Monday, February 4, 2008

Catch 22: No gigs, no experience -- and no experience, no gigs

There's a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to the early days of getting published. I see it all the time on the forums at -- newer writers looking to get a foot in the door.

Here's the deal -- a variation of the traditional jobseeker's dilemma: You can't get gigs unless you have experience. You can't get experience unless you have gigs.

The recent explosion of websites offering to publish your work for free -- and the opportunity to blog at the drop of a hat -- have provided a way for those who want to write to their words out there.

Every Tom, Dick and Harriett (and every subject you can think of) has a blog. A blog chum recently suggested I do a Mother-of-the-Groom blog, since there are so many weddings and she hadn't seen one devoted to the MOG, and I have a grown son getting married. (My response to this is that my son would rather have dental surgery than be stalked by his mother so I'm trying to leave The Happy Couple in relative peace. Get it? Relative?)

Here's the thing: this digital newbiehaven can help you get online and loosen up your knuckles at the keyboard, but it can't do one thing that paid writers at paying magazines get.


I know -- e-d-i-t is a four-letter word. There's a clever joke about it by Granite Girl on mediabistro, and it goes like this: Lost in the desert, a writer and an editor are lost in the desert. The writer wanders in one direction, the editor in the other, both desperate for water. The writer finds an oasis with a pool of clean, cool water and calls out to the editor. The editor, joining him, promptly starts to pee in the pool. "What are you doing?!" the writer cries. The editor explains, "I'm making it better."

There's no substitute for getting edited, as painful as that sounds. A good editor will knock the rough edges off, and a good writer will learn something with every edit. Don't put an extra space between sentences. Here's where you put the hyphen. Most great writers stand on the shoulders of giants. I can name six editors who have helped to form the stylebook in my head.

Another risk with tossing stuff online is the possibility that it will still be out there in cyberspace, waiting for some prospective editor to Google you, long after you've learned better how to dot your I's and cross your T's.

Fixes? If you've just gotta write, consider writing under a pseudonym while you're experimenting.

And read, read, read.

Check out as a forum for your work. See my articles here:

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