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“Writing is its own reward.” –Henry Miller.
Don’t try to be perfect.
“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.”—William Faulkner
I’ve had many a brilliant idea for a story; only to have them languish forever in my computer because they weren’t as good as I wanted them to be. It used to frustrate me when I couldn’t figure out how to write the book I’d imagined. I had to learn to give up on the idea of perfection. It doesn’t exist. All we as writers can do is write, and realize, sometimes, that’s good enough.
Write what you love.
“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you, figure out what you have to say. It’s the only thing you have to offer. —Barbara Kingsolver
Write the stories that speak to you. If you don’t care then the reader won’t. The books that were the easiest for me to write were the ones that spoke to me, that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
Do what works for you.
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”—E.L. Doctorow
There is much debate about being a Pantser or a Plotter. There are valid arguments for both sides. I am a bit of a hybrid. I loosely plot enough so I know roughly where I’m going, and then write by the seat of my pants for the rest. It can be frustrating when I’ve gone in the wrong direction, but it’s never boring.
Develop a thick skin.
“Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil — but there is no way around them.”—Isaac Asimov
This is not the business for someone who can’t take rejection. From contests, agents, and editors there is constant rejection for a writer. But if you want your writing published (and I do) then you have to be prepared for plenty of rejections. And the dreaded…waiting. Patience is an art form, one I’m still working on.
Write because you love it.
“Writing is its own reward.”—Henry Miller
Even thought publishing is the goal, writing is enough for me. I can’t imagine not writing. It’s helped me out of a depression, kept me sane through raising my children, and helped me to dream about things bigger than myself.
“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Much emphasis is put on first sentences, first paragraphs, first pages, and first chapters in capturing a reader’s interest.
These are important, but they’re pointless if your book has a lackluster ending. The ending is the last thing your reader will remember about your words. It should stick with them, make them want more, and make them snap up any future book you might write. Take time with it — don’t rush it. My daughter is my first reader, and she almost always makes me change the ending of my books. I think this ties in with the whole patience thing and how I need more (I said I’m working on it, I never said I perfected it).
SOME THINGS THAT MIGHT HELP:
The importance of an agent.
Most publishers won’t read your manuscript unless an agent represents you. Agents are there to help you on your road to publication. They help match your manuscript to an editor that can whip your book into tip-top shape. They also help negotiate the best deal for you and know the questions that need to be asked. But where do you find these elusive creatures? One place is publishersmarketplace.com. Another is Query Tracker. I used both when I was querying.
Helpful books on writing:
On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Story Genius by Lisa Cron.
There are many, so I’m only writing about those I actually participated in. There are many twitter contests, so if you aren’t on twitter, now is the time to open an account and get started. The writing community is a very welcoming one, even if you’re a shy and introverted person such as myself.
The biggest contest is Pitch Wars run by the fabulous Brenda Drake. This contest offers mentorship by a more experienced writer for two months. After they’ve helped you get your manuscript in shape, it goes to an agent round. Fair warning though, there are often thousands of entries and only a small portion of those get in.
Author Mentor Match (AMM) is another great mentoring program that matches unagented, aspiring writers with completed manuscripts with experienced authors. Mentors help writers revise their manuscripts before querying, give advice and tips on agents, and support throughout the process. I have mentored in the middle-grade category twice now and love what a supportive community it is.
DL Hammonds Write Club was one of the first contests I participated in. You face off against another writer and people vote for the entry they prefer. The comments were extremely helpful, and encouraged me tremendously as a baby writer.
SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you write Young Adult or younger, this is the organization for you. They have great local conferences. My first conference ever was in Sacramento, and it was off the charts amazing!! It helped me get out of my introvert hole and out into the world of other writers.
The point is: Find a writing organization that is specific to the kind of books you write and join it. Don’t write in a bubble. Let other writers help you. This is how you grow as a writer, write the next best seller, and make your book into a blockbuster movie (a girl can dream).
On my writing journey I’ve picked up useful tips and resources that have helped me enormously. My hope it to help fellow writers who stumble to this site and pay it forward.