Monday, August 29, 2016

Tips to Start (or Restart) Your Writing Career

It seems the learning curve for a writer begins with the first word we intentionally write and continues every day as we pursue the dream of being an author.  I’ve been thinking about what I wish I’d known-or understood better when I first began.    

Every writer’s journey is different.  We all have different jobs and family responsibilities.  We all write in different genres and have different gifts, talents and interests.  We all have different coping skills when faced with critique and rejection.  There are so many facets to being a published author that it is like talking to a young couple expecting their first baby:  They don’t know yet what they don’t know and there is so much to learn.   

Here are a few things I wish I’d known when I first started writing.

1.  Start somewhere.  Anywhere. 

You don’t need to know exactly how you are going to handle every page of a manuscript when you begin.  Just jump in anywhere.  You can make it all work together later. 

2.  Don’t confuse you as a person with what you write. 

Writers need a thick skin to endure rejection.  Editors and agents will reject your work-and it isn’t personal.  There are a thousand reasons why they reject a manuscript and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your manuscript isn’t good.  Often you will not know why your project has been rejected.  Remember that a rejection of your manuscript is not a rejection of you as a person.

3.  Understand the purpose of a critique group.

There are two kinds of critique groups.  One is a group that only makes you feel good no matter what.  The other is a group that will help you get published, even if they tell you things you don’t want to hear.  Certainly you hope your group will tell you what they love about your manuscript, but the most helpful group can point out places in your manuscript that needs some work.  When others don’t love your manuscript like you do, that is when you need that thick skin mentioned in number 2.  Listen to their opinions, but in the end you decide what is right for your own story.  Remember that a critique of your manuscript is not a critique of you as a person.

 4.  Your story is told only through the words on the page.

Your manuscript has to be self-sufficient.  If you have to verbally explain to someone all the backstory they need to understand a section in the manuscript, then it doesn’t work.  A writer crafts a story (either fiction or nonfiction) that will be read, not explained ahead of time.  A story is told ONLY through the words on the page.

5.  Publishing is a business.

This is a hard one to learn.  Most of us grew up loving books.  The idea of one day seeing our name on the cover of a book is a dream we hope comes true.  Writers are passionate about books and telling stories.  For most of us it is about the love of reading, and books, and the craft of writing.  It takes a while for some of us to accept the reality that writing books published by traditional publishers is a business.  Authors write manuscripts.  Publishers take manuscripts and turn them into books to sell.  The harsh reality is that although everyone who works for a publisher loves books, publishing houses must make money.  Therefore, they usually won’t offer a contract on a book unless they believe it will make money for them.  As authors, the sooner we learn this the better.

For those of you who want to start (or restart) writing books for children and young readers, it is never too late and never too early. 

You can do it.   

Carla Killough McClafferty 

Enter (HERE)  to win an autographed copy of Amy Cattapan's middle-grade mystery Seven Riddles to Nowhere (Vinspire Publishing). The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends August 31. That happens to also be the day of Amy’s Facebook Launch Party, where you can win lots of other great prizes, including a copy of Carmela's own book, Rosa, Sola.


JoAnn Early Macken said...

Excellent points, Carla! I wish I had known the same things when I started!

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

There is a slow learning curve, isn't there?

Linda said...

Great reminders, Carla. I have the hardest time separating myself from the manuscript. It is good to know that other writers struggle with that too!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Late to the party, but love the post. Excellent points.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Linda, thanks for leaving this comment. Writing is personal in so many ways. We leave little pieces of ourselves in everything we write. I can separate myself from my work because I think, so what if they don't like it?? If I am pleased with it, that is what counts. In the end, the only opinion that really matters is that of my editor--after I've signed a book contract with them.

I wish you every success with your work.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thank you Pen,

So glad you liked the post.

Best wishes with your own work!


Bobbi Miller said...

These are excellent, excellent tips! And I agree with all of them. Thank you!