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7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Jessica Zelenko

This is a new 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 Jessica Zelenko. Jessica Zelenko is a new writer living in Jackson Hole, WY.

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Jessica Zelenko) 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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Jessica Zelenko is a new writer living
in Jackson Hole, WY, and when she’s not
writing, she’s becoming a badass. See
proof at her
Becoming a Badass blog.


1. Take the leap. You already don’t have an agent or oddles of assignments coming in, so there is no reason for you to fear rejection. You have nothing to lose!

2. Start a blog. If you have a blog, you can direct people to examples of your writing. This is especially helpful if you aren’t published. Plus, do not underestimate the motivation that comes from having an audience. Every time someone tells me they enjoy my blog, I get a body buzz and a renewed desire to write. I’ll do almost anything for a body buzz, excluding most hard drugs.

3. We must listen to the experts. We need expert advice on grammar, structure, queries, agents, etc. Look to books, websites, and Chuck Sambuchino. The most important advice I've taken to heart is to have a set writing schedule. Everyone recommends it, and if you aren’t writing regularly, you’re probably barely writing. Admit it. Set a schedule.

4. But we can also blow off the experts. All these great writers like to talk about their desks - like Stephen King in his book On Writing, who makes a desk sound more important than oxygen. I spent months bemoaning my lack of a desk and trying to find one to cram into my tiny room. I felt like a failure. Finally, I realized, I’ve got a lap, a bed, a couch and, gosh darn-it, I’m writing. The details don’t matter; the writing matters.

5. This is supposed to be fun. I write because I enjoy making myself and others giggle. Some people write for catharsis or a love of spreading knowledge. There are a million reasons to write, so acknowledge yours and hold onto the passion. If you just wanted money, you could write living wills or ransom notes. Keep on nurturing your love, and when the rich suits give you a hard time at your high school reunion, just smile smugly, knowing your having a much better time with your life than those drones.

6. Writers' Conferences are worth attending. My first writers' conference was in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming and I was one of the few people there who didn’t qualify for Social Security. Still, for a flat rate, I got access to a bunch of experts and networked with agents and editors. Go to a conference. You’ll learn and you might make some …

7. ... Writer friends. You can steal all their knowledge over coffee, tea, or whiskey. They will edit for free! They will help keep everything fun, and keep you from the hard drugs procrastinating.

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