Monday, July 27, 2009
LETTER TO A YOUNG WRITER
During a recent visit, I turned onto my grandfather's driveway from Highway 112. The late afternoon light beaming through the branches looked so magical, I stopped the car and grabbed my camera. If I'd not known my grandfather's home waited around the bend, I could have thought the road was taking me anywhere.
When we start to write it's a little like that. We see the road stretching out before us, but we don't know what's around the bend. Pressing on the accelerator will not necessarily cause the journey to move quicker. By doing so, we may even miss the turnoffs.
Recently I received an email from a young writer. She was writing her second novel and wanted to know how to get published. I answered her questions, but I'm not sure they were the answers she was seeking. I hope she knows that I took her questions seriously. Since this was not the first time I'd received those questions, I thought I'd share the answers here this week.
What are the steps I need to take in getting my book published?
My answer is probably not going to be the one that you expect or want to hear, but the most important step on getting published is not making publishing the focus.
Writing a great story should be the focus of any writer. How do you that? Learn everything you can about the craft. Take writing classes. When I started I took continuing education classes offered by the local college and university.
Except for one class, all the classes were taught by published writers, writers who were still in the publishing game. Some wrote in different genres than I read, but I still listened to what they had to say. The beauty of taking a lot of classes is you will find out that not everyone thinks about the craft the same way. My first piece of fiction was a result of taking an intense two-week workshop from West Texas A&M. I'm sad to say they don't offer that workshop anymore because I grew a lot in those two weeks. Robert Flynn, Clay Reynolds, and Jerry Craven have a gift for writing as well as teaching. I'm proud to have learned from them.
Each of the teachers offered me some wisdom that I still use. Two of the Amarillo College classes, taught by Ivon Cecil were geared toward writing for children. I benefited in more ways than one from that class. A year after Ivon taught me, she invited me to attend her critique group.
Which brings me to my second point. Join a critique group. Ivon, Chery Webster, Pat Willis, and Carol Winn taught me a lot. They'd been meeting years before I joined their group, and their main focus was writing for children. I don't believe you have to be in a group that necessarily writes the genre you're writing, but I think they need to read and respect your genre. And you should read and respect theirs. Otherwise I think you are wasting your time. Critique groups can serve many purposes. One obvious reason is receiving feedback, but another is accountability. Knowing you have some folks waiting to read ten pages every week is a huge motivator. Over the years I belonged to a lot of groups. Some with too many people and sometimes it was just my pal Charlotte and me writing at the McDonald's. All of those minutes were like bricks paving my way to publication.
There are people you may never meet who can give you advice. I must have bought every writing book available at the bookstore. You can find a list of my favorites on my writing tips page.
The better writer you become, the better your chances are at getting published. Publishers are always looking for great talent and fresh new voices, no matter what your age. But you must be ready.
Posted by Kimberly at 5:30 AM