Do you have a story to tell? Maybe you’d like to be a published author, or possibly your dream is to write something that you can share with friends or family. My hope is that this page can help you toward that goal. My publisher recently asked me to provide some writing advice for aspiring authors. I hope you find the video encouraging.
The information I’ve provided below are my opinion and based on my experience. Certainly writing is different for each person. If you have additional questions, feel free to send them to me via the CONNECT/Contact button above. Also, I was recently interviewed for a local newspaper, New Year’s Resolutions: Write a Book.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need an agent, and how do I get one? If you want to traditionally publish your book, I would recommend acquiring an agent once you have a finished manuscript and are ready to begin submitting it. A reputable agent will be a member of AAR, will not request money up front, and will give you an honest opinion regarding your work. Agents can be found through AAR or by googling. Search for an agent that represents the genre you write. This article by my first agent, Mary Sue Seymour, answers many questions regarding the author/agent relationship.
Should I self-publish? Self-publishing is a growing venue and is a good option for many writers. If you want big distribution and to see your books in national bookstores, you might be better off with the traditional route–although certainly there have been people who become over-night successes through self publishing. Like traditional publishing, the amount of money to be earned in self-publishing varies quite a bit. For information on how much income authors earn, I’d suggest this article in Forbes magazine. Also this is an excellent article on self-publishing by the literary agent, Chip MacGregor. Lastly, remember it’s not always an either-or question. Many authors (like myself) are now hybrid–meaning we have books published through a traditional publisher as well as independently.
How do I contact a traditional publisher? Each publisher has a website and submission guidelines. So which publisher is for you? The best answer to that is for you to look at books you read that are similar to yours. Write down the names of the publishers. Then go on-line and begin your research. Each publisher will want something different as far as number of pages, etc., and some publishers will only accept agented submissions.
What story should I write? Now that is a good question, and I have an easy answer–write the story that means the most to you. There’s no use looking at what is the bestseller today, because that will change every 6 to 12 months. Write the very best book you can. Don’t bother chasing trends.
How can I improve my writing? Writing conferences, local writing classes, writing groups that offer workshops and college classes are good ways to improve your writing. We are all in the process of improving our craft, and the second book you write will probably be better than the first. Commit to working on your skills and improving your writing. One of the best ways to do that is to read a lot and keep writing. I once heard someone say that a writer should spend 50% of their time writing, 25% reading and 25% marketing or looking for an agent/publisher. If you have 10 hours a week to spend, divide it up into 5 hours of writing, 2 1/2 of reading and 2 1/2 of researching publishers and agents.
Do I need a writer’s group? I love meeting with groups of writers. These groups can be very helpful, especially if you are with people who write in the same genre that you do. The important thing with writer’s groups, in my opinion, is to appreciate them when they are helpful and move on when they stop being helpful. Sometimes writers grow in different directions, and then it’s best to find a different group. Conversely, some groups have stayed together years and years with great results.
I’ve written a manuscript, now what? Now you need to decide if this is something that you want to sell to the general market. If so, then research guidelines and begin submitting it to agents and editors or dive into the self-publishing world. If it is something you wrote for friends and family, then share it! Lastly, this might have been a “learning document” for you. Perhaps you figured out how to effectively use background or manage the pacing of the story. It could be that you’re ready to move on to your next book, but you don’t think your first story is one you want to share. That’s perfectly okay. Put it in the closet, back it up to a drive, and move on.
How important is a college degree? A college degree in English is helpful, but it’s by no means necessary. If you were to research your favorite authors, you’d find a wide variety of degrees, and some folks who have no college at all. If you’re interested in pursuing a college degree, by all means do. It can’t hurt your writing career, but neither is it necessary.
OWL, Purdue’s On-line Writing Lab. When I taught college English, I referred students to this site. It has everything from grammar examples to MLA and APA formatting.
Visual Thesaurus. This is a wonderful on-line thesaurus which I use daily as I’m writing. You can try it for free for 14 days.
Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. This is one of the most helpful little books you can purchase. Not only does it explain some of the grammar rules which trip us all up (their/there/they’re), it also gives examples. Order a copy from Amazon for under $7 or find a copy in your local used bookstore.
Ingrid Sundberg’s Color Thesaurus. I loved this so much that I printed out the color charts!
ACFW. American Christian Fiction Writers is a group that provides many useful resources for writers, including mentoring, critique groups, a yearly conference, annual contests for published and unpublished writers, and updates on what is happening in the industry. I have been a member of this group for more than 5 years.
SCBWI. Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is another highly regarded group, providing support and resources to writers since 1971.
RWA. Romance Writers of America is the national group for romance writers. I’ve been a member for 15 years. Within RWA there are chapter groups by location as well as genre (mystery, inspirational, etc.).
Sisters In Crime. A group of mystery writers that offers classes, workshops, promotion, etc.