Friday, February 11, 2011

Simple Steps to Start Succeeding as a Writer

When striving to become an author, we all have to start somewhere. For most of us, that's with the love of books or of being creative--or even with a childhood penchant to live in fantasy and create worlds to surround us with that creation. But at some point we begin to take real and steady steps toward publication.

There are several steps we can take, though simple, that will help put us closer to that dream of publication and in a good place once we're ready for that step.


Books on Craft - There are loads of books out there that work to teach us more about craft. You can find many at your library for free, or some on Amazon at a discounted price. Also, don't be afraid to ask around for the books people have found most helpful. They might even be able to let you borrow one.

Fiction - Read a lot in your genre so you're familiar with the guidelines, the style, what's popular, etc. But also read out of your genre to get new ideas or see fresh styles, characters, and settings.

Critique Groups

There are many kinds of critique groups, so you'll have to decide which works best for you. You can find them on loops through an organization like ACFW, through blogs, or in a local chapter if you belong to one of those organizations. Either way, this in an overwhelmingly helpful step toward improving your work and maybe even learning more about the industry.


Another way to improve your work and get used to putting your writing out there is to enter contests. Some cost money and some don't, but it's easy to find out and simple to discover which ones are going to be the most beneficial. If you're just starting out, a contest that will give you feedback from a more established writer or author is a great way to examine your work and take it to the next level. And if you're further along, the same thing will help polish your work and potentially make it possible to get it in front of industry professionals.

Network and Connect

Whether you're big into social media or not, it's a great idea to visit writer/author blogs, and agent, editor, or publishing blogs. There's a wealth of information and you'll be able to keep up on trends in publishing as well as guidelines for specific agents and publishers. Also, you can learn a lot by connecting with other writers or authors through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs--and even e-mail. Most of us are happy to make new writer friends and either pass along some advice or experience or receive some in return.


If you can afford it, going to conferences is a great idea--even one day conferences close by, if there's a certain speaker you want to hear or a class you think will benefit you. You'll be able to meet with agents and editors, meet other writers and take classes that are specifically geared toward where you are in your writing journey. And if you can't afford conferences or can't travel at that time, there are on-line classes (some of them free) where you can learn much of the same thing, as well as recorded tapes from conferences that you can purchase.

Practice, Practice, Practice

No matter how much writing you do, there's always more to learn. So once you finish a manuscript, work on another, even as you're doing the rest of the steps. Pushing yourself to learn and grow as a writer will get you that much closer to your goal of publication.

There are so many ways to start out your writing journey, especially if you're a beginner, but these are some of the ways that have proven most beneficial to me and other writers I know. What steps are you taking to get to your goal of publication, or what beneficial steps have you taken that you can share with other writers?


Misha Gerrick said...

All very good tips.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Excellent advice! I think getting your work critiqued is such an important thing to do, because we just don't see our own work like we should. I've heard conferences are the best investment, and really important when you are ready to start submitting your work. Plus, I hear it is a BLAST to meet all your online friends and favorite authors!!!! :)

Angie Dicken said...

Great! I was definitely that child living in a fantasy world and creating stories! An author once encouraged me to go to writing conferences when I asked for advice on the field...I blew her off, but after going to ACFW for just a day, my eyes were opened to their importance!!

Casey said...

I can actually say that I have done all of those things, except the conference. I have gone to workshops though. It is so reassuring to know that no matter how long it takes, each step you take gets you closer! Thanks for the list Cindy. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks, Misha. These steps have really helped me grow as a writer.

Sherrinda, I agree. Getting serious critique partners and going to conferences are sometimes steps writers take further along in the process but they can definitely be the most beneficial. And meeting online friends and authors is so fun!

Angie, I know what you mean! Sometimes it's easy to say certain steps are probably not for us or might not help us get any further but once we give them a chance, most of the time we can see how good they are for our writing.

Casey, you're so right. Everyone's journey is different and takes a different amount of time but every step we take is growth and it gets us closer.

Keli Gwyn said...

That's a great list, Cindy. I've done everything on it. The only thing I would add is: Enjoy the journey. I'm not a patient person, so that was a conscious decision I made one day when the Lord convicted me. When I chose to leave the timing in His hands and let go of expectations, the pressure to make things happen eased and I had more fun.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I couldn't agree more! Great list!

I would also say discipline--something I don't always have, unfortunately.
But I do know a few writers who like the idea of writing or talk about writing MORE than actually sitting and getting the words down on paper.

Jillian said...

Great advice, Cindy! I could start my own bookstore with all of the books I own on the craft of writing. I'm a beginner who struggles with time to write. I work full-time and subcribe to so many blogs pertaining to writing which are certainly helpful, but time consuming when you read all of the comments.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I am entering my first contest this Spring. Something I'm looking forward to because I'm hoping to get great feedback. I haven't done conferences but I have taken writing classes at our literary center and those have been invaluable.