When I evaluate manuscripts for people, one of the most frustrating aspects I face is the fact that many writers will write whole books without knowing the basics of getting the material on paper. It’s frustrating for me that I have to send them back to start over, and I’m sure it’s even more frustrating for them to realize that much of their work has been in vain. Although you don’t have to take any particular instruction or earn any degrees to become a writer, I want to encourage you to learn as much as you can about the process before you take on any major projects.
It’s true that you learn a lot about writing by actually doing it, but there’s a lot to be said for knowing all there is to know about how it is done correctly before you start. With so much competition in the marketplace, it will be to your advantage to present editors with material that reflects that know-how and professionalism.
For that reason I want to encourage you to attend conferences where you can get those basics down pretty quickly; read books on writing—both general books on how the publishing process works and books on how to write the particular type of writing you are interested in. It might be novels, devotionals, how-to books, children’s picture books, Bible studies, or poetry. There is also a number of writing courses available on tape or directly from the Internet. Many of the online sites offer a good deal of instruction for free. (See pages 76-82 in the 2008 Christian Writers’ Market Guide.) These days with so much help available, there’s no excuse for entering the marketplace without the basic skills necessary to impress an editor.