Advice for an Aspiring Author

I recently received an email from a reader of my site requesting some advice on writing. This is the first such email I’ve ever gotten from a reader, and I was a little awed that someone thought highly enough about what they’ve read here to consider asking me for my opinion. I decided that instead of responding with a long email, I would ask the sender to keep an eye out for a blog post addressing the questions they posed. Here is the email, followed by my response:

“I’m writing my memoirs. Everyone tells me I have had a wildly interesting and unusual life of careers, entrepreneurial efforts, marriages and love affairs. I’m am in need of direction, tips, suggestions and magic. My memoirs currently consist of a vast collection of short stories. Would you consider reading one of my stories? Better still, could you speak to someone in the Universe and make a referral?”

1): I’m am in need of direction, tips, suggestions and magic. For direction, tips, and suggestions, I offer the following: 

  • Join your local writers group. I’m a member of Florida Writers Association. It’s worthwhile for the networking with other writers. There is a cost with some, so check them out to see what you can afford. You might be able to find one to suit your budget. If not, see if you can locate a writing critique group in your area. Critique groups are great for helping you polish your work with gentle suggestions. Sometimes you can find a free critique group…your only obligation might be helping another writer by critiquing their work. There are online critique groups, as well, if you prefer that. But do your research thoroughly before posting your work to a writers forum, there are some dodgy ones out there. 
  • Join Twitter. I can’t say enough about how great Twitter is for forming relationships with other writers. Most of the writer friends I have, I met through Twitter. Twitter also has chats for writers and weekly hashtag events like #fridayflash and #tuesdayserial, Twitter memes that enable writers to get feedback on their writing from others. See this Writers Guide to Twitter posted on writer/comic Debbie Ohi’s website for help if you’re new to Twitter. And if you’re already on Twitter, use it to form relationships. Communicate with other writers. You will make friendships with people who will encourage you and may offer to beta read your work when you need it. Some Twitter connections may tell you about markets where you can submit your stories. This actually happened to me. You can also follow successful authors, editors, publishers, and agents. Facebook is good, and I definitely suggest connecting there with authors…but for sheer instant communication gratification, nothing beats a tweet. 
  • Duotrope.  If you don’t have an account here, get one. It’s free. You can search for markets to submit your stories to, and track those submissions right from your account. 
  • Start blogging, if you’re not already. You’re reading blogs; you could write one, too. You could post snippets of some of your memoirs. Blogging helps writers build a following of readers, which is why we write in the first place. To be read. Get a free blog at Blogger or WordPress
  • I wish I had some magic for you. I could use some magic myself. The magic is first in the writing, and then in the editing. The magic comes from within yourself. After that, you just need to find a market for your work. The only hint I can offer here is to get skilled with writing cover letters and submission emails. And follow submission guidelines to the T. 

2): My memoirs currently consist of a vast collection of short stories. Would you consider reading one of my stories? Better still, could you speak to someone in the Universe and make a referral? I would love to read your stories, but I would likely not be able to help you much. You are writing memoirs; I mostly write science fiction, fantasy and horror. I’m an editor of a speculative fiction magazine, The Were-Traveler. If you have any spec-fic stories, send them to the email on that site. I’d love to read them. But for your memoirs, your best bet is to cultivate relationships in local writers groups, critique groups, or on Twitter. I’ve sought advice on all three fronts, and it’s helped me improve my writing skills and get published. 

I hope this helps. I wish you great joy in your writing…and publishing success. 

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2 thoughts on “Advice for an Aspiring Author

  1. Especially Twitter. I’ve met dozens of people “in the field” at every level of proficiency; From masters down to my level, and even more-recent starters. It enables to you be in the community, even if you’re not ready to participate, and glean from the pool of shared wisdom. Impossible to quantify the value of it.

    • YES! Twitter is the Full Monty social network for writers, in my opinion. For a beginning writer trying to learn from others, to getting beta help, to publishing and then…as a marketing tool. There’s just so much you can do with it. It’s 140 characters of awesome!

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