I think the most common tip Iíve seen for any aspiring writer is to write every day. Iíve done that and it is true that it helps one to open gateways and get the juices flowing. My only criticism of this advice is that unless one actively studies the craft of writing, most of the daily writing is going to be, well Ė let us just say unsaleable material. Thatís okay, first drafts rarely if ever become best sellers. Great ideas can show up in daily writing, and one should continue this. What Iím saying is that just because you write every day does not mean you will magically hone all the skills needed to sell a story.
Granted you may not want to sell your stories and if that is you, itís okay, you can leave now. But even if you want to leave something of your mental ramblings to your progeny, it would be nice if you understood where to place commas or when to properly use your or youíre. At first, I sought to write for myself, to clear my head of all the images, memories, nightmares, and hopes that seemed to be bursting to get out. I am letting you know that if at some point you wish to publish your work for profit, you will need to know the rules. It is said rules are made for breaking, at least when it comes to writing. I agree, however one must know the rules to break them in a way that will represent a realistic break from the normal that is likely to find acceptance in the real world.
As a member of a writers group, I am often reminded of my misuse of commas, of inconsistent characters, or shifts of tense. These reminders are to assist me in moving my craft to the next stage. In return for their help, I offer my thoughts on their work. Together we both learn and while I might be able to piece together a cool plot driven yarn, commas and I donít play well together. I am improving, but it is a slow tedious process.
I believe that until one becomes a true master of their craft, they need outside input on their efforts to hone those skills into a sellable commodity. Stories are not difficult to come by. Saleable stories are a different thing altogether.
Along the way through the writers group, learning the craft, and writing every day one learns that to move from being a wanna-be professional writer to the promise land one needs a thick skin. You must be good with criticism, open to suggestions, and have a willingness to listen. This will help you to reach an ability to accept rejections and know that a rejection is not the end of the line.
A few warnings for anyone who chooses to allow a loved one to read and critique their work. There are all kinds of pitfalls with that. One, they may not be willing to be honest with you out of fear of hurting your feelings. (They mean well but they are unlikely to be skilled in what it takes to make a story sellable and do not want to deal with your emotional breakdown if they were honest.) Two, you must be willing to put your emotions aside and hear what they have to say without putting your relationship in the middle of it. (In other words, donít take their criticism personally.) Three, a loved one may want to influence the way a story ends Ė and get upset if you disagree. (They donít like that a character dies a gruesome painful death rather than living happily ever after.) For me, there is something much more difficult in hearing my significant other tell me of some issue with my story as compared to the writers group telling me the same thing. I suppose it is easier for me to accept words from the critique group as issues with the story and not a personal matter.