Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So You Wanna Be A Writer-My Best Advice To You

1. Write.

Write a lot.

Write a lot and share it with other people who can critique your work and give you good advice. Don't be defensive about the advice. Embrace it. Learn from it.

2. Read a lot.

Read different styles, different authors, different genres. Figure out why a certain book worked for you and why another did not. Just don't learn from the authors that stun and amaze, but the ones that make you hurl the book across the room.

3. Decide What Kind Of Writer You Want To Be

What does this mean? Well, do you just enjoy writing for the sake of writing? Does the idea of posting your stuff online and getting immediate response from fans make you smile? Do you want to try and get in with the big NYC publishing house or would you settle for a small one? Do you like the idea of eBooks? Do you want to be an Independent Author and make all the hard choices yourself?

Whatever path you do choose, you need to understand that making the big bucks of Stephen King is probably not going to happen or at least not right away. Become a writer because you like to write and you want to share your stories with others. Not because you think it is the path to a million bucks.

4. Study the Publishing World

Read industry news. Read agent, publisher and writer blogs. Read everything you can about how publishing works from query letters to how royalties are paid. Find out how much you may actually get paid for your work (it's less than you think) and what the standard industry contract is.

Where do you find these links?

Google is your friend.

Google your favorite writer's name. Read their blog. Look up publishing houses. Read The Writer's Digest.

The Internet is a great resource and so is your local bookstore. You're going to have to do a lot of research and a lot of reading. Yes, a lot of it will contradict each other, but you will have a greater understanding of the publishing world as a whole. Most of it is, yes, contradictory. The trick is to find out what will work for you and create your own path using the knowledge you've gained.

5. Be Honest About Your Writing and Make It Your Best

I'm going to be very honest here. Your first works will not be your best. No matter how many times you rewrite them or fuss over them, they will probably be your weakest work. Sometimes, people get lucky and write something fabulous right off the bat, but this is not usually the case. So before you began sending out your writing, make sure it is the best you have to offer.

If you decide to submit your work, make sure it is as perfect as you can make it. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. should be as professional as possible. You can find out how to properly format a submission online.

6. ALWAYS Follow Submission Guidelines

Before I became an Indie Author I did a lot of submitting to various publications. I have to admit, I didn't always follow guidelines and got stuff kicked back quickly. Later, I learned the error of my ways.

This seems so simple, but many writers ignore them. I have literally heard a writers say, "My story is so good I could sell it on the title alone" or "They just have to read the first line to be sold." The reality is that if your work is not submitted correctly, a great story title and a great first line will never be read.

And don't try to send romance stories to horror publications and vice versa. You're going to have to do your research and figure out the best market for your story.

7. Be Ready for Rejection

No matter how well your book is written. No matter how well it has been edited by you or people helping you out. No matter how amazing your plot is. No matter if it is the BEST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN...chances are it is going to meet a fair amount of rejection.

The publishing world is looking for what sells. Readers are looking for what they personally like. Reviewers have a list of likes and dislikes.

You will not make everyone happy. Be ready for this reality. And don't let it get you down.

8. Keep Writing

Even if you meet rejection after rejection or success after success, always keep writing. Don't sit back and just chuck your old manuscripts and short stories at editors. Write new fresh material. Keep moving forward.

And one final note for those of you who want to go the Independent Author your research. It's not easy. It's not quick. And it's not a scheme to make a fast buck. There are plenty of resources online for people who are interested in the Independent Author movement. I strongly suggest reading Morris' Rosenthal's blog and book on self-publishing. Read up on all the publish on demand companies (Lulu, iUniverse, CreateSpace) and look at all your options very carefully. I cannot recommend a path for you. You have to figure out what will work for you. My husband and I chose Createspace because it suites our needs at this time. We may, in the future, change our business model and continue down a different path.

Also, As The World Dies has been a solid success so far because it had a buzz created by its existence online for two years. People that love the zombie genre discovered the story and spread the word. I'm VERY grateful for that. But that doesn't give ma a free pass when it comes promoting and marketing the book. You will have to buckle down and create buzz on your own works.

I do highly recommend to anyone wanting to take their writing seriously and who do want to create a solid readership, post free works online and maintain some sort of blog. If people know you can write stories they enjoy, they will be more inclined to buy your works.

And just in case you're wondering why I wrote this entry, I have received enough emails recently asking me about the writing process and how to publish/self-publish that I thought I'd take the time to try and address the basics.

Please feel free to ask me questions and I'll try and answer as honestly as possible.


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