What baby steps would you recommend for a beginning writer looking to grow and become something?
I was on the wrong bus.
Gail Boenning
151

Write.

Writer.

Writest.


Look at publications on newsstands (or wherever they live now), pick out any that take unsolicited submissions, and submit. If you can still find any that pay money, so much the better (I could show you a small collection of yellowing remittance advices that make me feel good just to think about them. Thanks for reminding me 🤗).

Start with any publication in which you have a passing interest — horses for you maybe? — but don’t restrict yourself in subject matter or any other way. Be prepared to build on this and any other advice — for instance, if you think you can write something that fits but the publication doesn’t take unsolicited work, write and submit it anyway. The writing is good practice and they have to find new voices from somewhere. Great careers have been built this way. Take chances: they’re not really chances. No editor is going to come round to your house and say “Don’t send us any more of this unsuitable stuff.”

Use your imagination. Have you ever been part of a news story? Even a tiny peripheral part? And did you not say, when you read the story, “But half of this is wrong!” Turn that around. You have a proto-story, an idea from real life? Write it. Embellish it. You’re not on the witness stand. Make your idea into A STORY that suits your target publication. Write it and submit it.

Having submitted, don’t wait for a reply. Get on with the next piece. Remember what your favourite author* said, in answer to “Which is your favourite out of all your books?” That’s right — “The one I’m writing now”. When you’re a similarly huge success, you will have accountants and managers to chase up what’s happened to your work and field the rest of your correspondence. Start as if that were already the case (if it helps, I can send you begging letters. Throw them away).

Finally: never, EVER throw away something you’ve written. Its time will come.


Hmm. I didn’t know I knew all that.


Really NEVER. I can’t emphasise that too much, except by mucking about with typography. Let’s not be silly.

never Never NEVER

GOT THAT?


Your bus is going places, and about to depart. All aboard…

*or mine. They all say it, and they’re right.