I had no idea what I was getting into when I applied for an on-line writing course several years ago. I thought the road to publication was fairly simple: write, send it to a publisher or two or three, one of them accepts my brilliant piece and voila! I'm published. End of story.
If only it was that simple. If only it was that easy. If only I knew then what I know now, I'd do it all over again.
I can't count how many would-be writers have talked to me over the past few years. They're full of enthusiasm and the same blind optimism that saturated me way back when. They've never read a book on writing, taken a class, listened to a lecture, or attended a conference and neither had I at that point. They want to glean from me, from my vast experience. The problem is that I don't have vast experience. I'm still a novice. These eyes that look up to me like baby birds waiting to be fed feels a tad overwhelming.
So, here is my basic advice to those who have the desire to write but don't know how to take the first step - WRRBJ:
* WRITE! This is the first and most important thing I can encourage you to do. Pick up your pen, your notebook, your tablet, your PC, your scraps of paper and write!
* RESEARCH the writing craft. There is SO much to learn, and there are blogs, websites, and books galore that address every aspect of writing, publishing, and marketing. A few books that I've found very helpful and encouraging are: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves; Create Your Writer's Life by Cynthia Morris; and Write Away by Elizabeth George.
*READ like a writer. Read books in the genre in which you want to write. Read with a critical eye. What works? What doesn't work? Why? What made this a bestseller? Why isn't this a bestseller?
* BUILD a public presence before you submit your book to a publisher or agent. Use Twitter, Facebook, and a blog to build a fan base. Editors and publishers will check our your website/blog. If they like what they've read, they'll want to know more about you before offering you a deal (or so I've been told).
*JOIN a writers' group. This is essential to maintain your stamina in this highly competitive field!
Anyone can write, but to build a writers' life, to be published, and to actually sell your work takes determination and tenacity. It takes humility to listen to others as they criticize your work and not become defensive but be willing to make changes. It takes a willingness to learn and to grow. It takes time, and it most definitely takes patience.