Sunday, 15 March 2015

Ode to Newbie Writers

When I decided to take writing seriously over one year ago I had no idea where to start. I had a completed manuscript (rough draft), and idea for a new book, and a deep desire to get published.
I didn't know where to go from there, so I did what most new writers do, and sought out other writer's to give me advise. The only thing was how did I find other writer's in my community? Moose Jaw had a great reputation for producing writers, but there wasn't a public directory to look them up and reach out to them. So I did the best thing I could think of...I joined the Sask Writer's Guild.
But where did I go from there? The next workshop available wasn't until May, and this was February 2014. So went online, like most other tech-savvy 30-somethings like me, and I googled it. The advice out there on the big bad inter-web was o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-i-n-g. And yes, just as irritating as it is to read the world spelled out. There was so much information, I found myself back at the beginning with the question: Where do I start?
So I began to develop my writer's platform, which every agent and publisher talked about. Being a Facebook user, I easily developed my author page. From there I joined Twitter, which practically took me the entire year to understand its purpose, but purpose it does have. I found that the local market in Saskatchewan loved Facebook, and the further away one got (into the larger centers and beyond, used Twitter). A combination of the two was a great idea. Some sites mentioned blogs, but I still had no idea how start one of those, so instead, I aimed at creating my
The year continued with me taking classes on writing, hiring editors to help me with my manuscript, and even completing two new projects, one of which was accepted for publication by Month9Books (Fall 2016). I joined an established writing group, and started one of my own. I reached out to other authors and didn't try to sell my manuscript to them or ask for help, but asked for their advice as a writer in Saskatchewan (workshops, retreats, etc.). I learned and grew as a writer in 2014, and have continued that into 2015 where I signed up for the University of Calgary's Creative Writing Certificate and scheduled more writing workshops, retreats, and conferences for the upcoming year.
I don't let anything stop me from getting better, because no matter how good my idea is, if I can't communicate it the right way to the right people, it's not going to get anywhere.
So what's my advice in a nutshell?
1. Finish your manuscript. No one can help you do this except yourself.
2. Always write. I make myself write every day, whether its 15 minutes or 3+ hours. There's no excuses: I have 2 young children in activities,a full-time job in the business industry, and I still make time to write. I carry a notebook that I scribble in, I go on the computer and add paragraphs or pages to works-in-progress. I have 15 manuscripts on the go at any one time, simply due to a lack of time to get them completed. I am always writing.
3. If you hit a block, join a writing group. Heck, don't wait for a writer's block, just go find a group and join it. Don't have one in your area? Start one. When I started Moose Jaw Night Writers it was just an idea. So I reached out to a member of another writing group in Moose Jaw and told her I wanted to start an evening group (because theirs was in the morning during the work week). Now, only 8 months in, our numbers have almost quadrupled. But even if there's only 2 of you, its a great idea to have someone who's not your parent or spouse to provide feedback. Plus, I've got a lot of great ideas from our 10 minute free write we do at the beginning of every meeting.
4. Join your local writer's guild. I hear from lots of people that they don't see much value in this. I find they are talking financial value - and if you look at writing in a measure of financial value you will be disappointed. Join the guild to get access to higher levels of workshops, a wider community of writers, and information on programming, contests, and publication. I have never been disappointed in my membership and will continue to renew it every year.
5. Reach out to other writers. Not so they can tell you if your manuscript or book idea is good or bad - that's not their job and trust me they are busy enough writing their own stuff and working in their writing group. Reach out to them for tips on what they've learned over the years. The "Do's" and "Do Not's." Trust me, little tips are valuable.
I know what's it like to be a new writer. It's overwhelming, and if you're like me you want to tell everyone about your book ideas, and you talk until their eyes glaze over. Fear not, you will settle in your career as a write, and as time passes you will get better. Never stop writing.

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