My Small Steps to Success By Grace West

In December 2002, I decided to become a freelance writer. I came to the profession with no formal education in writing, and I had no contacts in the writing industry. I believed that I could be a good writer because, at the age of seven, I wrote my life story. And, I have continued writing ever since. I am also an avid reader. The fact that I am a married middle-aged mother with two young children did not deter me.

My first step was to evaluate my ability as I writer. The Internet provided me with great leads for wonderful writer’s newsletters and general writing information. I would choose a search engine like Google, type in “writer’s newsletter”, and then take my search from there. Initially, I signed up for many newsletters but, in time, I developed the ability to choose the newsletters that met my needs.

For writing practice, I took topics directly from newspapers and magazines and wrote about them on my own. Then, I compared my manuscripts with the pros. I failed miserably, but it told me what I needed to do in order to get where I needed to be.

I failed in punctuation and my research ability was weak. I bought the book Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliot, Ph.D. Pride stepped aside as I learned the basics of grammar and punctuation at the sixth to eighth grade levels. Various articles in some of the writer’s newsletters educated me about my misuse of the passive voice. Unwittingly, I had developed that habit over the years of being a health care provider. I learned that medical manuscripts routinely use the passive voice.

I also used the Internet to post a request for writer pals. I ended up with two capable and wonderful cyber-pals with whom I have exchanged ideas, tips, and critiques. To widen my circle of writer friends, I initiated the birth of a writer’s group in my own community.

Despite our claims of being novices, we have helped each other to become better critical thinkers and writers. I felt my writing skills were substandard, but I proceeded to submit my first manuscript in March of 2003. The rejection card read, “We cannot possibly publish your manuscript.” The editors never said why, but I set out to find out what I did wrong. I received information about writing in fragments. Learning to conquer that is a slow process, so I decided to take an online course with George Sheldon. It was under his tutelage that a well-known magazine accepted my first query. The magazine rejected the final manuscript, but at least I learned how to query.

I have not yet discovered my niche as a writer, so I write fiction and non-fiction articles, poetry, essays, and children’s stories. In November, I decided to sharpen my skills by entering every contest that I could afford. The results of all this hard work have been six sold poems and one newspaper article assignment within the year!

My achievements are modest, but prove that persistent hard work does give even a novice like me a chance.