I love to write. How can I learn more about writing?
Information is all around you because books are the best teachers. You’ll learn almost everything you need to know by studying the kind of book you want to write. How does the author open the story? How many main and minor characters are there? How long are the chapters? What writing techniques does the author employ? Whether you want to write fiction or nonfiction, these techniques include creating scenes, using dialogue, employing suspense, and so forth. Think about why you like this author’s book. The answer can be your guide as you write your own.
Whenever you have the opportunity, take writing classes in school. Community colleges and community centers often offer non-credit writing classes too. I strongly advise working on your school newspaper staff. Charles Dickens got his start as a newspaper reporter and said it taught him the most important lessons he learned about writing. You’ll not only learn how to compose a story, you’ll learn the discipline of doing the actual writing.
Read books about writing. There are so many that both libraries and bookstores often devote special sections to them. There are also several fine magazines devoted to the subject of writing. Check out Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers. You can either subscribe to these or find them at the library.
Most importantly, you must write! Every day, if possible. Any writer you ask for advice about writing will tell you this because we all have to learn it. Challenge yourself each day to write a few paragraphs about something you saw, heard, thought, or did. Every time you write, you’re exercising and fine-tuning your writing muscles. They will get stronger with each workout.
When authors come to speak at your library or a nearby college, try to attend. If your community or library has a writers’ group, see if you can join. If you can’t find a group, you might ask your local librarian about starting one. Any setting where you can talk about books and writing will be helpful to you.
But ultimately it comes down to that old maxim that if you want to be a writer, you must write. Don’t just dream it, do it!
I yearn for an audience for my writing, but how can I get published?
These days, many writers are literally publishing themselves by blogging. If you’re a young writer, look for websites where you can post your writing and get feedback from readers. Lots of writers today are self-publishing their own books and selling them through such websites as Amazon.com.
To get your work out there, you can also enter writing contests. I also recommend volunteering to write the newsletter for groups or organization you belong to—anything you can do to get the word out there that you’re a writer.
If you want to go the traditional route, get the book Writers Market from your public library and read the information at the beginning about how to submit your work to a major publisher. This book contains numerous listings of publishers, what they’re looking for, and how they want materials from you submitted to them.
You can submit to publishers without having an agent, but if you feel you should have one, you’ll find a book called Guide to Literary Agents at the library or bookstore. The front of this book will tell you everything you need to know about approaching agents to represent your work. The book itself lists hundreds of agents, their credentials, what they’re looking for, and how they like to be contacted (e-mail, snail mail, twitter, etc.).
If you don’t hear back from an agent in six weeks, you probably won’t, so cross that agent off your list. It’s okay to submit to more than one agent or publisher at a time. These days, everybody does it. The process of finding an agent is time-consuming, but don’t be discouraged.
You can also meet agents at writers’ conferences. At most conferences you will have the opportunity to “pitch” your story idea to the agent. Both Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers magazines list conferences and workshops.
Warning! Never pay an agent or publisher to review your manuscript. The legitimate ones DO NOT charge fees.
What if all I get are rejections from agents and publishers?
Even very successful writers will tell you that rejection is the name of the game, just as it is for actors, artists, dancers, and musicians. Writing can be hard, lonely work. But you’ll do it because you love it and don’t want to do anything else. Hang in there! And don’t take the rejection seriously. It’s just part of this business. When your writing is ready, you’ll find a means of publication.