Freshmen are novice writers. They often have very fine content, but their craft is unpolished and they usually don’t have any contacts at all. …. most Freshmen are convinced that they will never sell anything and they might as well give up. It’s fair to say that all Freshmen are very confused. That’s OK!
Sophomores have a bit of writing under their belts. They’ve improved their craft and probably also their content and they’re starting to get restless. Just how long does it take to get published, anyway? … Why can’t those editors see that my book is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius and just publish the thing?
Juniors have gone even further. They’ve become strong writers. They’ve submitted some actual proposals at conferences. They’ve had an editor say those magic words — “Send me that proposal.” … Their friends can’t understand why they’re not published. There is a reason, of course — they’re not Seniors yet. But they soon will be . .
Seniors are those few who are ripe to graduate. A Senior is writing excellent stuff. Explosive. Powerful. Moving. But still unpublished. Seniors are worried sick that those mean editors are never going to notice them, that they’ll be submitting proposals forever. … and then one day the phone rings. It’s one of those cranky editors you sent that proposal to last year and . . . she wants to buy your book!Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author
How to move from one level to the next
Randy advises not to jump levels. It is hard enough already. If you try to jump from Sophomores to the Senior level you will frustrate yourself and eventually give up writing altogether.
His tip is to take your time to move from Freshman to Sophomore and work on the craft. This means writing a lot and writing for readers. Write in your journal daily. Start a blog. Participate in November Novel Writing Month. Join a critique group.
Once all that becomes a habit, you can work towards becoming Juniors. Start attending writer’s conferences and learn to write book proposals. Writing proposals is an art in itself and you are going to need a lot of practice to hone it. And guess what, you will need to get critiques on your proposals too.
As a Junior, you strive for excellence. Both in your work and in your proposals. You will need to build your contacts and broaden your horizons. This will mean meeting lots of people. Not just editors but writers too, as Randy says, ” knowing lots of writers is better than knowing lots of editors, and it’s a whole lot easier.”
Once you have made yourself known in the writing circle, you have become a senior, just like in university, and have won the bragging right to intimidate the freshmen. You need to continue to strive for perfection in your craft and your proposals but your main job is to wait for the right idea. And as soon as it strikes, you are to grab it with both hands and turn it into the book by using all that you have been learning so far.
Then my dear, an editor, who is a lifelong friend of a lifelong friend, will offer you a contract and you will be an author. If you have already checked and your lifelong friend does have an editor friend, not to worry, you can build a writer’s page on Amazon and self-publish your book.
You may ask how I know all this when I am still a freshman myself?
Well, my dear, Randy Ingermanson told me.