Tips for Budding Writers
Because I can’t leave the country for Haiti right now, I decided to write the things I’ve been meaning to write, and have to write for various reasons. I am working on my website and want to give something back to the budding writers who have supported me over the years in my workshops and lectures.
1) If you want to be a writer, hang around other writers. Go to coffee houses, book stores and libraries that offer writing workshops, lectures, and book discussions. Talk about writing, about the authors, about their work, their strategies and techniques.
2) Join your local community, state and national writing organizations. National writing organizations such as www.awpwriter.org and www.pen.com have conferences and host author series. Both are extremely supportive of new, emerging and established writers.
3) Get on the list serves of writing organizations and foundations.
4) Subscribe to Poets and Writers Magazine, http://www.pw.org or the Writer’s Chronicle, http://www.awpwriter.org/magazine/index.htm. They support writers and offer contests, conferences, awards, scholarships, fellowships, excellent articles, interviews and tips about becoming a successful writer.
5) Attend writing conferences. Octavia Butler was the first person to tell me that writing conferences were more about networking then the workshops. However, the workshops were helpful too. Don’t be afraid to meet a writer, shake their hands. Don’t be afraid to talk to agents after a panel discussion and tell them what you’re working on. Establish a relationship that might be the beginning of a ten-year friendship or partnership. Always keep your contacts.
6) Submit to contests you can afford! Submitting to contests can cost a lot of money, so before you submit, make sure the poem, essay, or piece of writing fits the criteria and readership of the publication.
7) Follow the guidelines of the contest strictly or your work will be returned.
8) Keep a log of submissions so you are not sending out simultaneous submissions, or know if a publication allows this.
9) Spell the editor(s) name correctly; put their correct title and address.
10) Also send an SASE (self addressed stamped envelop).
11) Be succinct in your cover (query) letter. Print out and review a draft of your letter before you send it out to catch any mistakes or errors.
12) Set up a writing schedule that you can live with, one around your job or busy life.
13) Treat your writing like a real career. Set up a schedule. Honor it. Even if it’s an hour a day or every other day. Make it your writing time. Don’t move from your desk even if you haven’t written a word. Eventually, you’ll write something like, “boy, do I wish I was doing something else.” Baby steps.
14) Remember there’s a difference between craft and career. One is how you write, revise and engage and the other is how you put your work out in the world.
Gabriel García Márquez said in a Playboy Magazine interview years ago that he wrote so his “friends would love him,” but he said in that same interview that “if you cannot live without writing, then you should not be a writer.” Don’t write for fame or fortune; write because you have a story to tell that no one else can tell.
Please feel free to add comments of your own for budding writers. Thanks in advance for helping answer any questions this community might have that I haven't answered here.