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Ten ways writers can prepare for success, part II

“Luck is where preparedness meets opportunity.”

Like money, success doesn’t grow on trees or fall out of the sky. We make our own successes by doing good work and being prepared.

In my Part I of this post, I listed five ways in which writers can prepare for success. Below are the next five on my list:

6.  Write and publish small pieces. You don’t have to wait until your great American novel is complete to publish. While you’re working on your work-in-progress, write and publish poems, flash fiction, short stories, creative nonfiction, essays or nonfiction articles. Build up your writer’s resume and credentials.

7.  Teach a writing class. Start building your portfolio. One of the requirements of my MFA program was to teach a class. I taught memoir writing to a group from my community and realized how much I loved teaching and having that one-on-one connection with the individuals in the group. An added benefit: teaching something makes you learn it at a deeper level.

8.  Give a reading. I’ve given many poetry readings over the years. The readings have not only helped me become a better reader, but I’ve learned to relax and make a connection with my audience. Giving a reading is a great way to try out new material in front of a live audience. This may sound scary at first, but the more you do it, the more fun it becomes! If you’re not a poet, there are other ways to read in front of a live audience—search out local writing groups or create a fun event in your home. Invite friends, neighbors, and relatives to a reading party. When my son would have an upcoming piano competition, I’d send him over to the neighbors’ house to practice in front of them before playing for a real, live judge.

9.  Read, read, read. The more you read—and read critically by analyzing what works in a piece and what doesn’t—the better writer you will become. Read widely, not just in your genre. Literary agent Donald Maass once told me that I should read the top ten bestselling books in my genre to find out what’s been successful and what’s already been done. I did this then moved on to some classics and other successful books that I hadn’t read yet.  Last month, I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The White Oleander.” Both made me want to emulate them by doing what they did—write a gripping story, written beautifully.

10.  Have fun! We have a motto in our home and business: “If it’s not fun, we’re not doing it.” Unfortunately in life, un-fun things can happen to us. But if we focus on our heart’s desire and our passions, a certain kind of magic unfolds in our lives. Yes, writing can be hard work but don’t make it into a job that you begin to avoid because you’ve taken all the fun away. Think about what got you excited about writing in the first place. Take a play break, if needed, to recharge your batteries and your attitude.

Good luck!

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