Writing Advice

Once you sell a book and it looks like it will actually be on the shelves one day, you begin to meet people who want to meet you, the author.  Yes, Virginia, they DO exist.  A debut author, shaken out from the steaming masses of slush piles.  These people have one question on their minds.  How do you get published? Was it a secret potion?  Is there a special handshake?  Which is understandable, if you’re a writer.

However, there’s genuine curiosity, and then there’s plain old rudeness.  One woman had the balls to tell me, “Of course YOU can write.  You have lots of time.  You’re a stay-at-home mother.”  Which goes to show you the woman has no children.  Also, I was not strictly a stay-home mother because I worked as a freelance writer.  I think she believed all stay-home mothers are married to extremely rich executives who get $2 million bonuses for failed companies.  Did I tell you this story already?  Sorry.  I’m going to keep telling this gol-durn story until the end of my days.

Anyway.  I must give you the following advice.  Perhaps I will even pass out business cards with links to this very blog post on it, for easy reference.

  1. Write.  Do not talk about writing, do not say you will write a book someday when you happen to have a big old chunk of time or an extra half hour because it’s so easy.  Write right now.  Do it.  Stop reading this and turn off the Internet and write one page.
  2. Write every day.  Even if you only have time to bleat out two sentences while your spouse is in the bathroom and your kids are watching a cartoon and dinner is burning on the stove.  Do this everyday and someday you’ll have a whole story.
  3. Learn from those who know.  Ignore those who don’t.  If you’re paying for a seminar about How to Write a Bestselling Novel, perhaps the teacher ought to be a Bestselling Author. Or an editor of such things.  Not some lady who wrote a bunch of books on the art of novel writing and underwater basket weaving, but has a stack of incomplete manuscripts.
  4. Don’t take rejection personally. Remember, you yourself have not loved every novel/film/ice cream flavor ever created.  Though they are all obviously very wrong about your book.
  5. Embrace editing, but know the story you want to write.   If your editor is telling you to make it a romantic love story but you want to write a brother-sister-adventure story, then there may be a problem.
  6. Find a good supportive writer’s group.  Or one good friend who’s a careful reader.  Avoid groups of beret-wearing men who hang out in dreary suburban chain coffee shops and talk about how the only writing worth anything is experimental fiction involving talking cabbages, and who particularly hate you, you terrible commercial sell-out.  Also avoid people who praise you too much and people who praise you too little.  Does this sound difficult? It can be. Good luck, Goldilocks.
  7. Keep reading.  It will make you a better writer.

I was going to do 10 tips for writers, make it search-engine friendly, but I ran out.

The point is, there are many paths to being published.  Some people write a novel in a couple of months and get a deal.  Some take years and many novels.  Some have MFAs.  Some do not. Some people self-publish and then get book deals, some do not. And so on.

The only sure way to get published someday is to do the work of writing.  Right now. With a fabulous idea whose enthusiasm you can sustain for years. Characters people love.  A plot would be nice, too, in my opinion.

The end.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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