One thing I do not wish to speak about on this blog is publishing, and how to get published.
Over the weekend I went searching for a writing blog, finding nothing except blogs dedicated towards getting you, the gentle reader, published - with kits, books, guides, outlines and so on - anything to get you to hit links and buy products. For this blog, I confess that I've considered allowing advertising through Blogger's Adsense ... but I do not intend, ever, to produce a blog for the sake of flogging advertising.
If you want to be published, there a hundreds of reputable sources that will tell you how. I recommend a visit to your local Borders or Chapters, where you can find a section on that subject. As it happens, those methods have never served me very well. I have published a few things by sending them blind to magazines, but most of my income from writing has come either from associates who were linked to the publishing industry, or jobs I got through success at a job interview. My repeated attempts to sell a novel to the greater publishing industry have failed ... I won't pussyfoot around that. I do not believe that the quality of the novel has anything to do with it. Even now, a novel of mine is no doubt lying around in some backroom of a publishing house, where it has been for months or even years left unread, waiting to be pulped. I am convinced that 90% of the written materials submitted to publishing houses are never read. I believe this because I have watched editors respond when something submitted by a strange writer arrives. There is much eye-rolling and snorting involved.
My experience is not universal, however, and I do know of writers who submitted blind and were published. It is chance that a particular work appeals to a particular publisher or editor, and that work is moved forward. I have not had that happen to me ... yet.
I do not question my quality as a writer, whatever my successes with a novel. And I do not question the thrill of publishing, articles, short stories or novels, whatever a writer is able to manage. Still, my purpose with this blog is to demonstrate and discuss the means to become a better writer, and being a better writer does not depend upon being published. It can certainly lead to publishing, but I have not found that being published leads to better writing. On the contrary, it can degrade your writing fairly quickly, as you learn to steal and trick your way to hit your deadlines.
Writing for pleasure and quality is done better without deadlines. As much as you can, I suggest you free yourself from the impetus of publishing and concentrate instead on the work itself. This will free you to produce work which you are certain could never be published, as it would never be 'understood' by others, etc. Being 'out there' in your ambitions and ideas can push you into places where you must develop skills in order to write works of unusual complexity or daring. Then, if you should ever find yourself writing materials for the public eye, you will find yourself literally dancing through the things asked of you.
To give an example, if you should find yourself writing a story from the perspective of a soldier wounded and dying in a foxhole, without any chance of survival, you will need to stretch yourself to the very limit to make that story a real page turner. It can be done, certainly - anything can be done, just look at that film with the man in the box with the phone. You may find yourself incorporating varied disturbing elements while challenging yourself to go deeper and deeper into the story ... don't worry about it. Break the rules. Write the story you want, saying the things you want to say. Others may consider it a sin to write work that never CAN be popular, but wallow in that sin! It can be freeing and instructive.
Every personal writing struggle you force upon yourself will translate into a ability. Someday, this ability will surprise you, when you find it tickety-boo to write something most would consider horribly dull and mundane. Push yourself hard now, and it will all be beer and skittles when the crunch comes.
Like playing an instrument, every skill you develop towards managing a given task will serve you well in managing every task to which you put your mind. Writing begets writing. Develop the craft, first. Publish later.