I, like most aspiring writers, often look to the pros on how to break into the glittering book cover with my name on it publishing world. Throughout the last five years I have gathered some personal habits that maximize my efficiency as well as advice from a few authors through correspondence, book reading and Facebook page stalking. It is my wish to share this wisdom with you now. So buckle up, get out your pen and notebook and get ready to learn some tips of the trade.
1. My ever-favorite writing master Maggie Stiefvater teaches me every time I pick up one of her books or visit her Facebook page or blog. In a recent video post she had this to say: “Writing is like walking. It’s great that you can walk. I feel like everyone should be able to walk. But it’s not enough to just walk. You’ve gotta be able to do other things while you walk because otherwise it’s not very impressive. You have no place to walk. I feel like it is important to know how to write, to have the craft of writing, but really the most important thing is to know how to live. All that really matters is to pick up the skills to know how to write about what you are doing. The thing that we are all trying to do as a writer is show people how we see things inside our heads.” Leave it to Maggie to manage to convey a message so randomly, yet eloquently. I’m blowing up this quote and putting it on my writing board. Consider me inspired.
2. David Kelley, children’s book author of the Ballpark Mysteries Series recently told me in an email to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It is a place both virtual and tangible for authors and illustrators to collaborate, inspire and connect. Regional meetings/conferences, master classes, grants and awards as well as a plethora of other resources are available through joining this incredible creative network. He also says to “be persistent and find ways to educate yourself on the market.” http://www.scbwi.org/Default.aspx
3. I participated in a Writer’s Digest Webinar that included a critique of the first 500 words of our novel in progress. Agent Carlisle Webber gave me this advice: “I stress to all authors in all genres that your spelling, punctuation, and grammar need to be perfect or near perfect before an agent sees your work. One resource I really like is Grammar Girl, who has a great website and a free podcast addressing all those sticky issues of commas and quotation marks.”
I have always been interested in the written word… books, handwritten letters, clean fresh notebooks at the beginning of the school year waiting to be filled. But, in the past year and a half, I have worked to move past a basic love of words to a borderline obsession. I have been writing with the goal of being published. Here are 5 tips I have gleaned from my not always on task hours with pen in hand or while staring at the computer screen.
1. As a multitasking mama, writing time usually coincides with my sons’ nap time, and my personal snack time. I usually break out my second Diet Pepsi of the day and get down to work. But two things slow me down. Distracting mindless TV and snacks that are eaten tiny piece by tiny piece (aka: my favorite culprits: Red Swedish Fish mini marshmallows or dry cereal). To increase my efficiency I turn off the TV and sip on a smoothie or suck on a piece of hard candy instead. Also, think about your best working conditions. I said earlier turning off the TV and choosing the right snack help me. I will add keeping short fingernails, sitting at a table instead of on the couch and limiting the amount of times I check my email during writing time help me have the best writing environment and therefore the most productive writing time.
2. In his book: Robert’s Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know, Robert Masello says “Once you’ve embarked on a writing project, the lst think yo9u want to do is fill your head with other people’s prose, with their characters, they dialogue, with another writer’s way of looking at shings or describing them. What you’re trying to preserve, what you’re trying to protect is your own voice and your own approach.” I understand his point, but strongly disagree. I read, read, read every chance I get, particularly from the genre that I am attempting to write. I was to discover the secrets of success through master (and published) writers (not that Robert Masello isn’t either of these things). For example, I am currently paying close attention to opening chapters of YA (Young Adult) novels for initial character development and early plot movement.
3. Another piece of advice is to build a writing resume so that when you go to submit that dream project to the perfect agent you have a published leg to stand on. Rather than say: “I wrote this book and it’s great because I read a lot and I just know it’s as good as those other books out there”, you can say “Look at all of these people and publications that think I am a great writer! Want to join the list?” You can build your writing resume by trying all sorts of different publications. For example, I began publishing with the Yahoo Contributor Network and since then I have branched out to writing materials for a homeschool company, publishing in a local magazine, being a guest blogger, and participating in agent critiques. I believe that it is my perseverance and willingness to try a variety of things that allowed me to realize my publishing dreams with my very first book contract resulting in a published book in Fall 2013.
Best of luck and happy writing!
More writing articles by Amanda Zieba
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Writing A Classroom Blog
Photo Credit: Yahoo Picture Library; sxc.hu/GoldDuck