Guest Post by Carol Snow
Carol Snow, author of WHAT CAME FIRST, http://www.carolsnow.com
Tips for Writers
“I wrote a book, and I need to know how to get it published.”
There’s no rush, I told her: for now, she should spend some time experimenting and focusing on her craft.
She put her hands on her hips. “The book’s ready. I’ve been working on it for four months. I just need to find a publisher.”
Then the bell rang and she picked up her Hello Kitty backpack and headed into her fifth grade classroom.
Most of the people who ask me for tips on fiction writing and publishing are older than this particular girl (and a lot less pushy), but much of the advice I give to beginning writers is the same:
- Focus on process rather than product. If you keep writing, there is plenty of time to publish later on. To begin with, have some fun with words, characters and stories without worrying about whether or not they are perfect.
- Write often to develop fluency. Keep a diary, blog, journal . . . whatever works to keep you writing daily (or almost daily). The more you write, the more easily words will flow.
- Live your life. Get out and do things, learn new skills, explore different places, and meet a variety of people. Take jobs that have nothing to do with writing. It is all material. More importantly, it’s your life; you should live it to the fullest.
- Read widely. All writers are readers first. If you don’t like to read, then you shouldn’t be a writer. And if you do like to read, try widening your scope to included new genres, which can expose you to new possibilities for your own writing, and daily newspapers, which can spark all kinds of story ideas.
- Learn to type. The hunt-and-peck method takes too much time and distracts you from your ideas.
- Experiment with different styles and perspectives. The first time I wrote a story in the first person, it was a revelation: at last I had found my voice. After writing seven books in the first person (the last in three different voices), I’ve switching back to third person for my eighth, now in progress, and am amazed at the ways in which it opens up the story.
- Find a good teacher. By this I mean someone who balances constructive criticism with constructive praise and who helps you come up with ideas on your own rather than just assigning a bunch of exercises.
- Become part of a community of writers. Early on (and for some writers, forever), a writing or critique group can help give you the confidence and skills to move forward.
- Learn to self-edit. While group support can be wonderful, fiction writing is, for most of us, a solitary activity. It’s best to share your writing only after you’ve gone as far as you can on your own.
- Read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Repeatedly. You can write the most imaginative, perfectly constructed book in the world, but if the writing is murky and the manuscript is littered with grammatical and punctuation errors, no agent or editor will give it more than a cursory glance.