I have preached for years that there is a big difference between being a beginner and being unprofessional. Even the writer who has never submitted or sold anything can be a professional. Being a professional means learning how things are done—as you will throughout this blog—and following those guidelines as you reach out into the marketplace. You will notice as you read a number of different books on writing that each one may vary some in its directions or advice. The truth is there is no one right way to do everything in this field. There are only general guidelines that we need to honor. When presented with two different approaches, simply use your common sense and do something that honors the spirit of the rule—rather than the letter of the law. We will get into a number of examples of that under The Basics, as we deal with manuscript preparation, submissions, and the like. You can be assured that any instruction from this book will be within an acceptable range.
The rules for writing are like any other rules, you need to learn them well, and following them faithfully until you are comfortable enough with the whole process that you can begin to break them when it makes sense to do so. Ignoring protocol before you have paid your dues can cost you your good reputation as a professional with the editors and publishers you are working with.
Professionalism is a state of mind—an attitude toward your work. It is how you view the business of writing, more than how you actually function as a writer. I started out with no background or education in writing, and no real personal desire to write. I only stuck with it originally because I sold what I wrote right from the beginning. I realize now that if I had not been successful I would have quit—and God knew that too. It wasn’t until I realized God had called me into this role that I started taking writing seriously. God expected a professional response to a spiritual call—I had a responsibility to become the best writer I could be. I have taken that call as seriously as I would have a call to missions or the ministry, and I believe it is that attitude toward the work God has given me, that has at least in part been responsible for the success I have had.
The writer who proceeds with the attitude of a professional will not ignore that calling or let someone else talk them out of it. Over the years I have met a lot of writers and would-be writers who either never believed in themselves enough to actually write, or have let friends and family convince them they could never be a writer. A professional writer—a successful writer--writes.