Saturday, March 18, 2006

Thinking of writing a book?

Writing a book is hard work and getting it published is no guarantee. If you’re thinking you can write better than the author who wrote the last book you read so you’re going to be published tomorrow, think again. If you’ve never written before I’m pretty sure that you don’t write as well as the author whose book you just finished. I wrote four books before I learned how to write to sell and finally sold one.

Some people think their book deserves to get published because they had such a wonderful idea or because their mother loves it. They spent a whole two months working on it. I’ve actually had people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book, so I’m going to do it when I get a few free weekends.” That’s like saying, “I’ve always wanted to play pro football, so I’m going to scrimmage with Tom Brady on my next summer vacation.”

Writing is an art. Art takes training, sacrifice and dedication. Of course writing involves talent, but much of writing is learnable, and the learnable parts require study and self-evaluation. To write well enough to sell in today’s tough market, you must learn the craft.

There are a million books out there to help you learn to write, so how do you choose? The books that writers find valuable are as varied as the writers themselves. I started at the library and read everything my local branch had on fiction writing, then I expanded to monthly periodicals and purchasing how-to books.

If this is going to be more than a hobby, you’ll need to learn the business. If you want your work published, you must commit to both the craft and to learning about publishing.

First you need to figure out what genre you’re writing in. Genre is a marketing tool used to distinguish types of stories. Go to a bookstore and compare which books are the most like yours to figure out where your books will be shelved. There’s so much to learn. How do you get help deciphering all this stuff?

Find a national support organization for your genre. Browse their websites. There are national groups such as Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Western Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime. You might find a local statewide writers' organization.

Remember: You are not looking for a writing group. You are looking for an organization designed for advocacy and information. Most have membership fees on national or local levels, and you must consider this an investment in your career. Dues are tax deductible. Membership provides you with market updates, editor and agent information, submission guidelines, online mailing lists, conference information, writers groups and critique groups, just to name a few benefits.

I wouldn’t have been published when I was if I hadn’t found Heartland Writers Group and learned the techniques of writing with the support and encouragement of fellow writers.

Here are more reasons to join a local chapter:
* Market updates
* Contests
* Local writing retreats
* Monthly support meetings
* Critique groups
* Online support and brainstorming
* Teaching programs by professional writers
* Research help and tips
* Yearly goal setting program
* Conference information
* Editor and agent tips
* Submission guidelines
* Recognition for writing achievements
* Other people who have as many characters in their heads as you
and therefore don’t find you a bit odd

My favorite books:

How To:

* Techniques of The Selling Writer, Dwight V. Swain
University of Oklahoma Press: Norman ISBN # 0-8061-1191-7
* Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass, Writer’s Digest, ISBN # 0-89879-995-3
* The Complete Writer’s Guide to heroes & Heroines, Tami Cowden, ISBN #1-58065-024-4
* Building Believable Characters, Marc McCutcheon, Writer’s Digest
ISBN # 0-89879-683-0
* Creating Characters, How To Build Story People, Dwight V. Swain, Writer’s Digest
ISBN #0-89879-417-X


* Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
* Random House Dictionary of the English Language, unabridged edition
* Roget’s International Thesaurus


* Writing on Both Sides of the Brain, Henriette Anne Klauser, ISBN # 0-06-254490-X

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