Don’t Start your Typewriter Without these Five Writing Tips
I wanted to discuss some of the “nuts and bolts” of the writing business from my observations and lessons I’ve learned over the forty years I have been writing. This profession has changed drastically over the past several years with the rise of self-publishing and e-books. Some of these writing tips might not apply to you, depending on where you are in your writing journey.
- Professionalism—Being a writer is a profession, not a hobby.
We are professionals and want to be treated as professionals, even if we are self-publishing. Deadlines are important to make. I can’t stress that enough. Networking is important and can open doors for you whether it is through a conference, chapter meeting or online groups.
Critique groups can be good, but remember the book is yours ultimately and you have to decide what advice to take or not take. No agent is better than a bad agent. In fact, if you are a self- published author, you don’t have to have an agent unless you are looking at foreign rights and other areas of publishing your books.
- Writing—A writer should also be a reader.
Talent is important but equally or more important is perseverance with some luck thrown in.
Set a schedule to write. If not, it is easy to get sidetracked. Life happens. Don’t stop trying to improve your craft. This business is subjective. When something is bothering you about your book, listen to that inner voice. I have found it is usually right whether it is a plot element, the structure of a sentence, or a piece of dialogue. One way to see if your story (especially the dialogue) reads well and is naturally sounding is to read it out loud or use one of those computer programs to read your manuscript to you. With dialogue listen to the people you encounter. Be careful about using a thick accent. It can stop your reader when she is reading your story. You don’t want the reader to stop to figure out what the character was trying to say. Also, unless your character is a foreigner, we use contractions a lot in America in our dialogue. Research. It shows if you don’t. But don’t feel you have to put everything in the book that you discover when you research. That shows, too.
- Rejection—Rejections are part of the business.
Rejection is part of writing and sending your work out. We have to learn to move on and not let it stop us from writing. I have seen some very talented writers give up because of rejections. One editor may not like your writing while another may. So don’t give up on a project because of one rejection. Have a support group to help you through the rejections. We all need it from time to time. You should see my file of rejections!
- Stress—Writing can be intense and draining that can lead to stress.
Think twice before quitting your day job. This business is so unpredictable. I realize a day job can get in the way of writing sometimes (I had one for twenty-eight years of writing), but there is value in having a job outside the home. I have gained a lot from working that I use in my writing. I interact with students and people who have enriched my writing and observations.
The second sale is often harder than the first. It doesn’t get any easier after you sell the first book. The good part of this is that it keeps you on your toes and hopefully makes you a better writer. Have fun with your writing. It will show in your work. And take a break frequently and move around. Sitting too much is bad for your health.
- Option for Writers Today—Today changes in the book industry can be compared to the time mass market books became popular—a drastic change at the time.
In the past five years, publishing has changed a lot. I’m both a published author with a publisher, and I’m a self-publishing author too. This gives writers more options than they have had in the past. If a story can’t find a home with a publisher, now you have the option of publishing it yourself. That’s exciting, but that also means that the story you publish should go through the same stages as a story a publisher puts out. At the minimal, you need to hire an editor and a proofreader. You also will need an eye-catching cover. It isn’t easy being a self-publishing, and it requires a lot of work and time to be successful. You are responsible for all aspects of publishing a book, especially marketing it. If you decide to be a self-published author, you can find people to help you with some of the jobs. You will have to decide how much control you want to turn over to others.
I hope some of these writing tips will help you in your writing career. Set a time to write. Stay connected with other writers. Have fun creating your stories.