Welcome back to the blog! Today’s J post is brought to you by Bess Carnan. She’s talking about jumping into the writing. Here’s Bess!
So you’ve realized that your life’s ambition isn’t to be a ballerina, alligator wrestler, or doctor. Instead you want to join the hallowed lists of those whose calling is the written word. Congratulations! Now what? Here are a few basics I’ve learned since dipping my toe into the writerly world last year:
- Writers Write: There are thousands of books, blogs, and articles on how to write. (This works out well- if you don’t like my advice it’ll be easy to find someone whose suggestions you like better.) They tell you to write in the morning, in the evening, when you’re most productive, write for fifteen minutes every day NO MATTER WHAT. Regardless of how it’s dressed up, this is the one fundamental you can’t escape. Writers write. Talking about ‘this great idea’ you have isn’t writing. Endless research isn’t writing. Putting pen to paper, fingers to keys, quill to parchment, that is writing. And it’s the only thing that ever single writer in the world has in common.
- Do Your Research: I know, I just said research isn’t writing. But it is an essential part of the process. If you’ve ever watched or read something and said, “Oh my god- how can they say that? The human brain doesn’t work like that AT ALL” (the movie Lucy drove me up a wall) then you know why. That moment of incredible wrongness pulls you out of the story faster than anything else. For readers, it turns them off not only to the book, but to the author. If you start off your reader-writer relationship getting science, laws, or cultures wrong, what does that say to the reader about the rest of your writing? At best, you risk alienating your potential readers. At worst, you write something horrifically offensive and become the target of an internet campaign.
- Seek Out Criticism: This doesn’t have to be right away, but it does have to be before you start sending out queries to agents and editors. Because those folks get so many offerings, they go through them quickly and if your grammar is atrocious or there’s a giant hole in your world’s logic they’ll toss it out. As everyone in the writing world is fond of saying, you only get one shot with an agent; make it your best. There are hundreds of critique groups in the world where you can swap writing with other aspiring authors. If that’s not your style, you can ask people in your life to be beta readers or hire an editor. It can hurt to hear that your labor of love isn’t perfect, but that pain leads only to better writing. Don’t let your ego fool you into thinking your writing is perfect just the way it is- you’re not the one you’re trying to convince to buy your manuscript.
- Find Your Professional Association: In the United States we have Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and any number of other groups for genre-based writing. These associations not only have members who are at all different points in their careers, they also put together conferences for networking and resources for their members. They usually cost to join, but you can get a lot out of your membership. This is where you’ll get the best advice about how to get your writing out there and make the most important contacts. Working in a void can only get you so far; at some point you’re going to need other people- to critique or help you on your journey- and professional associations are your best pool of candidates.
- Read: Read in your genre. Read out of your genre. Read advice. Read critiques. Read critically. Just make sure you never stop reading.
Welcome to the confusing, nerve-wrecking, wonderful world of writing! You’re going to love it here.
Cindy here again!
Great advice here. I just want to add that those organizations are also open to international members. I belong to Sisters in Crime and I used to belong to Romance Writers of America.