This is the first post in a series for aspiring writers. I’m calling them the Author’s Learning Workshop. Their purpose is to build a simple step-by-step guide to your first year as an author. I will focus on writing fiction novels (because that’s the road I’ve taken), but a lot of this information works for other forms of writing, too. I will try to balance it as much as I can.
My first year as an author has brought me amazing opportunities: an internship with a literary agency in NY, a scholarship to attend the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in 2019, network connections with amazing editors and agents, the privilege of hearing master classes and workshops taught by best-selling authors, and so many smaller, immeasurable, moments of progress. I am writing, querying, and dreaming just like you.
I think we can help each other. Hopefully, these posts will be a valuable resource for gathering tribal knowledge of the industry and help you to avoid pitfalls (some that I made) that are common with getting started.
To start at the beginning, let’s focus on what you need to be a writer. Those are not the same tools you would use if you are seeking publication (more on that later).
1) A Writing Medium–This could be any way to keep your work organized and to move words from your head onto paper, computer, or the like. Many people are happy with the simplicity of using a Word.doc. Others want the organizational flare and structure of a computer program like Scrivener. Some even prefer the old-fashioned typewriter or pen route and then they rewrite to a more shareable medium.
Depending on what you love to write, your medium could be a Twitter post or a scribbled poem on a crinkled napkin. That is entirely up to you!
2) A Planner/Calendar–To succeed as a writer you need to set obtainable writing goals. You will make the most progress writing each day, but life doesn’t always allow for that. Having a planner or calendar can help you track your writing patterns. When do you write best? How many words can you average a month? Are there craft events or workshops to attend? Writing deadlines and contests? Writing is very much a creative art, but, if you’re looking towards publication, it’s also a business and you need to stay organized.
3) A Place to Write–This sounds obvious, but it begs to be stated. Find the place and time that works for you. Even if that means hacking an hour out of your day to find a quiet place or remembering to bring earplugs with you so you can work while you commute. CREATE YOUR SPACE. I am giving you permission to protect your boundaries and be (a little) selfish while you pursue your dream.
4) A Community–This is about self-care, encouragement, and criticism. It is easy to love our own work and we can easily overlook where we are falling short. A community can offer encouragement when we need support, a balanced perspective when we’re losing our way, and let us know where we need improvement. Local writing groups, online forums, critique partners, and social media can all offer a jumping off point for building your writing community. Attending conferences, classes, and workshops can help, too.
Perhaps the best way to meet similar writers is to join local groups like the RWA (Romance Writers of America) or the SCWBI (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators). There are groups for all types of writers. These groups also open you up to more classes, contests and events celebrating what you’re doing.
5) Grit–Writing can feel wonderful. Sharing your writing can feel impossible. I’ve heard it said 99% of publishing is rejection. Dust yourself off, keep going, and try to enjoy the journey.
This is just the beginning. There are so many places to go from here. The next Author’s Learning Workshop (ALW) will focus on “Plotters, Pantsers, and Plotsters: How to Draft Your Novel”.