Dos and Don’ts of Writers

Actually, my title is not precisely true. What is true for me may not be true for you, and that’s okay. There’s more than one way to be successful, and more than one definition of success. As a writer, I think I’ve (finally) figured out what success is to me. Not that I wouldn’t love JK Rowling money, but the money is not how I define success for me.

(But if a publisher WANTS to throw that kind of money at me, who am I to turn it down?)

In any case, my young writer friends, here is my advice. It’s imperfect, and lord knows I haven’t always followed it, but I try.

1) Join a writers’ group.

I sort of succeeded and sort of failed at this one. I went to a local writers’ group, but they were all about literary fiction and memoir, and I got the sense they weren’t overly impressed by genre fiction. Thing is, I like genre fiction. I didn’t want to be told that my writing was subpar because of what I write. If my writing is subpar, it should be because of how I wrote it.

So I joined an RWA group in a town about three hours from where I live. I went for about two years, but it proved too hard to get there on time. Also, I got tired of getting lectured for being ten minutes late, when I had left the house before dawn to get there. So, kind of a fail there, too.

But, I joined RWA national and a couple on line chapters. I’ve gained loads of good information from those sources, so that is helpful. And I’ve found a critique partner, which is lovely. But I think my writing journey would be easier if I were a more active member (I’m a bit of a lurker).

2) Get a critique partner.

It took me a long time to do this. But getting a critique partner helps you see where your writing is falling down. It has helped me tighten up scenes, re-
work awkward sentences, and helped with pacing. All of which is necessary if you want to get published.

Speaking of published, there’s a bit of advice out there about making sure you’re ready before you start querying. Yeah, no. No one is ever ready to query before they start. I queried before my book was ready. You will, too.

But, if you happen to get a rejection from an agent or an editor that gives you advice, I suggest you take it.

That being said,

3) Query.

Your book will never get published if you don’t. If you have rewritten the same book 15 times, but are planning on tinkering with it just a little more until it’s absolutely perfect, you will never actually query. Here’s why:

A) Your book will never be perfect.

B) if you firmly believe in the perfection of your book, you’ll be more resistant to taking an agent/editor’s advice and make changes. And trust me, you need to make changes.

C) Striving for perfection is admirable. But, since A) is true, if you don’t let your baby go and start querying, then you’ll NEVER query. Save that next set of rewrites for after the first or second wave of rejections.

4) Keep writing.

Is that manuscript done? Set it aside and start something else. While you’re waiting for responses to your query, write that next book. It will be good for you and all of your manuscripts.

5) Don’t give up.

The only thing separately published writers from ones who aren’t is persistence. The only thing keeping you from achieving success is you. No book of yours will ever be published if you give up. Maybe it won’t be your first or your second book (both MS number one and MS number two are gathering cyber dust in my computer. I could probably query number two again with a few revisions. MS number one isn’t ready. And possibly never will be).

So if it’s not your first one, maybe it will be your second or your third or your fifth. Just keep in trying.

That’s it for now. Anyone else have advice they’d like to share with the group?



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