New Writers' Series - The Beginning

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.


P.L. Parker said…
I just decided one day to write. My husband was always telling me to write down all these stories I told him (some I dreamed, some popped into my head while relaxing, etc.). One day, he went out and bought a computer and told me to get started. I wasn't sure at first what I wanted to write about and it just so happened, I was watching the Discovery Channel about the Urumchi Mummies and how one young woman appeared to be a sacrificial victim. Felt like she needed a happier ending and that's how Fiona came into being.
You summed up the feeling. I just had to do something for me. Something I knew I was good at. Publishing my first book opened up a whole new world for me. And I love it! Even when I get a bad review. I still love it.
Excellent post! for all aspiring writers, the first step towards success is letting go of the FEAR of success! I know it may sound stupid, but so many of us, me included are blocked by our own unease about being successful. Becuase if we're succesful we'll have to produce, and produce well! Once you get passed that, and the fear that you're work isn't good, you'll be on your way! I obviously haven't gotten passed that fear yet!

One of these days! One of these days!!

Andrea :O)
Susan Macatee said…
I dreamed of writing for many, many years, but it was after my youngest son started school that I decided it was time to act on my dream. I started by taking a writing course, then got a second hand computer and learned word processing. I started writing during the hours my boys were in school.
Dariel Raye said…
Thanks for sharing, Ladies! Isn't it interesting that we all started when we took a moment for ourselves? I guess you have to find a way to escape the hustle and bustle so the writer in you can come forth. Andrea, I think we're all battling that shrieking pessimist from time to time (internally and externally).
Dariel Raye said…
P.L., how could you write anything other than romance with a hubby like that? :0
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?
Missy Martine said…
My writing came about almost as a therapy, a way to recover. I'm a retired nurse, and former owner of a medical billing service in Oklahoma. A series of strokes in 2002 changed my life forever, and took away the only career I had ever known.

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.
Dariel Raye said…
Missy, you remind me that life can be more fascinating than our stories. You are definitely a heroine. Major illness caused me to slow down and read voraciously, too. Writing is not only solace, but it keeps us productive and creative :)I wish you continued success!
Kathy said…
My aunt was 73 or 74 years old when her first book was published in 2005. I figured if she could do it I should be able to do it also. So I sat down and wrote a Lord of the Rings fan ficiton knowing nothing about pov and things. I had her read it shw showed me where to fix things. But not being familiar with the movies she didn't know much about it. From there I wandered off to a western/historical. I didn't finsih it that is the hard part for me finishing a story tying all the loose ends up into an ending. Anyway I shoved it to the back burner and played with other stuff, a paranormal I thought was decent was torn up by the critique group-lol. I kept workign iwth it but it wouldn't do anything so I dug the western back out sent it through the loop, Fixed and changed with suggestions. Then in the fall of 2008 I sent it off to contest, didn't think of anything but the feedback I'd be receiving would help me with it. It won the contest and I submitted the partial to Harlequin per request of the editor that was a final judge. Nothing has been heard either way since, but I"m still plugging away if a story doesn't seem to work out I push it on another burner to let it simmer until I can figure out how it will or should work or what I could do with it. Right now I started a brand new thing in Sept and another for NaNo this month. Both I hope to finish and polish and maybe by fall of 2010 submit to a contest or two.
Dariel Raye said…
Do you ever take a peek at the contests listed at Romance Divas?
Emma Lai said…
Great blog topic. I liked the way you set a goal for yourself and met it.

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.
Dariel Raye said…
Emma, I remember preparing for comps, too. My hat's off to you for being able to write through that! I was consumed by them, and have yet to focus long enough to write my dissertation.
I started writing in middle school, but put it aside in college. Last year my life became really hectic and stressful. As a way to vent and relax, I started writing. A friend of mine read the first few chapters and told me I should finish it. After that, she convinced me to get it published. I've been writing like crazy since then. :)
Dariel Raye said…
I know what you mean, Jessi. Even when it's been in our blood the whole time, we often don't get serious about it until something changes (good, bad, or a little of both) in our lives. I find it relaxes me and focuses my energy for a moment.