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Want to publish? Approach your writing as a career

Sure you want to get your work published, but have you thought about your writing in terms of a career?

It’s easy to focus on the work at hand — the current short story, memoir, or novel in progress. But a couple years ago, I gained a new perspective from literary agent Donald Maass, who says:

Writing is a long-term profession that you must approach as a career. And that career is ultimately in the writer’s court.

First and foremost, Maass says, a writing career begins with good storytelling. Studying craft and writing daily is step one. Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, teaches writing and how to propel your storycraft to the next level in his book and workshops. His advice made me think about what it takes to build a writing career.

Consider these career-building strategies.

Hook into your town’s writing community. Writers are everywhere, so whether you live in a town, tiny burg, or big city, you should be able to find a community of writers (even if it’s small) who share your interest. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, consider starting your own writer’s group. Writing MeetUp Groups are another good way to find a writer’s group focused on writing in general or by genre.

Take a local class or workshop. After moving from the Midwest to the West, I met several great writing friends when I signed up for a continuing education class at a community college. Several of us continued to meet beyond the class and formed a critique group that helped us advance the quality of our writing. Colleges, libraries, and writer’s groups often sponsor local writing workshops.

Join professional organizations. Whether you write mysteries, romances, or thrillers, you’ll find a professional writing organization targeted to your genre. I’m a learning junkie so I especially love going to workshops. And professional organizations sponsor workshops, offer resources and are a great way to meet other writers, and even editors and agents. Most of these organization have awards programs that recognize excellent writing, which can raise writers’ profiles and attract the attention of publishers.

Here’s a list of writer’s organizations you might find useful.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators was formed in 1971. It holds two annual meetings featuring workshops, awards and opportunities for manuscript critiques with agents.

Romance Writers of America advances the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.

Mystery Writers of America serves mystery and crime writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, and people who just love to read crime fiction.

The International Thriller Writers is billed as an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as “thrillers.” This includes subjects such as murder mystery, detective, suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, and adventure.

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