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Following the Write Path

by Sheri Gilbert


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The journey from writing as a hobby or pleasure, to writing for publication can be a lengthy, and oftentimes mind-boggling experience. The most comforting thing to remember is, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’ve all been there at one time, and hope never to go back! : ) Here are 6 steps to help steer you in the right direction.

Step # 1

Decide where you’d like to focus your writing attention. Will you be writing children’s literature? Contemporary novels? Short stories? Romance or mysteries? There are many authors, myself included, who dabble in more than one genre, but when first starting out, it is important to have some idea of which genre/category you will be focusing most of your attention and energy on. The reason being, step #2.

Step # 2

Once you have an idea what you’d like to write, READ. Read everything you can get your hands on instruction wise, and literature wise in that genre. Learn what proper manuscript formatting is. Brush up on your grammar if need be. If possible, take a class or two at your local community college in English or Creative Writing. Read current works, and classics. This will help you to gain a better understanding of what tools you will need to write successfully, and reading successful author’s works will (besides being enjoyable!) give you a taste of what the end result of all that hard work can be.

Step # 3

OK, now it’s time to do what you really want to do. Write! Write! Write! Be proud of yourself for getting this far . . . most don’t! Enjoy this process, for the next step is so far removed from the trance-like state of letting your creative muse have its way with you, it is tempting to revert back to writing as a hobby!

Step # 4

Now it's time to edited that baby! Check for grammar errors--fluency from one scene to the next--character consistencies: Do all of Kara's actions stay true to her character and personality? Does Jim, who we discover in chapter three hates cats, suddenly have one in his lap in chapter 6? Check all your facts. Is the dialogue engaging? Is there enough action? Are my characters memorable? These are all questions you might ask yourself as you review your manuscript. The rewrite on a story often outlasts the first draft by weeks and weeks! Following through with step #5 allows you to gain a fresh approach to your work: seeing it through someone else's eyes.

Step # 5

a.) Finding a critique partner or group, can be VITAL to your writing success. There are always exceptions. Some people truly do well completely on their own, but I found that for myself, and certainly for most newer writers, receiving honest, in-depth feedback is an invaluable tool for pointing out the weak spots AND strengths in your work. Take the time to find the RIGHT critique group or partner. The best way to do this is join a local writer’s chapter or writer’s guild. If this is something you’d rather not do, no sweat. The Internet is a great place for just such connections. Use writer’s bulletin boards to search out like minded individuals. Try and find a well-rounded group that is open to the type of work you are offering up for critique. Differing opinions from authors outside your field are wonderful, but so is someone who has an idea what is acceptable and exceptional in your genre. This is an invaluable way to grow as a writer, and to give back, since you will be critiquing other’s work as well. I cannot stress how important this step is. The learning curve once you are part of a supportive, serious critique group, shoots up to levels unknown.

b.) Do your market research. Start by picking up a current copy of "The Writer’s Market Guide," which lists literary agents, book publishers, small presses, and magazine markets. Give it a good read. If you specialize in children's fiction, invest in "The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's  Market." Find out what publishers and editors are really asking for. Is there a market for what you are writing? Don’t worry . . . there usually is, no matter how obscure. You may not make a mint on "How to Make Paper Dolls out of Tin Foil" but there is probably still a market for it somewhere. Find out where. Make several trips to your local book store. Look at books similar to yours. Take notice of the publisher. You can even call a publisher and ask which editor edited a specific book that you just ‘loved.’ This is a great way to compile a list of editor names, which, you will need.

Step # 6

Be tenacious and persistent. Don’t give up. I know, that’s old news, something your grandmother or mother told you many times. It’s still wise advice, advice you will need to take seriously if you choose to pursue a career in writing. I’m sorry to say, but it may take YEARS to achieve personal success with your writing. I’m not one to say what that success may be, for it is different for each person. We can not all be mega millionaire best selling authors like John Grisham or Stephen King, and each of us measures our success differently, as well we should. Either way, you won’t achieve it unless you are prepared to be diligent, thick-skinned, and clear on what your personal goals are. You may have to reassess your goals yearly (sometimes daily, believe me, I’ve been there!) but staying focused on those goals goes a long way to ensuring your success, whatever that may be!



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Sheri Gilbert

Copyright 2000


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