Where do I… begin?
It’s hard to know where to start, isn’t it? One of the biggest hurdles for me was realizing that people like me, from places like where I was from, could tell stories and hope to have them published.
The place to begin is always… writing. I know. I wish fame and fortune were first, so that you’d have time to do the writing.
And time isn’t the only problem. When you first start writing, your writing is… bad. Or at least it’s frustratingly not as great as you’d imagined. Been there. Actually, all creative people have been there. Let Ira Glass tell you why first creative efforts are so maddening.
OK, so it’s hard, this creating thing. Seriously, you’re wondering, HOW DO I DO IT?
I can’t recommend making writer friends enough. Not superstar authors—people at the same place in their careers or a step or two ahead. Why? Because these are the people you can commiserate with when the writing is hard, and who will cheer you on when you hit a new milestone. These are also the people you can watch do the work, do the job, succeed, learn. I call it stealth mentoring. No one has the time to mentor one-on-one, OK? But if you pay attention to the people doing the work you want to do, you can learn a great deal about how to do it, too.
Ways to get started:
• Take a class. Don’t know where to start? Consider a jump start like a one-off class. (I literally did this, taking a single-night class with Story Studio Chicago when I hadn’t written in years. And then I ended up teaching there!) Look for classes where you can go and meet writerly folks or online courses you can fit into your schedule. Or why not both?
• Look for free and low-cost resources. There are so many resources already out there. Have you checked out Career Authors? Did you know Writer’s Digest is a pretty good magazine and comes right to your house? (They also have articles at their website for free, and a list once a year of a ton of OTHER websites you might like to check out for great info.)
• Join a writers’ group. Or find one person who will expect some accountability from you and set some weekly or monthly deadlines you both have to meet.
• Join an association. I joined Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America way before I had a book written and I learned so much by being around the people who were already publishing. Is there a national/international association for the genre what you write? What about a local group? (Chicago Writers Association, for example.)
• Go to a bookish event! Check out the local literary scene. It might be the library, OK? (I’m from a small town; I know how it is.) If there isn’t one? Think about starting one. Look for authors visiting your local libraries and bookstores, even if they don’t write what you write. Go, buy a book, get it signed (as a gift for someone else?), make conversation, ask a burning question. While you’re there, make sure to talk to the people running the event, too. These are your people! How can you help?
• Read. Write. Read some more. Sign up for favorite authors’ newsletters. Read them and then sign up for all the resources they tell you about. Follow your favorite authors on social media. When they interact with interesting people, other authors, agents, people in publishing, follow them, too. Engage with the community you are building.
• Be patient.
Ugh, did you say be patient?
I did. I’m sorry. There’s nothing for it. All of this takes time but if you’re serious about learning and connecting, you won’t have to wait until publication to get some of the benefits of creativity. You’ll have a creative community, ready to support you when you do publish. And also? Lots of great new friends who are nerds for the same thing you are.
Business of writing
How do I get an agent?
I wrote a piece for Writer’s Digest about the steps I used to find my agent, and I think it might help you, too.
Art of writing
I wrote briefly about Point of View for the Debutante Ball back in my debut year.
I also wrote about using Significant Detail to engage reader senses, also for the Debutante Ball.
More resources to come!