Lately, I've been in touch with an aspiring writer who is eager to learn how to make the most of his chosen career and make a living with words. (Truth in advertising: He is not as proactive as you might think. He's a senior in high school and only contacted me as part of his assignment...)
We have a face-to-face meeting tomorrow, which will be recorded on MP3 for posterity (though hopefully not for YouTube). I don't know how much I will be able to help the young man achieve his publishing goals, but my e-mail exchanges with him have prompted me to think of a few pertinent pieces of advice for all writers.
So, without further ado, I give you, in no particular order:
Five Things Every Writer Must Know
1. How to use e-mail. Not MySpace. Not FaceBook. E-mail. I realize that the up-and-coming generation consider e-mail hopelessly old school. However, the fact remains that it is the preferred means of communication for many publishers, editors, and agents.
2. What you want to write. If you have a preferred genre, know what it is, know what defines it, know who currently writes it better than anyone else, know who currently publishes it, and know where you want to fit into the grand scheme of things.
3. You can do it. Wanna-be's are everywhere. The numbers thin, however, when it comes to proving production. If you want to write -- write. Have something to show people (preferably editors, publishers, and agents) that proves you can do what you say you want to do.
4. How to use Microsoft Word. It is the industry standard. Anything else will only brand you a newbie.
5. What you want. If you want an interview, ask for it. If you want contact information, say so. People are willing to put you in touch with those who can help advance your career goals or give you advice. But people must first know that you would appreciate such things. Though the lyrics are true (You can't always get what you want), it's a given that you WON'T EVER get what you want if you don't know what it is, and if you don't ask.
So, there you have it. It's hardly earth-shattering advice, I realize. But sometimes, the best advice is the stuff you need to hear right now.