I got a very sweet email from a reader once, who asked if I could go to an online post where her sister had written a book, read it, and give her encouragement.
I have a sister. If I weren't already published, I could see her wanting to help me in this way.
I had to decline, for several reasons: I had a pending deadline to meet with my editor, and a book launch. When under deadline, I have to keep my head down, and doing my own plotting and scheming.
In fact, I shouldn't even be writing this post, but it touched me so much that one sister would reach out to a perfect stranger to help another.
There are other reasons published authors decline. For example, if they followed through on every request they got to the same question, they would never be writing at all. Others decline for legal reasons: they never want someone coming back and saying, “She used my plot!”
So did Shakespeare, and he's been dead for four hundred years. Go figure.
If she — or you — are serious about her writing, that is, if you see writing fiction more as a craft (and possibly a livelihood) than a hobby, you should immediately join (or at least go to a first couple of meetings of) one of the many writers organization that nurture aspiring writers, such as Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America.
Here's the beauty part; you have to write in these genres in order to join.
There are local chapters all over the country (and in RWA, they even have national online chapters for specific genres, such as YA, Paranormal, Regency, etc).
By doing so, you will learn from others the ins and outs of the craft (plotting, dialogue, voice, etc.) as well as the “business” end: how to team up with a lit agent, who will put you in front of an editor who “gets” your voice ; or how to self-publish, if you are anxious to see it out in the world in a shorter time frame. (Going the agent to editor to pub date could take two years or more, on average).
These organizations have guest speakers who are published authors who share with you their own bumps in the road on their journeys to publication. You'll take workshops. You'll listen to literary agents explain their end of the business.
And if they sell what you write, you can give them your elevator pitch. Who knows, it may be a match made in heaven.
This, my friend, is an aspiring writer's life.
(A published author's life is a whole OTHER post. But not for today. Like I said, I've gotta keep my head down. As if.)
Within a writers' group, she'll make friends with other writers, both published and aspiring, who may be looking for “critique partners:” others who will read it and give advice on where she can strengthen a plot point, or her dialogue.
In other words, an ongoing support group.
Almost every published author I know (including me) has found some success in this route, so I want to pass it forward.
My very own RWA Chapter, in San Francisco, actually put together a book for aspiring writers. Writing Romance: The Ultimate Guide on Craft, Creation and Industry Connections, is filled with insightful essays of life in the trenches. You should check it out. In fact, you'll find an essay or two from me in there.
I've also written a slew of creative writing tips in celebration of last year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
If you don't have time to go this route, perfectly understandable. I wish you luck on your own road to publication. I'm just hoping to pass along a shortcut in an industry which is changing so rapidly that you need a hovercraft to get to your destination: publishing novels, and being successful at it.
Warp speed, writer!
I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you psyched yourself out about writing? If so, can you now psyche yourself UUP, and START writing?
Happy National Novel Writing Month,