It’s funny, one of the things I’ve noticed is, when I tell people what I do they always have a friend, lover, family member or distant third cousin on their step-mother’s side who wants to be a writer. So the first thing they ask me is: ‘what advice would you give to someone wanting to be a writer?”
Now, I touched on this in my last blog, but this time I’ll go into a little more detail and give a few tips for all of the writers out there, no matter what stage you’re up to.
- If you’ve been percolating an idea for the great Aussie novel for a while, but just don’t know where to start, then the Writer’s Studio has some great courses for unlocking creativity. And as I said in my previous blog—just sit down and write. Don’t over-think it or over-plan or generally tie yourself up in knots about it so it becomes so overwhelming you freak yourself out and never start. Just sit down and write something. Also, a tip that was a great revelation to me, write whatever comes to mind, be it the first or last scene or something in between, write what parts come to mind first; don’t think you have to write it from beginning to end all anal-retentive like, it’s not a spreadsheet.
- There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Seriously. It’s just another name for procrastination. Just write something, anything. It’s doesn’t have to be brilliant, you can edit it later. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Those lovely muses will never strike if you don’t get yourself into action.
- You don’t have to be ‘qualified’ to be a writer, just have a love of words and a great story to tell. If you really feel ill-equipped, then the Sydney Writer’s Centre has courses for just about every kind of writing you can think of, as well as other great courses like getting published, Kindle publishing, self-publishing, etc.
- So you’ve completed your first draft and it’s brilliant, right? Wrongo, my friend. First drafts always and without exception, suck. So, please resist sending it out to the publisher at the top of your wish list the day after you’re done. Instead, put it away and resist looking at it for at least a month. Then, when your time is up, look over it with fresh eyes and see what you can add/remove. I would recommend doing this at least three times before you so much as give it to your pet cat to read (plus, those cats are hard to please).
- Ok, so you’ve done this a few times, it must be publisher time, right? Nope, wrong again. Here’s where you will make the best investment in your writing ever and send to it a manuscript appraisal service. Look for a reputable company with experience in the genre you are writing. They will read and critique like a publisher, but you haven’t burnt any bridges in the process. Tip: even though you are paying them, don’t expect them to be kind—but that’s ok, you don’t want them to be because publishers are not in the job of being kind.
- Once you are convinced it is the best is can possibly be, get an editing service to go over it with a fine toothed-comb. It may be the best book ever written, but no agent or publisher will touch it with a cattle prod if it’s riddled with grammatical errors and type-os.
- It’s up to you whether you want to go down the agent route, or the publisher route. But please note, they both have strict submission guidelines that must be followed TO THE LETTER. They get so many submissions in any given year that they can afford to be cavalier and get rid of any submissions that don’t meet their requirements. That’s right, if you do not follow their requirements, they WILL NOT EVEN READ IT. They all have websites where they’ll detail their submission requirements. Do not ignore these! And always check if they are even accepting submissions at the time.
- Whether you send to an agent or a publisher, your cover letter needs to be spot on: snappy, intriguing, brief and smart. In short, you will need to know: your book’s genre, what market you are writing for, including demographics, your unique selling point, some kind of tagline or pitch (think: what would be on the back of the book to get readers to buy it?), possibly a synopsis of your book, and a brief bio. Again, I would point you to the Writer’s Studio or the Sydney Writer’s Centre to help with this, as a good pitch letter will make all the difference to whether your brilliant work even gets read.
- Don’t give up. Rejection is inevitable and a part of the job. In fact, just about every published author out there has been rejected (some of the rejection letters are on the interwebs and make for a good chuckle in those low times). So pick yourself up, have a stiff drink, and keep persevering.