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Robin Friedman : author and journalist

Top Ten List For Successful Writing

10. Be a person on whom nothing is lost.

This means pay attention - to everything. Do more listening than talking. Use all your senses - listen, see, smell touch, and taste everything you come across.

9. Keep a file.

Whether it's a spiral notebook, shoebox, folder, or pile on your desk - of everything that you see and hear and taste and smell. In your file, write down titles for future books or articles, names of characters, bits of dialogue, scenes that make you laugh, everything and anything. Write it down, or you'll forget it.

8. Keep paper and pen by your bed.

And in your pocket or purse. You never know when an idea will come. If you get an idea while you're in the shower, or driving your car, do your best to remember it until you can write it down. NEVER write while you're driving!

7. Do your homework.

Don't send articles to magazines that only accept query letters. Don't send poetry to a magazine that doesn't accept poetry. Don't send unsolicited manuscripts to a publishing house that doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts. Save yourself the time and save yourself the postage by doing your homework.

6. Use the Internet.

If you don't already have an email address, get one. Surf frequently. Explore what's out there.

5. Diversify.

Don't just write poetry or novels or picture books. Write articles. Write short stories. Write about cars, sports, gardening, architecture. Like the stock market, the more you have your hand in, the greater your chances for success.

4. Meet other writers.

Writing, by nature, is a lonesome profession. It's extremely helpful to meet other people like you, who are struggling with the same frustrations. Join a critique group or a discussion group. Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org). Or simply stay in touch with one or two writing friends.

3. Write every day.

Writing is a muscle. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. Don't wait for a lazy Saturday, when you'll have five hours to devote to writing. Chances are, you'll get so intimidated by the amount of time you've set aside, or the weather will be so nice, you'll end up squandering those hours. Writing, like most things, needs to be done every day. You don't have to write for a long time. Just half an hour at the least.

2. Read.

This is one of the most important things you can do. If you want to be a novelist, read a hundred of the best novels out there. If you want to be a sports writer, read a hundred of the best sports magazines out there. Stay current too.

1. And, finally, the number 1 rule for writers:
Never give up.

Even when you've gotten your seventh rejection letter of the week. Take breaks when you need them, but don't stop for too long periods of time. Remember, you're guaranteed to fail only when you stop trying. Don't stop trying. Don't stop writing. Say this to yourself over and over again: It's only a matter of time. It's only a matter of time.