As Susan Sontag once said, “Writers begin as bewitched readers,” and I know this was certainly the case for me. I can remember combing the dusty bookshelves in my grandmother’s house and making a discovery that would impact my life: a complete collection of Nancy Drew mysteries. What books influenced you as a kid? I love asking book lovers this question, and I’m always amazed by the varied responses.
Now for those tips I promised. If you follow these suggestions, I can’t guarantee that you’ll land that elusive book deal. But I can guarantee you’ll be several steps closer than you were before:
- Join a writers group. Surrounding yourself with professional and aspiring authors is a great way to kick your butt into gear. Many writers groups offer monthly seminars about the craft of writing and the publishing industry. Writers groups are a wonderful place to network, gain motivation, and (if you want) get linked up with critique partners who can help you polish your work. Personally, I’m a member of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. And for those of you in remote areas, there are many online writers groups.
- Take a writing class. “Yeah, right. Like I have time for a writing class,” you’re probably saying. Well, are you committed to becoming a professional writer or not? If so, you have to invest some time in honing your skills. Here’s the good news, though. There are hundreds of classes available online. Check out www.writersonlineclasses.com and (for the aspiring mystery writer) www.rwamysterysuspense.org, for an amazing array of classes.
- Read within your genre. What’s a genre? It’s the type of fiction you’re writing, such as mystery, romance, paranormal romance, thriller, fantasy, erotica, inspirational… the list goes on. You probably already know where your work fits in. I’d be willing to bet that the genre you want to write in is what you like to read. That’s good, by the way, because it’s critical to know what is going on in your genre. What do the fans love, and what do you yourself enjoy as a reader?
- Write every day! Even if it’s just to jot down a story idea or a scrap of snappy dialogue between two characters who have been rattling around in your head. The more you write, the easier it is. A full length novel is 90,000 words or more, so it’s important to get into the discipline of getting words on a page. But don’t let the sheer size of the task intimidate you. Every single novel begins with a lonely first sentence.
- Get an agent. Okay, so you’ve written that story that has been percolating in your head for years. Now what? It’s time to get a literary agent. (Please see my web site at www.lauragriffin.com for tips on this very important step.)
- Don’t give up. I know this sounds trite, but I truly believe it’s the most important tip of all. Publishing is a very competitive business, and talented people get weeded out all the time simply because they allow one or two rejections to derail them. Keep in mind that it only takes one interested editor to buy your book. Almost all successful authors (John Grisham, Stephen King, and Allison Brennan, to name a few) had their first efforts rejected, but the reason you’ve heard of them today is that they persevered. You can, too. So take a deep breath, fire up your computer, and start writing the book from your heart.
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