Friday, August 28, 2009

Ten Steps to Publication

On Saturday August 22, Charlotte Lobb and I taught a full day workshop sponsored by OCCRWA. It was a special workshop arranged by the OCC Board to offer more resources for writers, and it was the second such workshop offered this year. The first one was a Plotting workshop by Diane Pershing back in January.

I discussed Character and Conflict, and Charlotte talked about Point of View and Dialogue. Every writer can always learn something new, even after many books (I picked up some great tips on dialogue from Char.) It was a small group, only about 17 people or so, which made for an intimate class that encouraged discussion. This made me think about the great resources available to aspiring writers from groups like OCC, which sounded like a good topic for a blog.

Ten Steps to Publication:

1. Write. If you don't write it, you can't submit it and no one can publish it! Find your own schedule, your own rhythm. Every writer's life is different, and every writer's process is different. Find what works for you and do it, no matter what. Make the time.

2. Join a writer's group. OCCRWA is a great example of a valuable writer's group. There are monthly meetings with two speakers every month! There is the contest, which gets your work in front of published author and editor judges. There's the newsletter and the email loop. There's cool special workshops like the one Char and I just did. The most important thing a writer's group can offer, however, is support. No one understands the angst of a writer better than another writer.

3. Get a critique partner or group. Writers tend to be introverted individuals who hang out alone in front of their computers. Some of them are even too afraid to show their work to anyone. In my seventeen years as a serious writer, I have found critique partners/groups to be an invaluable objective eye. Every writer has a blind spot. Is there a phrase or word that you overuse? Is there a grammatical error you always make? Your critque partners will find it and alert you to it before you send off the manuscript.

4. Enter contests. Entering contests is a good way to get objective feedback, but you should have reasons for choosing the contests you enter. The Orange Rose from OCCRWA is one geared to get your manuscript ready for the Golden Heart or submission to an editor or agent. Or maybe you want to enter a contest because a certain author or editor is judging. Perhaps you're worried about your synopsis so you enter a synopsis contest. Always have a reason, even if that reason is just to support your local chapter. :)

5. Know when to stop editing the first three chapters. Many aspiring authors write a dynamite three chapters, then edit them until they squeak. There is such a thing as editing the life out of pages, and you want to avoid that. Walk away from chapter three and move on to chapter four. An editor can't buy only three chapters of a book.

6. Finish your book. As stated in number 5 above, an editor can't buy only a few chapters. They need to see the whole book. Just do it. You will be astounded at the sense of accomplishment you get from writing The End.

7. Read new authors. The new authors are the writers who sold their work within the last year. This tells you what editors are buying. Plus you get some great reading material!

8. Learn about the market. Writing is a joy, an outlet, a balm to the soul. Publishing is a business. If you want to get paid for your work, you need to learn about the market. Read the RWR. Subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/) so you can get Publisher's Lunch, a daily email that tells you the news in the marketplace. There is also a daily email listing the deals made that day by editors and agents for all genres of books--and the subscription is only about $20 a month.

9. Set goals. No one gets anywhere without setting goals. If the idea of writing a whole book overwhelms you, then concentrate on writing the next page, or the next paragraph, or the next chapter. Keep your goals realistic according to what you can reasonably accomplish. Setting impossible goals guarantees failure. Remember: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

10. Let go of the fear. We all have a fear about getting published. I've published 11 books (#12 currently in the works), and I still get nervous around release time. Every writer is worried someone will tell her that her baby is ugly. Don't project, just deal with the here and now. And don't be afraid to finish that book and send it out. We're all dying to hear what you have to say!

See you on the shelves!