This blog is for those of you who want to write, are struggling to write and who want to publish. My latest book, DEADLY IDENTITY, HQN, December 2010 is out. It is book #2 of the my next saga-series, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. When I turn around and look at my zig-zag path to publishing, then I feel anyone can do it. I’d like to share some tips with you that may support your dream of writing a book.
For five years I taught at Kent State University and Akron University, Ohio in their adult education programs. I offered classes in Fiction Writing, Nonfiction Writing and Manuscript Evaluation. My classes were always packed to the gum stumps with a maximum of thirty students. My first rule for them was: one did not pass through the door to my class the following week unless they had ten pages of fresh (not edited or revised) writing material. I told them if they didn’t think if they could meet my requirement, to get their money refunded and don’t bother coming back for class number two. I created Writing Boot camp. It wasn’t for sissies. It was for people who had a dream deep in their heart about not only writing, but getting it published. I wanted to support their dream and knew how to go about doing just that.
Ten percent of my eager students of all ages published straight out of my classes. That’s a pretty high percent. If you want to write, you need to ask yourself WHY you want to write.
Is it to write about your family’s history? Is it to write to get the gall and toxins out of your system? Or, is it because you love to tell a good story. If you are the “tell a good story,” type, you’ll have it easiest time in trying to break into the world of publishing.
In the initial class, I had each student stand, introduce her or himself and give me a five minute presentation about themselves and why they wanted to write. It was actually a trick. Not that I didn’t care why they wanted to write, but I wanted to hear them TALK.
Because the way a person thinks, the way their mind orders communication and they speak, will show me the way she or he will write. I could tell by the rhythm of a person’s speech pattern during their presentation if they had a sense of that same rhythm that was needed in order to create a book. Sentences can be long or short and you need to know when to make them one way or another. Some people’s minds are just created that way, and that’s good news for writing.
I would listen to see if they had a beginning, middle and end to the presentation about themselves–or not. Those that would jump around in a hodge podge manner always had trouble creating a scene (the who, what, where, when and how). Orderly minds help in the organization of writing. Can others who don’t think this way over come it? Absolutely. That was why I demanded ten new pages a week. It forced the disordered minds into an organized template so that everyone knew what was expected of them. And they all produced, week after week. Not one sissie among them.
By laying down the rule that ten new pages a week had to be created, this forced each person in the class to really ask themselves (consciously or not) if this is what they REALLY wanted to do. To sit and create ten double-spaced,typed pages a week is a lot if you’re not used to doing it. It forces organization, time management and allowing yourself to be creative with the muse within yourself. This test winnowed wheat from chaff.
In my fiction classes, I told my class to write about their passion. Write what they know. You don’t have to go out and create a universe unless you want too. Frequently, your job, whether you know it or not, is plenty of grist for the mill of the novel. How many people know what it’s like to be a pilot? Or a rancher? Or a trucker? A construction worker? An office assistant? There’s suspense, mystery, excitement and adventure in all of these so-called “mundane” jobs. What you know is what you will be best at writing.
In my own situation, I wrote about the military because I was a part of it. I created the sub-genre of military romance in 1983 via Silhouette Special Edition, CAPTIVE OF FATE. And I wrote consistently in this vein for decades and now, look at it. Military romance is a thriving sub-genre that many talented writers are in. Amazing what one can do with “what they know.”
Why is this important? Because your readers ‘out there’ may be truckers, ranchers, office assistants or construction workers and they’ll know if you, the author, know what you’re talking about. And if you do, they’ll likely buy your next novel. And if you don’t know what you’re writing about or fail to do the extensive research needed for it, the novel will be DOA–dead on arrival–to the reader’s hands. They won’t buy your next book.
That’s why it’s vital if you want to break into the writing world, to write what you know. Don’t think it’s boring, because it really isn’t. I was in the US Navy as an Aerographer’s Mate (weather forecaster). I found out what it was like to be one of the few women in this vocation and found out a whole lot about sexual harassment and harassment in general. I ended up creating the sub genre of military romances as a result of my experience in 1983. I started a whole new trend in the publishing world by being faithful to writing what I knew. You write from experience because it gives solid legs to your story and your readers will be very happy with you. Plus, the book arrives alive and breathing to the editor’s desk. And then, into your reader’s hands. That means word-of-mouth from your happy readers to others will result.
What fuels your passion, whether it’s a love of gems stones and being a rock hound, a lover of history, a curiosity about reptiles, creating a new design in a quilt….all of this can be written about. It’s not the topic that stops you from being published. It’s the construct of how the backdrop is written about: that who, what, where, when , why and how.
Write your heart out on paper or on a computer. Write what you love to read. To thine own self be true. Sooner or later, someone in the realm of publishing will love your manuscript as much as you do, and buy it. And then you become an author. Follow your heart. I did. I’m still writing and publishing after being in the business since 1980–and still going strong. Thanks to my readers.
I wish you creative forays into the landscape of your mind–and putting it down on paper 🙂
Warmly, Lindsay McKenna
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