Sunday, July 09, 2006

This post cadged from a blog comment

I wrote this a few days back to someone who said she's always wanted to be a writer. I liked it, and have tarted it up for your benefit.Tomorrow: The adventure that is refinishing floors!

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The rotten* thing about writing is that you can’t buy your way in, and while knowing people helps, you must, at the base of it, have talent, perseverance, confidence in your writing, and at the same time, a deep and abiding willingness to learn what you don’t know. Which means that confidence will take hit after hit.

Which, ahem, blows chunks, but beggars can't be choosers.

* And by rotten, I mean damn good thing, because it saves us from people who can't write, and only think they can.**

** Not you. You're fine.

But I digress. If you love writing, and you are confident enough to walk that path, to learn what you need to learn, to take the slings and arrows with aplomb and then go out and write the book you were born to write, then honey, you’re golden.

First thing to do is join a writer’s group. Second thing to do is to figure out what you want to write. Third: Educate yourself about the process, the industry, and your craft. Joining a larger writer’s organization can help with this - Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, SFF - they have great resources, great networking, and great writers on board.

Fourth: Write the best book you can. If you’re compiling blog entries, look for ways to create/develop an arc. Your book should show you in one place at the beginning, and in another place - you’ve grown - at the end. Read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Robert McKee’s Story, Jon Franklin’s Writing for Story. Anything Jenny Crusie ever wrote, if you’re writing commercial fiction, just to see how it’s done.

Fifth: When you have written the best book you can - which will mean writing a first draft, getting feedback from people you trust, crying a little, rewriting, tearing your hear out a little, rewriting some more, tearing MORE hair out, drinking quite a bit, and finally rewriting one more time-----------------

(A note on Step 5: Trust me, EVERYONE goes through this, that’s simply the process of writing; no one - ever - gets a book right the first time.)

Sixth: ---------------THEN, and only then, start researching agents. Query smart, but query widely. Read Miss Snark and Evil Editor. Also Publisher's Marketplace. Go to writing conferences; talk to agents and editors there. Get to know the market, the industry, the people you need to connect with to get where you want to be.

If you want this to be your career, put in the time and give it the respect your career deserves.

And then? Simple: Keep going. You may rack up a ton of rejections; I got at least 75 for my first novel. My third has racked up some 10-12, but they’ve been good rejections. Some have pointed me toward things I needed to learn; others pointed out big old holes in my story. Helpful, if painful. You accept it, use what you can to make your book better, and move on. You keep going.

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