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    Dear Writers: What Have Been Your Career-Changing Moves?

    Categories: Brian Klems' The Writer's Dig Tags: Brian Klems, online editor blog.

    The QWant to be featured in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest? Here’s your chance.

    We’re busy putting together an issue about how to “Take Control of Your Career,” and we want to hear from you about how you’ve successfully done just that. So The Q for you is:

    What small thing have you done that has had a BIG impact on your writing career (or your journey toward one)? And what can other writers learn from your experience?

    Post your career-changing move in the comments section of this post or e-mail your response to writersdigest@fwmedia.com with “Career-Changing Moves” in the subject, and be sure to include your name, city and state (along with a URL or preferred social media handle, if you have one). Selected responses may be featured in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

    Also, we’re love to get as many responses as possible, so feel free to Tweet this:

    Dear Writers: What Have Been Your Career-Changing Moves? (Some responses will be featured in @WritersDigest) – http://bit.ly/13XuJ5A

    Note: By submitting a response to this call, you grant us permission to publish that response in WD publications and/or on WritersDigest.com, and to edit your response for space or clarity as needed.

    ************

    For more on Brian, his blogs and his book, click here.

    Follow on Twitter: @BrianKlems

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    17 Responses to Dear Writers: What Have Been Your Career-Changing Moves?

    1. adite says:

      I had been writing screenplays when I saw an Aspiring Authors contest call in 2012 from Harlequin Mills & Boon, the world’s largest romance publishing house. They were offering Indian writers a chance at becoming a published romance author. I had spent my teenage years devouring those oh-so-romantic stories about alpha male heroes and feisty heroines and I decided to give it a shot. I sent off my 2000 word short story and to my shock, it was shortlisted as one of top three winners. The win entitled me to a year’s mentorship program with an HMB editor who guided me through the crafting of my debut novel “The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal”. (It will be out in September 2013). My manuscript was approved and I won a two-book contract with HMB and I’m currently writing my second novel. It was a shot in the dark but one that hit bull’s eye! :)

    2. delramey says:

      Hi Brian, I just found you over at Jane Friedman’s place.

      In college I had a creative writing professor who encouraged her students to submit their work to literary magazines. And so I began sending my work out everywhere. Yes, there were a few rejections along with successes, but that small step toward building my writing credentials made all the difference.

      Eventually doors began to open for me. My writing career has led me to some interesting places and people: to the N.C. Women Writers’ Conference in Winston-Salem where I shared the podium with keynoter Maya Angelou; to Aqueduct Conference Center in Chapel Hill on numerous occasions, where I met the likes of writers Madeleine L’Engle, Brennan Manning, Morton Kelsey, Keith Miller, and others.

      Now I encourage my writing students to send their best work out there into the universe. I tell them, “If you want to build your credentials, give it your all. Submit, submit, submit, because your words will make a difference somewhere to someone. Keep at it and don’t give up.”

      Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debra.elramey
      Twitter: @elramey https://twitter.com/elramey
      Blog: http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com

    3. Migdalin says:

      I finished a novel and sent it to a professional editor for feedback. Getting concrete input tailored to my strengths and weaknesses, sympathetic to the genre I was working in, and in the context of a specific manuscript, taught more more than I learned in all the undergraduate and graduate-level creative writing courses, online workshops, and books on writing put together.

    4. Two things made a big difference for me, as a would-be writer struggling with getting published. Twenty-two years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle accepted a long article on my 15-year correspondence with the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, publishing it in the beloved Sunday Punch section, where I’d been trying to place a piece for a while. I bought 10 copies, and sat on a bench in Golden Gate Park just staring at my byline, not even reading the article.

      Ten years after that, I won the National Steinbeck Center’s short-story contest, having entered without having had my fiction published anywhere of note. I was presented with $1,000 and a large, beautifully engraved glass plaque by Leon Panetta, subbing for an ill Thomas Steinbeck, John’s son.

      Those two events, years apart, told me that I could write both nonfiction and fiction that could be appreciated. While the writing (and the publication) remain a struggle, those small moments of recognition motivate me still.

    5. NinaAmir says:

      I’ve done a lot of things. I’m not sure I’d call them all “small.” You decide. Here are three:

      I got involved with the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, first as an attendee and then as a volunteer. Over the course of eight years I learned a ton about what it really takes to get published. I met aspiring authors, agents, acquisitions editors, designers, and PR and social media experts, and began to make a name for myself as an editor, blogger and writer. I later was asked to speak on a panel, and that spurred the idea for my book, How to Blog a Book (Writer’s Digest Books, 2012). I went on to become a full-fledged speaker at the conference as well as at other conferences, and much of what I’ve learned will be in my next book, The Author’s Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, 2014).

      I started blogging. This one activity helped me build my platform and my expert status in several subject areas. My blogs have helped me write books, land publishing deals, promote my books, and garner writing gigs.

      I decided failure was not an option. With that attitude, which I call an “Author Attitude,” everything else fell into place. I became willing to do whatever it took to go from aspiring to published author. I became more objective about my work so I could see it from the perspective of industry professionals (not just from my perspective). I became optimistic even in the face of rejection, seeing ever challenge as an opportunity to learn and get better. And I became tenacious. I was going to succeed no matter what. Even if that meant putting some chutzpah to use as well.

      Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/#!/ninaamir
      Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/InspirationToCreation
      LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Nina/Amir
      Google+: https://plus.google.com/107098776847894040162

    6. NinaAmir says:

      I’ve done a lot of things. I’m not sure I’d call them all “small.” You decide. Here are three:

      I got involved with the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, first as an attendee and then as a volunteer. Over the course of eight years I learned a ton about what it really takes to get published. I met aspiring authors, agents, acquisitions editors, designers, and PR and social media experts, and began to make a name for myself as an editor, blogger and writer. I later was asked to speak on a panel, and that spurred the idea for my book, How to Blog a Book (Writer’s Digest Books, 2012). I went on to become a full-fledged speaker at the conference as well as at other conferences, and much of what I’ve learned will be in my next book, The Author’s Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, 2014).

      I started blogging. This one activity helped me build my platform and my expert status in several subject areas. My blogs have helped me write books, land publishing deals, promote my books, and garner writing gigs.

      I decided failure was not an option. With that attitude, which I call an “Author Attitude,” everything else fell into place. I became willing to do whatever it took to go from aspiring to published author. I became more objective about my work so I could see it from the perspective of industry professionals (not just from my perspective). I became optimistic even in the face of rejection, seeing ever challenge as an opportunity to learn and get better. And I became tenacious. I was going to succeed no matter what. Even if that meant putting some chutzpah to use as well.

    7. I stopped reading the books I felt I was supposed to read and instead dove headlong into the books I wanted to read. My writing improved, and I found that my creative community solidified because I end up talking (on line and in real life) with people who love the same works I do.
      April Dávila, Los Angeles, CA http://aprildavila.com @aprildavila

    8. HLNelson says:

      One word: community.

      Last June, I decided in a 24-hour period to change my graduate studies focus from anthropology to creative writing. It was a frightening decision to make because, up to that point, I had only considered writing to be my lifelong hobby.

      Since then, I have reached out in social media, through email, and in person to numerous local, national, and international writers/authors, gathering them around myself. I did this because I strongly desired a community of like-minded creative individuals, and I know that I can’t get anywhere in the writing world without others’ help.

      In the last ten months, I’ve become Fiction Editor of Black Heart Magazine, worked for a publisher, started my own web site (hlnelson.com), have published almost 20 poems, flash pieces, and short stories, began my MFA at Queens University of Charlotte, started a writing group on Facebook that now has nearly 200 members, am working on two novels and an anthology of stories by women with a “Damned Dames” theme (featuring xTx, Kathy Fish, and Andrea Kneeland, among others).

      Things are excellent, because I know I’m not an island.

    9. andyidris says:

      HI Brian,

      It’s definitely social media for me. I was a freelance writer but I wasn’t really known for anything really good. I started solely freelance writing when the company I was working for, called me in one day to inform me that I have to pack my bags and leave. One Saturday I posted up an original poem in Instagram. A writer with a network read it, commented on it and I casually mention that I can be of help if ever she needs an assistant. 2 weeks later, they called me in for a chat and so happened that the session was actually an offer for me to take up a full time scriptwriter position with them.

      I’ve always believed and will continue to believe that social media when used with an apparent focus and tone will reap wonders.

    10. The day that I made the mental decision to not “box myself in” as a writer changed my career forever. For years, I told myself that I was a screenwriter. I wanted to write for the movies and nothing else. But in this digital age, being just one kind of writer doesn’t really work anymore. Hybridization is the name of the game, and not just in publishing. For me, I had to come to the decision that, if I wanted to be a writer, then I needed to learn how to write for all formats. I took what I had learned as a screenwriter, and I used it to write my first novel. I used the cliffhangers of television act outs to end my chapters, and I used basic theater techniques to help me shape my characters’ goals. Within three months, I had a completed young adult manuscript that shined better than any other narrative I had written. I had an agent and was invited to teach a string of workshops on film writing versus novel writing – and it was all because I realized that I needed to take whatever I could from all forms of writing in order to make myself a better writer.

    11. DaleNapier says:

      What made the most difference for me was creating a separate space on an outdoor balcony/patio that is cave like for my purposes – writing on a laptop – but sunny enough for a garden. It was important to get away from my desktop computer, which I use all day long for my day job, so that writing would be a true rest from “work”. As a final step, I introduced a wide variety of potted plants, including roses. The result is a writing space whose use I eagerly anticipate each day. If I finished a writing project the previous day, I ask myself, what can I write now, so I can sit out on my pretty patio? Of course, two months from now it will be so hot I will have to go indoors for a few months, but meanwhile my productivity has more than trebled this year.Dale Napier, Las Vegas, NV dalenapierwriter@hotmail.comhttp://www.DaleNapierWriter.com

    12. Danielle says:

      Just starting to write for fun has been the biggest career changer. I’ve always had story ideas in my head, some I’d written down, some I’d even started as a story, but always talked myself out of going further, viewing it as a ‘silly’ thing to do. One day I just decided to write whatever came to my mind down and just go with it. I didn’t need to show it to anybody, good thing because what I initially wrote is embarrassing to read, I just had to go ahead and do it. The more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it and started reading books about writing. It snowballed from there and turned into the first thing in my life that inspired a fire and passion I didn’t have and felt just right.

    13. madisonAD says:

      Two things have made me a better writer in very different ways: the first was learning to plan/outline my writing – something that I always did for technical writing but which was initially lost on me when I switched to writing novels – and meeting fellow writers on Twitter. Of course, I’d been a part of writing communities before, and had writing friends, but Twitter gives me up-to-the-minute updates on my friends’ works – how many words they’ve written, what they’re working on now, what they just posted, etc. It’s a constant reminder that *I should be writing*, and it feels a lot less lonely than communities where I might wait for days for responses.

    14. There are two important things I did which helped my writing career. The first was to become as educated as possible. I haven’t been able to complete college yet, so I read as much as I could–both novels and “how-to write” books–took online courses, and joined online critique groups. This helped me learn so much about not just writing novels, but also the query letter, synopsis, and marketing.

      The second thing I did was overcome my fear of submitting my work. I was always too afraid, and never showed my writing to people much, thinking I still wasn’t ready. But after my son was born in 2010 I realized I wanted to set an example for him and follow my own dreams so that someday he will follow his. Just a few months after he was born I got my first paying publication–an op-ed piece in Windy City Times. A year after that, my first novel was accepted through a small publisher. I now have two novels published, several short stories, and more of both on the way.

      I have been writing ever since I was a little kid, but without doing those two things I would have never turned my writing dreams into the beginning of a writing career.

      Kim Flowers
      Anderson, IN
      http://www.kimflowersbooks.weebly.com

    15. karendodd says:

      My journey to writing my first novel was akin to the Titanic hitting an iceberg. I was motoring along life’s autobahn when I hit a brick wall, burned out from stress, and fried like a crisp. It was not pretty!

      It meant making a few ‘slight’ changes to my plans, like retiring early from my coaching business, giving up all but one of my volunteer positions, and generally laying low in an attempt to heal and become whole again.

      What does a life-long writer do when faced with a year of forced inactivity? Read. And write, of course. So, I dragged my ten-year old manuscript from my drawer and read it from beginning to end. Joyfully, I discovered I still loved the writing but it didn’t have a plot (a teensy weensy little problem) and it didn’t fit into any particular genre (another conundrum).

      Today, my WIP has morphed into a murder mystery with shades of embezzlement. It is set in Tropea, Italy, Carmel, CA and some of my characters may even make their way to Mexico. I’m three quarters of the way through what Anne Lamott would call my first “shitty draft,” which I hope to have completed by the Surrey International Writers Conference in October of this year.

      Would I ever have made the commitment to write full-time and complete my manuscript if the decision had not been made for me? Probably not. So, while you may not understand at the time why the universe has slapped you up the side of the head, just go with the flow and know that she has your best interests at heart!

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