7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Jane Makuch

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Jane Makuch. Jane Makuch writes young adult, middle grade and women's fiction. She blogs about all of it, and is also active on Twitter.
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This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Jane Makuch) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

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Jane Makuch writes young adult, middle
grade and women's fiction.
She blogs about
all of it
, and is also active on Twitter.

Years ago when I decided to make a true effort as a full-time writer I felt very alone. It took courage to stand up and say: “My name is Jane and I am an out of the closet writer.” I instantly felt overwhelmed by my complete lack of “top-secret-insider-stuff” and incredibly brash for thinking I deserved to know. Now, after years of researching, I’m happy to say, I’ve found out the really important things aren’t actually “top-secret-insider-stuff.”

1. Believe in yourself. If you don’t think you can be a success, how will you convince respected agents and editors?

2. Pros in the industry are here to help.Successful writers, editors, and agents like to help new writers who work hard, listen, and use their valuable advice.

3. Never give up.The top writers are passionate and never stop working hard.

4. Research what clients say about their agents. A lot of hindsight is out there on twitter, blogs, and author websites. You will find certain agents may be a better “fit” for you then others.

5. Knowing your market requires reading as well as writing. Read books in your genre. You need to know what the buyers are currently reading.

6. Understand the business side.If you write for the sake of writing, that’s one thing. If you write with the idea of selling books, you need to be ready to talk about:
a. Your pitch
b. Your manuscript
c. Your author platform

7. Make sure your work is polished before submitting. It’s been said a million times before and once again here: You only get one shot at making a first impression.

With that said, it’s important to realize there aren’t many industries where you can jump in headfirst and find dozens of powerful people willing to help. But I found that’s exactly what happened when I threw my insecurities aside and signed up for an Editor’s Intensive with Writer’s Digest. I didn’t have anyone to go with so I put my big-girl pants on and went all by myself. Afterward, I took every bit of advice handed to me, used it and am still amazed at how valuable the weekend was.

Also, since I write young adult and middle grade books, I attended an SCBWI conference. On my own I may have thought about going, or dreamed about going, but it would have probably ended there. Yet with a prominent editor looking me in the eye at the editor’s intensive saying, “You have to go,” I knew I couldn’t just think about it, I had to actually go. The SCBWI conference made it clear there was nothing to fear, but much to celebrate. I walked away reminding myself to spend lots of time writing (you have to start with lots of writing), and later lots of rewriting. Then, good stuff will follow.

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