How to build a career as a creative writer?

When I first decided to write full-time four years ago the first thing I did was to study. Not study for one of the many online degrees specializing in writing, but studying at becoming a better writer. My plan was to be a full-time fiction writer for the rest of my life. But as we all know, life is what happens while you are making plans and I have ended up being a full-time blogger instead. Still, since this IS a freelance writing blog I thought it only fair that I should share some of the most important tips I learned during my period of study. I didn’t take a class and I don’t believe you have to, although if you can afford it there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a creative writing course. If nothing else, you will learn the basics while making new friends with others who are learning the craft. But you CAN learn on your own. At the end of this article will be a list of the books I recommend for those of you who want to learn the basics of creative writing. They are the ones that made the most impact on me.
Now, without further ado, here are the main things I learned that helped me to become a multi-published creative writer:

1. Learn the difference between viewpoints–This was the hardest thing for me to get. I studied it extensively, due to the fact that it can be very confusing. When I talk about viewpoint I am referring to how the story is told, whether it be first person, third person limited, or third person omniscient. Those are the main viewpoints that stories are told from. Each one has its pros and cons and the decision about which viewpoint to tell your story from depends largely on your writing style and the type of story you want to tell, the message you want to convey. If you want to be more personal, first person is often the choice, though many writers detest the use of first person, claiming that it is too repetitious and confining. Personally I don’t like to write in first person for those very reasons. I prefer third person limited, which is told from the viewpoint of one character. The reason is simple. It is the easiest and most compelling viewpoint, in my opinion. Writing in third person omniscient is harder because you have to tell the story from the viewpoint of several different characters. Of course, there is also second person but rarely will you read a story or book told this way. However, this viewpoint DOES exist, so at least learn what it entails.  But the main thing is, once you start a story from one viewpoint stick with it. Otherwise you lose your credibility with the reader and most often will not find yourself published. Besides, it is confusing as a new writer to try and switch between viewpoints. However, seasoned pros often do this and do it well.

2. Pretend you are a psychic camera–This is the best way for me to phrase what I am talking about. It has to do with creating characters and setting. If you have learned anything at all so far about creative writing you have learned the first rule, SHOW, DON’T TELL. Say you have your character walking into the room for the first time. You want you reader to know what the character looks like, not by telling them specifically, but my mentioning things that they do and their body language, their habits–maybe they stumble, making them a clumsy person, or they could be cutting their eyes, which creates an aura of distrust–the way they are dressed, etc. This creates their personality for the reader without you having to explain the kind of person that they are. And you want the reader to feel like they are IN the setting by describing the surroundings, much like they were watching a movie. You don’t want to go overboard by taking away from the character or the story, but mentioning things that are in the room, setting the scene, helps your reader visualize and makes the story real. *note: the reason I included the word “psychic” is because you can convey what a person is thinking by showing emotions, like fear, anger, excitement, simply with facial expressions, body language and actions.

3. Don’t use purple prose–Wikipedia describes purple prose as: “A term of literary criticism, purple prose is used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensuously evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader’s response.” In other words, don’t fall so in love with your own writing that you lose your reader. Taking advantage sparingly of apt metaphors and similes is great, and required, in my opinion, for great writing, but take the advice of Mark Twain in this letter he wrote to D.W.Bowser in 1880–”I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
Which leads us to this tip:

4. Edit, edit, edit–Different writers have different formulas for editing. Some writers edit as they go while others insist that the only way they can flow creatively is to just start writing, let the words flow and worry about the details later. It will take some time to figure out what works best for you. Most writers I have talked to fall somewhere in between. But no matter what kind of editor you are, make sure of one thing, NEVER allow a story to contain misspelled words or wrong grammar. Also, punctuation and format are crucial to getting your story published. By considering yourself a professional, even if you haven ‘t been published yet, you will become one.
But the main thing I am talking about when I mention editing is getting rid of the fluff, the unnecessary words, characters, scenes, etc. Most writers have to create several drafts before the story is complete. Rarely will you hear of a writer, any writer, no matter how famous, who writes a story in one draft. In fact, most writers have to create at least three or four drafts of a story before they are satisfied that it is right. Don’t be satisfied until it is.

5. Do not fear rejection–This may be one of the hardest things to learn when you start out writing. But believe you me, as every famous writer has attested to, rejection is part of the process. And just because your story is rejected doesn’t mean it is bad, it may just not be the right market for it. I have never re-edited a story based on a rejection. I just find another market to send it out to. If I have done the editing that I feel it deserves I have faith in the story itself and its ability to find a home eventually. There is a lot of competition out there too, so don’t give up. That is the main lesson I learned.

As promised, here is a list of books I recommend that I have read for beginning creative writers. All of these I found at my local public library, but I am sure you can find them all on Amazon or some other book seller online or in a bookstore. They are all older books so they are going to be very affordable.
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott
WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg