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Advice to New Writers

“Writers are not born. They are made. Made through willpower and work. Made by iteration, ideation, reiteration. Made through learning — learning that comes from practicing, reading, and through teachers who help shepherd you through those things in order to give your efforts context.” – Chuck Wendig

Read, read, read what you want to write. Especially new books in the genre or age category. Learning what is out there—the styles, the lengths, the ways “things are done”—will improve your own writing.

Take classes, workshops, webinars, and go to conferences and retreats where you can learn craft and connect with other writers and with editors and agents. I always glean some nugget by participating in these events. I got some work-for-hire work because of word of mouth from another writer. If I’d stayed in my house, I wouldn’t have met her and heard about this opportunity.

Get in a critique group or do manuscript exchanges. I have learned so much from my critique partners over the years. Not only do I learn by what they say about my pieces, but I learn from what I see in theirs. We teach each other because we all have different areas where we excel. For example, I have a tendency to be an underwriter and my ciritque partners will ask, “What is she thinking here?” “How does she feel.” (I found most of my critique partners through SCBWI.)

Write, and keep writing! If you want to be a writer, that means you have to actually write. This is where the will and hard work comes in. Schedule a time. Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and put something on the blank page. Any kind of writing is better than none, but it’s better if you have some kind of goal and meet it. E.g. “Today, I’m going to get one scene written.” “I’m going to write for a minimum of one hour.” “I’m going to complete the first draft of my short story.” I love this quote from Jack London, “Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.” Yes, the act of writing itself can inspire you. Putting thoughts down will make more thoughts come.

Rewrite. Isn’t it a relief that you don’t have to get your writing exactly right the first time? You can revise and rewrite and edit it as many times as necessary. I find it helpful to have space between the time I wrote something and when I come back to edit. That helps me see it afresh and discover what isn’t working so well, or is overdone or incomplete. Reading aloud helps me hear errors and see missing or wrong word. Only when it is the best I can make it, do I submit.

To sum up there are: “Three Rules for Literary Success: 1. Read a lot. 2. Write a lot. 3. Read a lot more, write a lot more.” – Robert Silverberg                            

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