Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some Advice...

For new (and I mean just out of the box new) writers.
I've been seeing and hearing enough things that they've festered in my brain, creating this post. Here goes:'ve finally decided you're going to write a book. Good for you! Seriously. Do it!

Here are some things to keep in mind though:

1. Writing is a solitary profession. It's lonely. Get some writing friends. People who understand the burning need you have to write. A good way to do that is #2.

2. Join an organization. Something that has a mission statement you agree with and meets your needs as far as the genre you're writing. A place that can guide you to educational opportunities. And get involved. Most groups have online resources where you can find answers to most of your burning questions. Some even have mentoring programs. Most have critique programs. Join them.

3. Do your research. Don't expect someone with more experience to do your homework for you, or expect they'll provide you with the answers you seek. Asking for clarification on something you don't understand is fine, but don't until you've reached that level of interaction with them. Which brings me to my next point:

4. Don't expect. The Internet has made it easier than ever to get in touch with your favorite authors. That's cool. But don't email them expecting anything. Don't ask them to read your manuscript. Don't ask them to put you in touch with their agent. Tell them you enjoy their work and have decided to pursue your own writing career, but don't expect anything but a "good luck".

5. Don't be a pest. So, you went ahead and emailed your favorite author and asked a ton of questions and asked her to read your work in progress and she didn't answer. Do not email her again. She's busy writing the books you love to read. She not only has the obligation to her career, but most likely she has a family to take care of, critique partners to read, her own duties to her chosen writing organization, and maybe a job outside of writing - she's not being mean when she doesn't respond to you, she's busy. Don't take it personally. Yeah, occasionally someone gets lucky, but not often.

6. Present yourself at your professional best at all times. In your blog: Don't post political/religious/rude and insensitive things. (Unless you're going to the Inspirational/Political market) People will look you up. In email: Grammar and punctuation matter. Spell stuff right. Use the caps key and the period key. Do not pepper your email with multiple "lol" and smiley faces. Don't demean yourself. Check yourself before sending nasty emails. Back away from the computer and give yourself time to cool down. Watch your attitude. You'll get nowhere if you bash others, even if they have nothing to do with publishing.

7. Make goals for yourself. Finishing a book is tough. Finishing your first book is even tougher. Keep at it. Keep writing. Make achievable goals, i.e. Writing one page a day, or 50 words a day. When you get published isn't up to you. You can say: "I'd like to have a book out by this time next year." but if you're not writing that book, there's not a chance. You can only control so much - mainly, how much you write and how dedicated you are.

8. Continue learning. If you know you suck at grammar or spelling, then work to get better at it. No, it is not the job of your agent or editor to fix your mistakes. It's not the job of your critique group. Your mistakes are off-putting and will most likely get you a big fat rejection.

9. Exercise. Trust me, keeping your butt in the chair and pounding out those pages will cause your butt to look like the chair if you aren't exercising. It's also easy to eat more than you planned when your mind is occupied creating. Also, a few minutes of fresh air will help your brain. The words will come easier. Ideas will sprout.

10. Find a critique partner. This is kind of scary. It's hard to put your work out there in front of your peers. It's also may take a while to find someone you mesh with. But it's worth it. Once you've established this relationship, listen to the things your critiquer is saying to you. They're your first reader. I'm not saying you have to agree with and change everything they mention. In a good relationship, you'll know. Also, be prepared to give critiques in return. No one wants to be in a one-way critique relationship.

I think that's enough. Welcome to the fabulous world of writing. You'll find most writers are more than willing to help guide you, but keep the above in mind. Asking questions on a forum or even in a private email, or say, at lunch after a meeting is fine, especially if you've been invited to do so. Take your cues though. Don't be so about what you feel you need that you miss out on the opportunity to cultivate an actual friendship.

Did I miss anything?


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Uh oh. I used lots of LOLs and smilies in my e-mails! I'm doomed! LOL :)

Victoria said...

You crack me up!!!

Victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.