Laura’s Little List for Aspiring Writers

I was trying to think about some advice I might give to aspiring writers if say, my opinion was ever asked. No matter what we do if life, if we have any amount of success, we’ve probably learned some valuable lessons along the way. I’ve had some success. I’ve learned things. I thought I’d make a little list.

In the beginning I knew nothing about writing or publishing, had no idea what getting published entailed. I simply started writing. Then I bought a book: The Canadian Writer’s Market. I’ll never forget the day I bought that book, knowing those pages contained the very essence of my dream. Who knew there was actually a book out there that told you how and where to submit your work? Wheeeee…. I was going to be published!

See, I was pretty naive way back when.

But you learn. We all do. We do something one way and if that doesn’t work we do something else, again and again, until we get the desired results.

I’ll be honest. I’m not much of a list maker. I think I’ve mentioned that before on this blog. I blame it on being a middle child, cause we’ve got to blame our shortcomings on something. Right?

Sometimes I start out with good intentions, I set down a list of tasks I’d like to accomplish. I might even do that for a day or two, but then something goes terribly wrong. Mainly me. I lose interest and the whole idea of list making goes down the drain.

So pardon me if I make this list short. Since five seems like a nice rounded number to begin with, I’ll make this list short and sweet cause, if you’ve got to read through yet another list, I figure it should be short and easy to digest. Sometime later I’ll think of a few more things to add to the list, and maybe I will, cause surer than anything I’m going to learn a few more things as I continue to write.

So here it is.

Laura’s Little List for Aspiring Writers:

# 1. You are never as good as you think you are.
Keep this in mind when you’re first starting. In the beginning I thought I wrote some pretty clever, not to mention astounding, prose. Once that baby landed on some editor’s desk it was going to be published. I just knew it! It took me many rejections to realize that I had plenty more to learn about writing, that all these first efforts was simply practise. And that’s okay. When you learned to walk, you started out with baby steps.

# 2. Nothing you write is ever a waste of your time.
So some of us need more practise than others. That goes with all things in life. It doesn’t mean we won’t eventually master it. Of course not! You knew that. When discouragement sets in, and it surely will at some time, forget about lashing out and deleting that story you’ve worked so long and hard on.(You’re probably too old for temper tantrums.)You didn’t waste your time. I’m presently rewriting a story I wrote a few years back, bringing fresh new language, and a brand new beginning, to an already existing story. I’m happy to have that original story to look back on now. If I had deleted it in a fit of discouragement I’d be kicking my rear end about now.

# 3. While your use of words is important so is the story because every story need a good solid plot. Plot? You mean there actually needed to be a plot? A purpose to all those beautifully crafted words I was writing? A beginning, middle and an ending, plot? I thought I could wow some editor with my words alone. Nope. Something’s gotta happen. That’s just the way it is.

# 4 If you’re going to make it in the publishing world, you must learn patience. Once you have learned patience, you must relearn it, maybe even a few times until you absolutely get it. And once you’ve got it, you’ll be plagued at least one more time with impatience cause the Universe insists that you really get the lesson. I figure patience is a biggie so far as the Universe is concerned. Writing/publishing takes time. We send out our manuscripts and wait for a response, one that we’re sure will come any day. The Canadian Writer’s Market said wait three or four months before following up with a query on the status of your submission. Three or four months? I wish! Think a year, maybe longer. Editors are very busy people.

# 5. Be original. This doesn’t necessarily mean wild and crazy, unless of course you like wild and crazy. You can still write about things you know and love, but try to put a different spin on it. Tackle that subject in a way no other writer has. Come up with original turns of phrase. Remember that no one can tell that story the way you can. It’s your story, after all, and you are a distinct individual looking to discover your own unique voice in the world.

So there’s the end of my little list. Of course I have learned more that these five things. I’ve been writing for over twenty years for goodness sake, but these were the first five that came to mind. Now get out there and start practising.

 

If you’re a writer, I invite you to share your wisdom in the comment section and add something to my list.

 

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22 Comments

  1. What a great list. The best advice is to be patient. Also never stop learning – by reading and listening – always listening. It is the best way to learn anything. I guess the other piece of advice is to believe in your self and your story and eventually someone else will believe in it too.

    Reply
    • Patience is a real big one, Darlene, and not an easy thing to accomplish. Believing in ourselves helps keep us going during those dark times when we want to give up!

      Reply
  2. Re #1: Waddya mean? The editor is so dumb he can’t see I am Emily Dickinson and Hemingway Incarnate? I have one piece of advice to add. Get published. In little things. Had cartoons published in teacher union paper, chamber of commerce newsletter, church bulletin, local free newspaper at the grocery store. Doctor and dentist have cartoon posted in waiting room. Poem framed at a small museum. Made illustrations for flyers and designed menu cover for a restaurant. That’s a resume. It opens doors. Blogging helps. Within two weeks of starting blog, an editor contacted me from Brisbane, Australia. He puts out a very sophisticated quarterly for international Clock and Watch Collectors organization. He has 3 years’ cartoons on file. I don’t get paid for 95% of this but it builds a network. It does not happen by sending submissions. You have to make it happen. Small articles in trade mags could eventually lead to an interest in that novel manuscript whose pages have yellowed years ago. I enter every poetry contest I can find and have been published in several anthologies. For the little nobody that I am, I think I’ve done well at trying to be in this getting published game.

    Reply
    • I do agree with you, Carl about getting published. Getting our work out there is important, especially in the beginning. Not only that it helps us build confidence in our abilities. I know many writers expect to make it “big” right off the bat, but let’s be honest, that doesn’t happen as often as we’d like it to. The best way to get out there is to do exactly what you do.. That’s a great addition to any list for aspiring writers. Thanks Carl!

      Reply
  3. Ah, this is the list you alluded to on Facebook! Thanks for sharing your learning experience with us.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I have to fess up. This was the list. I’m not at all one for making lists, but every once in awhile we have to break from old habits.

      Reply
  4. Excellent list – I’m bookmarking for future reference as I am just beginning the whole submission process.

    If I might add one item . . . Research, then research more when it comes to finding an agent. And then research even more. ;-)

    Reply
    • Thanks. C.B. It was just a few things that came to mind. Best of luck with your submissions. Research is very important for writers. :)

      Reply
  5. The item I would add is to find a writer friend or two that you can share your writing journey with. They don’t have to be critique partners and know every detail about your 3rd draft, but just people who are doing the same thing you are. Friends and family can make every effort to be supportive, but if they’re not writers, too, they really aren’t going to get what you are about or really understand when you try to explain it to them. A writer friend understands why you can be thrilled about a rejection because it contains a personal note from an editor. Try getting that across to a non-writer!

    Reply
    • It really is important to have wrters friends. Our friends who do not write must find it totally boring when we speak about our writing life. Yes, the thrill of rejection. I recently felt that and I’m not sure a non-writer would understand, but the comments from the editor inspired and encouraged me. :) Of yeah, I get it!

      Reply
  6. This is a great list. I’d also like to add to new writers they should find a group to join, or a circle of writing friends. This can be a lonely and devastating business. I think most writers genuinely love to support and help each other. BTW – I love #2 and #4. :)

    Reply
    • Lonely and devasting–you got that right! Most writers I know really are supportive. We know how difficult this business is. It always helps to have another writer to share our triumphants and disappointments with.

      Reply
  7. This is an outstanding list. Wish I’d written it. Also wish I’d read it before I was published.

    Have a great week, Laura.

    Reply
  8. Love it! I would add – READ, read everything in your genre, especially really well-written stories, and pay attention to how those writers are doing it! I’ve only come to realize the importance of this in the past year or so, and it’s really helped. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Reading is really important, not just anything as you say, but what’s in your genre. As writers we have to read, not only for our own enjoyment, but to see how other writers are doing it.. I agree, Jan, it is very helpful. Hope we’ll get together again before winter. I may have a little time off in October.

      Reply
  9. Laura,,Love your site, very intuative on the writing/publishing aspect…I am a published author/writer, retired from the medical field and four years ago a health issue changed everything I thought I knew..after months of Doctors” offices and hospital/lab/ becoming my second home etc..with no answers..I felt like a “labrat”, I went on a “self heal mission” and now after 2 years I am walking with a walker , swimming again and no pain ! this thanks to perseverance..so now I write NOT about my health issues BUT how I view life and it’s quirks..knew there had to be others who questioned the “quirks” so I started my new career…First book title was..”My Life as a WEED…I was amazed at the response..MOST PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS A GARDENING BOOK..and commented on it..ehh what’s a little negativity ? I then went out and had t-shirts/baseball caps printed with the book name and website..got more response…if only I reached one person who understood my words..I was successful..I now am awaiting the publishing of #2 ” Whatever..I’m Still Here”…Thank you for your insight to the approach for aspiring writers…
    what do you call two authors on a plane ? Writers in the sky..
    remember you can lose weight,
    lose you temper, a sock in the washer/dryer,your car keys..BUT..never lose your sense of humor…weedbychoice..kjforce

    Reply
    • Thanks kj. I’m glad you found my blog and left a comment. I was over to check yours out and I love the stories. I appreciate your determination to overcome your health issues and I’m sure that writing has also been great therapy for you. Congratulation on your accomplishments. I very mich like your sense of humour. I can’t imagine a day going by without enjoying a few laughs. :)

      Reply
  10. all good advices. #2 is th one I always struggle with. computers these days – you can delete without a hint of thought. it’s just too easy to dismiss your every word.

    the one advice that I always heard is “just write” or “keep writing” – I think one of the difficult thing about writing is the writing itself. sometimes there’s too many pauses in between that make you think of abandoning what you’re working on. there are too many instances that I did that. but it’s write and learn – write and learn a continuous journey…of sorts

    have a lovely day,

    Reply
    • It is VERY easy to delete in a fit of discouragement, although I’ve noticed it’s not so easy to delete while editing. (Different frame of mind, I suspect) I have abandoned stories in the past, but I’ve also come back to them and went on to complete them. My lastest manuscript is an example of that. Hang in there, Lissa. One thing that I believe is that we do improve over time, especially as we read the works of others as Jan suggested.

      Reply
  11. It’s hard to boil writing advice down to just a few points, but this is a great list, Laura, and there are some good additions in the comments. If I were to give someone a suggestion it would be to try and find a knowledgeable mentor… not always an easy thing to do. In lieu of that, I’d say first write the book of your heart, then *don’t* try to get it published. Put it aside and read a good ‘how to write’ craft book to learn how you should have written it. Then rewrite the story or start another one.

    Reply
    • I totally agree, Caroll. I certainly could have went on further with this list, but at the risk of boring everyone to tears I thought I’d keep the list short. Not only do I not like making lists, I don’t particularily like reading them if they are too long.

      I can see how getting a story out of our system can be beneficial especially for a writing just starting out. The risk many first-timers run is sending out that first story only to get rejected. Perfecting our craft takes time.

      Ideally, it would be wonderful to find a mentor, although I feel as though this is something that is easier said than done. Luckily, for some writers they are able to find someone to mentor them. Sounds wonderful.

      Reply

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