This is the letter I send people who say they want to pursue writing.
I love that you’re interested in exploring what it takes to be a published author. What I can tell you is best summed up in the following article. If you’re willing to count the cost and work hard at your craft, you’ll be well on your way as you pursue publication.
And don’t forget the most important piece of information: TENACITY. I started writing in 1992. My first published article appeared in 2002, and my first book released in 2005. I attribute my “success” to a lot of BOC time (bottom on chair). I logged plenty of hours in my writing chair. I wish I could say there are shortcuts to publication, but mostly it’s a whole lot of hard work.
Still interested? Read on:
10 Ways to Get Started in Writing
Here are some specific ways you can hone your writing skills this year. This list is by no means exhaustive, but if you incorporate some of these ten tasks into your writing life, improvement awaits you (how’s that for passive voice?):
1. Find a writing mentor. I fledged my way through eight years of writing before I met my mentor (who is also one of my closest friends). Although I definitely see those eight years as greatly important in terms of learning to labor in obscurity, I see the last four years as more fruitful because of my friend Sandi. She helped me craft my first sellable query letter. She rejoiced with me when I actually sold an article. She attended Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference with me. And she cheered when I sold my first book. She’s been an amazing guide.
2. Start blogging. If you would like to make yourself write (and volume of writing is very helpful in developing your voice), start a blog. Go to Word Press. Follow their instructions and begin posting. I am not techno-savvy, but I was able to do this with little pain. Here are some of my favorite writing industry blogs:
- Industry insider Michael Hyatt’s blog, the president of Thomas Nelson Publishers
- Randy Ingermanson’s amazing blog for fiction writers
- Agent Rachelle Gardner’s highly informative blog on the writing and agenting world
- Jeff Goins has terrific products and free blogs that get at the heart of writing.
3. Seek outside help. If you haven’t been critiqued yet, it is important that you accustom yourself to this. If you happen to live in Dallas, you can look up The Dallas Christian Writers Guild or the Rockwall Christian Writer’s Group. From the Rockwall group, three of us split off to form Life Sentence, a more intensive critique group. I would not be the writer I am today without Leslie and D’Ann. Also check out North Texas Christian Writers. Frank Ball has several encouragement groups active in the Fort Worth area.
There are also amazing online groups and services that provide information, community, and sometimes critique. Here are a few:
- American Christian Fiction Writers. Cost is affordable. You get a discount for the annual conference and access to loops and great teaching. Critique groups often spur off this larger group.
- Christian Writers Guild
- National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
- Camy Tang offers a wide variety of critique options at her Story Sensei Critique Service.
- Susan May Warren provides coaching and editing for fiction writers at My Book Therapy.
4. Go to a writer’s conference. I personally recommend Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference because it’s where I got my start. An amazing Christian fiction conference is the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. My new favorite is the re:write conference in Austin, Texas.
Writers Conference Guidelines is a terrific site that helps ready you for your conference experience. It also has a long list of conferences.
5. Set a weekly word count goal. For the novel I just handed in, I set a 10,000 a week word count goal. For my non-fiction (since it involves more research) my goal is 6000. I used to think that many words were impossible, but once I set the goal, I met it. If you are serious about writing and improving your craft, set goals.
And set deadlines, too. Tell yourself you must finish an article or book by a certain day and then EXCEED that deadline.
Give yourself baby-step goals. Want to break into publication? Set a query letter writing goal per week, or an article-producing goal per week. Write a short story a month, or three poems.
6. Pay it forward. Do some writing for free, whether it be a long-thought out letter to a struggling friend or a non-profit publication needing your words. When you’re starting out your journey, there will be opportunities to do this. My eldest daughter got her first writing publication (not paid) through our church’s magazine. Not bad, considering the circulation is 10,000. Not only did she minister to many, but now she has a publishing clip to show magazines when she starts pursuing publication.
7. Do something you’ve never done before. Terrified of poetry? Pick up a book of sonnets and try to construct one. Non-fiction proposals freak you out? Write one. Need to write your first query letter but don’t know how? Never fear! I have a free query tutorial here. Never written a short story? Just do it! Stretch your wings; flex your writing muscles. Doing a variety of writing will also help you hone your voice.
8. Read great books and articles.
- Sandra Glahn’s amazing tutorial about great writing
- Sandra Glahn’s information about magazine writing
- Sandra Glahn’s How to Break Into Publishing
- On Writing by Stephen King. A bit raw, but one of the BEST books on fiction writing I’ve ever read. I finished reading
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Again, a bit raw, but very, very good advice. Anne writes crazily (if there is such a thing) but it works. She’s got a terrific voice.
- Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine
- I’ve written everything I know about the publishing journey in one handy dandy place: The 11 Secrets of Getting Published.
9. If you’ve had a novel in your head for days (months, years, decades), why not make this year the year you write it? November is National Novel Writer’s Month. My friend D’Ann wrote a novel in a month that way, later honing it. It garnered the attention of a really great agent! If you aren’t sure how to start, check out Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method.
10. Get your head (and heart!) on straight. Writing for publication is a difficult journey, particularly if you’re a Christian and don’t want to fall into prideful temptations. My notes about the inner journey of the writer addresses this issue of pride and many others. You can download it free here.
There you go! I hope this has given you a good foundation for exploring writing. I look forward to hearing about your writing journey.