IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH TO MAKE ME HAPPY. A flickering candle, smoldering incense. Delicious food. Good wine. Honorable, passionate people. Dazzling sunsets. Enchanting moonbeams. A sensuous life. Perfect espresso to make the perfect cappuccino. For readers to love my books.
Okay, maybe I need to rephrase that opening thought. New opening thought: I AIM HIGH.
I've received so many inquiries lately, from folks wanting to know how I got started, how they might get started writing professionally, what the downfalls are, how one should go about improving the quality of their work, and ultimately how to break onto the writing scene. Rather than attempt to reply to every FB inbox, tweet or Instagram query, I've comprised my top 10 tips.
Here's what worked for me, and is still working for me. There are other routes, ideas and perspectives; certainly other authors may have difference advice. But as a former editor in chief of two print magazines, and as a relatively successful indie author, magazine column writer and spiritual teacher and speaker, my perspective is based on my personal experience, and I'm happy to share. Here goes.
1. Be excellent, and be willing to grow.
In the world of writing, proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar, are absolutely required. I'll admit that as an editor, if punctuation and grammar have been lacking, I have stopped reading a submission. True, I've also emailed folks to say the piece had potential, they've got potential, please re-submit a clean piece. However, by and large, a grammatically incorrect body of work, will get you tossed aside and relegated to the amateur pile. If it's also rife with spelling and punctuation errors, this is the kiss of death.
You must have a strong command of writing the English language. Seek out classes, tutorial books and online tutorials. Consider joining a writer's group. Book shops often host them, and you can find online groups by doing a google search.
Lots of writers don't like to hear what they're doing wrong, or how they can improve. Those folks aren't serious about their writing. Be willing to receive feedback, especially if it's from a professional. This means you're willing to grow, that you're active in the pursuit of personal excellence. Growing, improving and striving toward excellence, can only help your budding career, plain and simple.
Once, I submitted what I thought was a stellar article, to one of my favorite national magazines. The editor included commentary, with her rejection. She told me I had potential, but my writing needed work. She pointed out exactly what was wrong with the piece I submitted; she gave me suggestions on how I could improve. She invited me to resubmit, at a later time.
I was devastated. My piece was brilliant! How dare that editor disagree! Who did she think she was?! Well, she was editor-in-chief of my favorite national magazine. She'd been at the writing gig a hell of a lot longer than I'd been, and had a hell of a lot more experience than I had. After re-reading her email several times, I realized she was helping me, and that she didn't have to. A month later, I wrote to thank her for the sound advice. A month after that, I re-submitted to the magazine and was accepted as a feature writer. I wrote several more articles for that magazine. I've never forgotten the experience, the lesson, and I'm forever grateful for what I initially thought were harsh words of criticism. I was willing to check my ego and grow; this served me well with that publication. Indeed, humility will serve every writer, in their career. More on that, later.
2. Do what the pros and serious writers, do.
Do you have a blog? Is that blog current and active? Do you make time for writing (or at least some form of creative expression), every day? Are you following other writers on twitter? Lots of chats go on, that can benefit you: check out LitChat and BlogChat, to name two. Are you friends with other writers on Facebook? Are you learning the lingo, so you can understand (and eventually, use) Writer Speak? (Example: I'm curious as to the WC of your current WIP, and whose POV you're writing from.)
Are you attending reader-writer seminars, groups and Cons? Are you keeping your eye on publishing and market trends? If you're serious about your writing, the time may come when you have to choose what way you will publish: traditional (publishing house) or modern (self). Either way, you're going to need a strong understanding and current base of knowledge as to what's happening in the market. You'll need to know what readers want, what is expected of authors, the various types of book formatting and of course, you'll have to be aware of marketing tools and strategies. Start now, by keeping your eye on the trends.
3. Be ready to work,
be willing to do what it takes.
When it comes down to it, many writers aren't willing to do what it takes. And 'by what it takes', I mean: adjust their habits, learn or improve skills, extend (and over-extend) themselves, reach out to others (lots of writers are reclusive types), edit, edit, re-edit, and then edit. Accept humility; be willing to put in your due diligence (few make it, overnight); be willing to invest time and commitment, to your career.
I can't tell you how many people say to me, "I've always wanted to write a book!" Or, "Boy, could I ever write a book!" To be honest, I always think to myself, "Honey-chile, you have no idea what it takes!"
It takes constant work; the writing life isn't easy (see numbers 1 and 2). It takes commitment. On again, off again writers, often fizzle out; they don't take their work seriously, and it shows.
You may receive suggestions (as I did, from that magazine editor). If I hadn't been willing to do what it took, they'd have never published me. And, truth be told, writing features for that magazine, absolutely was a springboard for my career. Are you willing to do what it takes?
4. Write and read---A LOT.
Does this require a lot of explanation? I think not. I'll add on, however: whatever genre you're interested in, read it. Not so much to get ideas on how, or what, to write (there's a lot of copy-cat novels out there; you want to be original), but to get inspired, and to take in the air of professionalism. You'll also discover styles of writing that you like, and styles that you don't like. This will help you develop your own Writer's Voice, which is VITAL. Your Writer's Voice is your own personal style.
I also recommend journaling about your WIP (Don't know the term? Google it, already!). Create chapter outlines, character profiles, folders for individual chapters, story-boards, etc. All of this helps your work to come alive, and it helps you to take your work seriously.
Let's not forget that constant reading and writing improves your command of the English language, and it improves your writing skills. A lot of people want to skip this step, and perhaps the others above, too, and get straight to writing their first book. Have at it, if that's your approach. Some writers believe (or want to believe) their work is publication quality, right off the bat. Perhaps it is, and hats off to you, if so! However, I believe in due diligence, and I believe in developing your chops. A handful of years ago, I was editor in chief of a regional print magazine. That magazine gained steam, and expanded its' circulation to include three cities. We began hosting networking evenings, and eventually expos; I was the main organizer for these events. I then got tapped to work as a content writer, for a television show. I then got asked if I'd be interested in co-hosting said show. In the midst of all this amazingness, I was on a phone call one day, with the magazine's Art Director. She was really excited about our rapid growth and success. I recall, clearly, what I said to her, that day on the phone. I told her it was amazing, all of it. But, I was just waiting until the right time, I told her, until I'd honed my writer skillset and chops, and built up enough of a readership--- to jump off and do what I'd always wanted to do: become an author. I had my degree in Literature and Journalism, and I'd been writing professionally for years. But I wasn't ready to become an author; I knew experience and an established readership, could only benefit and support that pursuit. I continued writing... and reading. Learning, growing and putting in my due diligence. When the time was right (and when I was ready), I wrote my first book. 'Nuff said. Moving on.
5. Be confident, but not egotistical.
I've seen a lot of writers experience a little bit of success or fandom, and become ruined by it. There is no room for ego in your career. There is, however, great need for confidence. As you improve, and as time passes, hopefully your confidence in your writing, will grow. Confidence is strong; ego is flimsy.
I've seen writers gain a little steam via social media, and soon change their profile name to So-And-So, Author. To be clear, here's the breakdown, according to Book World: you're a writer until your name is in print, on a book. Humility; it's a valuable commodity. As valuable as confidence.
Once, an agent offered to rep one of my novels. He loved the story-line, but not my title, and not two of the characters. The title would have to change, and two characters would have to go; then, he would represent my book.
I thought the offer over, very carefully. In truth, it kept me up at night, mulling it over! I did not want my ego to interfere with what could potentially be an excellent move, for my writing career. Yet I did not want to abandon the confidence I had in my work, as I consider myself an artist, and my writing to be my art. In the end, I was confident that the story, and its' title, shouldn't be changed. I humbly thanked the agent for his offer, but challenged his suggestions; he declined representation of my novel. That book went on to become my currently Best Selling novel. The title is Phoenix Rising. That book won the Sage Woman Award for Inspiring Fiction (2010) and its' book trailer won the New Covey Book Trailer Award, in the category of Most Inspiring (2011).
Thank goodness my confidence in my book's ability, held fast. I'm also thankful my ego didn't prevent me from maintaining good relations with that agent; he'll be participating in an upcoming Vlog Roll I'm organizing.
6. Become best friends with Social Media.
Look at it this way: Social Media is FREE PR. It's also an open doorway to other writers, established authors, and folks you want to become your readers. Become best friends with Social Media!
Lots of writers say they don't like to tweet, don't have time for Facebook, or have trouble maintaining a blog. I understand, very well, the weight of a busy life. I also understand the not-so-techie personality. I, personally, am a quirky, semi-reclusive writer type. But writers are missing out, if they don't take advantage of SM. These outlets provide valuable opportunities for writers to connect, communicate, initiate and establish themselves. Best of all, it's FREE!
I strongly advise using the various Social Media outlets the way they've been set up, by their designers, and according to current trends. For instance, let your Twitter account include short quips on what you're doing, what you're writing, what's interesting in your world, what you're thinking, where and when your current blog can be read, updates on your life and writing, etc. Let Facebook connect you to other writers and readers, and feature lengthier posts, about all of the above. Let your blog be where it all hangs out (I like a writer's blog to be a nice blend of professional and personal information), and let Instagram illustrate your life and career, in pictures. WHY? So your readers, followers and potential fans, can find from you what they expect to, on those sites.
One final word to the wise, regarding SM: if you establish a presence on any of the above mentioned SM sites, maintain that presence. If you're going to be absent, say so, in an announcement. This shows common courtesy and respect for your readers. Also, it's professional.
7. Adjust your settings to ingenuity; be creative.
I hate to break it to ya, but if you wanna be a writer, darlin', you're gonna have to be awfully creative... about everything you do. Think of interesting things you can blog about. Tip: the writer who posts only about their writing, WIP or characters, will eventually elicit a yawn.
Ask yourself: What would I like to know, about a writer I'm interested in? Consider sharing that information about yourself. Ask: how can I make my blogs and posts engaging, maybe even useful? Make that happen, according to your own inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, remain open to it. This is part of the creative life. Learn to find inspiration everywhere you look. (In time, you'll see what I mean.) Inspiration for ways and ideas, as to how to connect with readers, as well as enhance your professionalism and presence, really do come from varied and unlikely places.
8. Be in love with writing.
You gotta really love writing. You gotta be. in. love. with it. Writing has to be your art, your goal, your passion, your food, your lover, your best friend, your outlet, your dream, your go-to, your fill-in-the-blank.
Because dear reader, if you do not love to write, be assured it will most definitely show. Some writers want to write merely for the perceived lifestyle: the melancholy, the (perceived, ideal) notoriety, the artist life. Those are the folks who (in #3), always wanted to write a book. That's like saying I, ParaGoddess, have always wanted to do surgery. I wasn't born to be a surgeon. I'd suck at it; it's not me. If you're not really a writer, in your heart and soul, in your blood and guts, you won't have passion for the path, you won't be in love with your writing, and that, my friend, will come through in your work. A lack of love for writing, will be the kiss of death. Which leads me to... #9.
9. Know when to take a break,
because readers deserve your best.
Unless you're writing features or columns for a newspaper or magazine (and hence are under deadline), you can afford to go at your own pace. Unless you're contracted by a pub haus, or have been tasked by an agent or editor to deliver, you can breathe a little, and write according to your inspiration. I call this writing intuitively, and it's my personal favorite. When I have time, and can write intuitively, I churn out some of my best work.
Some writers become frenzied about their work (books, posts, blogs, etc.), imagining eager readers tapping their feet, eyeing the calendar. Perhaps this is so; perhaps you've built up a following, and those folks want and expect new material from you, on the regular. But don't your readers deserve the best you can do?
Know when to take a break; know that breaks clear your headspace, replenish creativity, and thus maximize your potential for quality work. A tired or creatively drained writer, is a lacking writer. Rest breeds inspiration; inspiration breeds passionate work. Passionate work enthralls readers and builds your reputation for being good. Know when to take a break.
10. Be ready to go.
As you build your presence "out there" as a writer, opportunities may come your way... especially if you look for, invite or create them. Be ready to go. If you're tapped for a blog tour, be ready (with a current, active blog and on point writing skills), so you can say yes. If you're invited to guest speak, guest blog or participate in a chat, be ready and able to say yes. When Con task teams are being assembled, when writer groups are forming, or when blog rolls and anthology lineups are being created, be ready to go. When an editor asks you for a sample of your writing, be ready. When someone hosts a writing contest or there's a call for submissions in your genre, be ready to go. When the sun rises tomorrow, on yet another day you're chomping at the bit to be a writer, be ready to go. Your blog/followers/goals/journal/WIP/first or second or third draft, await. Final tip: Being ready to go, happens by actively engaging in tips 1-9.
Hope this helps, fellow writers. Your comments and feedback are welcome, as always. xo ~JoLynne ♥ #ParaGoddess
Everyone is Intuitive, but some are better at recognizing and using their Intuition, than others. In this introductory online workshop, learn the physiology of Intuition and how to cultivate and sustain yours.
Join me in the private and secure chat room atwww.JoLynneValerie.com for the only online Intuition Workshop I'll be teaching this winter. Please have a notebook and pen ready; there are sure to be things you'll want to write down.
"Social Media For Authors"
Join me at the blog of Brooklyn Ann, Supernatural Smut for this interesting article. I bet I have a few angles and viewpoints you haven't considered.
"My Creative Life"
I'm honored to be interviewed by Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli at The Expressive Arts Coach. Ms. Javier-Cerulli is Founder and CEO of Global Network of Expressive Arts Facilitators.
EVENTS & APPEARANCES
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Lift Bridge Book Store
Local Author Event
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
45 Main Street, Brockport, NY 14425
Meeting and greeting readers, signing books. Of course I'll have great swag in tow and most likely a give-away as well.
Mon. Dec. 21 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. EST
WINTER SOLSTICE MEDITATION with Jo Lynne
Join me in the private and secure chat room at www.JoLynneValerie.com for an online gathering to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
We will talk about some of the old, rich and lovely traditions surrounding this day, then I will lead those present in a meditation to align with the energies of this powerful solar day. Access the chat room with the MEDIA link.
I'll be supporting National Literacy Day (Nov. 21, '09) and talking about the process of becoming an author and what it takes to be a successful writer today. Hosted by the much acclaimed Cyrus Webb, producer of The Write Stuff television and radio shows. Mr. Webb headed up the National Literacy Day movement 2009, securing the event a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. I will discuss book events, good book promotion and the role social media plays.
In this interview, I will be discussing the type of stories featured in A Tale For All Seasons, and why I wrote them. What were my experiences while writing A Tale For All Seasons and where do I hope to go from here?