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Any advice for new writers?

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message 1: by Valini (new)

Valini (valini21) | 1 comments I am feeling really dejected because I don't quite know where to start to become a writer. I have always wrote for personal enjoyment (poetry, reviews, reflections), and it has been a type of saving grace for me that has helped me through my life. I tried other professions, such as being a paralegal, but I was so dissatisfied with them. The money was good, but my spirit was starving. My passion has always been writing, and it means so much to me that I am willing to take less money to do it as a career. Yet, I do not know where to start. I majored in Political Science in college, because I wanted to have a broader view of the world. Yet, although it required a lot of writing and reading, and although I have edited student papers as a freelances, people prefer to hire English majors for writing and editing positions. Does you have any advice on how I may enter into the writing or editing profession with my background. How do I make the first step from writing for enjoyment to also writing that can also open up professional opportunities for me. Thank you so much for reading and for your advice.

message 2: by Clive (last edited Mar 04, 2008 08:16PM) (new)

Clive Warner | 19 comments Mod
Well, it really is difficult.
However you do have one big advantage, you're a woman. Something like 55% or more of books are bought by women, and the Romance genre - which nowadays includes all sorts of sub-genres - is the best selling of all literature.
In fact, chick-lit is also way ahead of other lit in terms of selling e-books.
If you really want to make a career of it, try writing a romance, is my recommendation. After you get published - it usually takes two or three novels - you mightt branch out.
Don't make the mistake of trying to sell your first novel, put it away somewhere and write another and try with that one.
Oh, and join a good critique group. I heartily recommend the Novels-L group sponsored by the
International Writers Workshop. Free and excellent - many of its members have succeeded in being published. Including me...

- Clive

message 3: by Sean (new)

Sean Little (seanpatricklittle) | 2 comments Quite honestly, the one thing I've learned about job hunting no matter where you go: Most of the time it doesn't matter what experience you've had or what degrees you hold. Most of the time, the most important thing you need is a contact in the industry. People are more likely to hire people they know rather than a stranger, even if that person is less qualified than the stranger. Get out to conferences, attend workshops, start emailing people. Get your name known--that's far more important than quality of work, experience, or education.

Sad, but true.

message 4: by Debra (new)

Debra Kingsbury (deblauman) | 1 comments Hi, Valini...

I just joined this website and now this group and noticed your post from a couple of weeks ago. I'm no expert, though I have one published novel, so I have that experience to draw from. I targeted the small presses with this manuscript, having no agent at the time and not much of a literary resume. I'm doing things differently when it comes to my second novel.

Regardless of what your writing goals are--and I think it's important to start out with a good idea of what you want to accomplish, even if that changes over time--you'll need to build a resume. Most literary agents, larger publishers and more popular print magazines want to see an author bio, including what you've already had published. Kind of a catch-22 in a way. But if you submit articles and essays, short stories and/or vignettes to somewhat minor publications and build up that list for your bio, you may have a better chance at landing feature articles that pay the bigger bucks. Be sure to research the submission guidelines for each publication, publisher or agent before sending anything in.

Best of luck in your new endeavor. Go for it!


message 5: by Michele (new)

Michele Torrey (micheletorrey) | 5 comments Valini wrote: "I am feeling really dejected because I don't quite know where to start to become a writer. I have always wrote for personal enjoyment (poetry, reviews, reflections), and it has been a type of "

Hi Valini,

I know it can seem overwhelming, but there's no reason why writing for a living can't be equally as fulfilling as writing for the love of it.

Your question is fairly common, and it's good that you're asking it because it shows that you want to learn about the craft and about the business of writing. When I first started writing as a career in 1994, I had no idea what to do next. So I proceeded to become my own apprentice and learned on my own. (And no, you do not need a degree in English; I am a case-in-point.) Here's what I suggest for a self-apprenticeship program:

Like painting, like singing, like playing the piano or playing soccer, writing a book is a craft you must learn through practice. Just because we can speak and write English does not qualify all English-speakers to be novelists. Determine to learn your craft to the best of your ability. Craft is primary (horse). Publishing is secondary (cart).

Put your horse before your cart.

1. Learn from the experts:

Take continuing education classes in the evenings at your local community college. These are usually classes in fiction writing that are taught by published authors, as opposed to English teachers. They teach fiction fundamentals, manuscript format, submissions, provide information on publishers, and so on. Usually the class meets one to two evenings per week.

2. Attend writers’ conferences / workshops.

Check out “how-to” books from your local library on writing fiction. Study these books, and do the exercises they suggest. (I recommend: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin, On Writing by Stephen King, Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, and Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you started.)

3. Read the best of the best.

Read novels that you admire the most and want to emulate in terms of voice, style, rhythm, story, and character. Study them critically. How did they construct a particular scene? How did they construct their story as a whole? How did their story unfold in terms of sequence and time? Which scenes did they choose to “show” and which passages did they choose to “tell?” Who did they choose to tell the story, and why?

This kind of critical reading, used in conjunction with “how-to” books and classes and workshops, was how I taught myself. Many of my earlier writings were amateurish and crude, but it’s all part of learning the craft. We write, we hone, we write, we hone.

4. Join a critique group.

If you find yourself in a critique group that is not serving your needs, get out and find another. It’s important to find one that is critical yet gentle, supportive, candid, knowledgeable, and open.

5. Don’t wait until you “know everything” to begin to write.

Write, write, and write, whether it’s on your novel or something else. It’s important to keep those creative juices flowing and to push your limits and try new techniques.

Give yourself permission to write poorly. Being critical of everything that comes out of your head onto paper because it’s not perfect, can cause writing paralysis. Get off your own shoulder and allow yourself the freedom to simply write. You can always critique and edit later.

6. Make time to write, don’t find time.

Finding time never happens; there’s always something that’s more important, errands to run, people who demand your attention, worthy causes you can’t ignore. Making time, however, is a matter of will. Do you want to write badly enough to be willing to rearrange your life? To tell everyone, “I am a writer?” Set parameters in your social relationships; let others know that you are not available during certain times because that is your writing time. Wake up earlier to find that extra hour. Go to bed later. Write during your lunch hour. Write while you’re waiting for your child to finish soccer practice. Make the time to write, and don’t let anything or anyone dissuade you from your goal.

Well, hope that was helpful. Enjoy your journey!

Michele Torrey

message 6: by Sig (new)

Sig Rosenblum (sigrosenblum) Valini wrote: "I am feeling really dejected because I don't quite know where to start to become a writer. I have always wrote for personal enjoyment (poetry, reviews, reflections), and it has been a type of [b:sa..."

First step: Get "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White from your library and read it. Then, if you agree that it is pure gold, buy a copy. It will propel you forward powerfully, I promise.


message 7: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Rooney | 1 comments Yeah, I understand. I think you should check this webpage now. You will find some useful tips for new writers there. I hope this helps.

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