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  • Writer's pictureDianne McCartney

Navigating the Neighborhood

Five mistakes to avoid while finding your way as a writer.

1. Don’t talk only about your projects. It’s one thing to be excited about your current manuscript, it’s another to bore everyone to tears. Ask other writers about their work, their publishers, their roadblocks, too. It’s an interactive process and you can learn more by listening than talking.

2. Remember that this is a profession and image is everything. That doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit and have expensive jewelry, but it does mean that you should always be clean and neat in public and take some care with your wardrobe. Don’t drink too much or have dramatic arguments, either. Those agents and publishers you are trying to attract are watching and taking notes.

3. Even if you don’t enjoy a seminar, don’t broadcast it. Leave a thoughtful review on the feedback form, where it belongs. Writers who always criticize the performance of other speakers rarely get asked to speak anywhere.

4. There is a difference between doing a soft pitch to an agent you meet in social situations and badgering them. Writers who are perceived as being desperate are one of the biggest complaints from agents. Have confidence in your manuscript, but be wary about being too pushy.

5. Don’t listen to anyone who spends their time being negative. I hear these people at every conference I attend. They have a million reasons why they aren’t successful and it’s everyone’s fault, but theirs. The unfair judge, the grouchy agent and the publisher who wouldn’t give them a fair shake are all easy targets. The truth is that life isn’t always fair and you have to take thoughtful steps to elevate your chances of success.

Try to write every day and be positive. If you don’t believe in your talent, who will?

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