People always ask mega-questions about writing. Since it can’t be summed up in one conversation (not even a very long one), I decided to write a series of articles to answer the questions most new writers have. This is my first article in the “Newbie Writers” series. Since I’m relatively new to the industry myself (publishing, that is), consider me a peer tutor While there’s no way I could know what a veteran in the business knows, the best thing is that information is still new and fresh for me. Feel free to send me questions or information ad libitum.
Where Do We Begin?
Who was it that said “the forest would be mighty quiet if the only birds that sang were those that sang best?” Often the first thing we must do as writers is shake off self doubt and destructive criticism. Accept the fact that no matter how good you are at whatever you do, there’s always somebody better. She might not have even come into her own yet, but she’s somewhere lurking – just waiting for you to screw up. Oh, sorry. I’m supposed to be encouraging – not dredging up the hateful critic who lives inside my head. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Um…believe in yourself.
Writing, like art, music, and dance, is a jealous mistress. You must love it or leave it. Make time to write. The beauty of the arts is that you never arrive. You’re never really finished, and you’re never as good as you can get if you keep working at it. While you’re working on your manuscript, read everything in your genre of interest. Determine your position on the writers’ continuum and set goals consistent with reaching the next rung. No one knows your strengths and weaknesses like you do. Develop a list of small, attainable goals and get moving. Most important – enjoy the process.
When I decided to actually finish a story, I turned off the television and set a schedule which I shared with my family and friends so they wouldn’t interrupt. I read and re-read the work of my favorite authors. In fact, everyone was hard pressed to find me without a book. I still have stacks of their books beside my bed. I started with a short-short (only 10 pages long) paranormal multi-cultural romance. My goal was not to publish it or even enter it in a competition. My goal was simply to finish.
As I worked on the story with the finish line looming ahead, I realized how exhilarated I felt just developing the characters and sharing their world for the duration – the awe of watching my story become my characters’ story. For the second time in my life, I had found something that I loved so much, a part of me would be missing if I didn’t continue to do it – the process of creating something beyond my expectations – something that grew and lived through me, yet apart from me. I was honored just to share, and I was hooked.
One of the best books on getting started as a writer is How to Write and Sell Your First Novel by Oscar Collier and Frances Spatz Leighton. Collier’s “how-to” guide even has excerpts from the beginnings of famous writers such as John Grisham, Stephen King, and Jackie Collins. Yahoo and other internet service providers also have a large number of groups dedicated to beginning writers. Some are genre-specific, while others are for writers in general. According to your needs and interests, you can join groups offering free critiques, pointers, and support. So...tell me about the beginning of your journey. How'd you get hooked on writing? Stop by next weekend and I’ll tell you about publishing as I understand it.
One of these days! One of these days!!
Mary, I know what you mean by "whole new world." Writing can help us make sense of the trivial and mundane.
Susan, do you find that you're even more critical of your writing because of your background as an English teacher?
For a year I had trouble communicating. I could type out my thoughts, but couldn't verbalize them. Since I was not longer able to work, I turned to reading with a vengence! I don't even know how many romance novels I read during that time, but my husband said the number was staggering.
He knew I needed something challenging in my life, something to give me a purpose, so he dared me to write one of my own. He figured as many as I had read I certainly should know what was needed for a good story. I was never one to turn down a dare, or a challenge, so I sat down to write.
No one was more surprised than me, when my first book "Table for Three" was accepted by multi-publishers!
I still have trouble believing in my success, but my next book will be released in January and it's the first of a trilogy. I have outlines for 4 more books after that.
I'll never be able to work outside the home again. I've recovered for the most part, but still have problems with short term memory, and I'll be on oxygen for the rest of my life. It's not a bad life, it's one filled with imagination, fantasizing, and making dreams come true. I like what I grew up to be.
I decided to write as a way to distract myself from my comprehensive exams. Both my husband and his mother encouraged me to submit, and the rest is history.