I would love to become a writer. How do I get started?
When I started writing twenty-five years ago everyone told me, “It’s really hard to get published.” They’re still saying the same thing today. Nowadays a good book may not find a publishing home, but a great book will. With the advent of e-books, there are more venues for self-publishing, as well. Here are my suggestions to an aspiring author:
1. Readreadreadreadread and then read some more. Read broadly and discover what you love, because that is what you’ll most likely write. Take notes on what made you like (or dislike) about a book. How did the author make me laugh? Make me cry? Why was I rooting for the hero or heroine?
2. Find (or organize on your own) a critique group. The great thing about critique groups is that you can listen to what they have to say—and then follow your heart. Be careful not to let a critique group homogenize your work. Your uniqueness may be what makes your work get noticed. On the other hand, if five people all say the same thing—it needs work!—they’re probably right.
3. Join a local writer’s group. I recommend you join your local chapter of Romance Writers of America, which you can find at www.rwa.org. You’ll meet other aspiring writers and learn the craft of writing through seminars and conferences. You’ll also make friends who will be with you—supporting you—throughout your career.
4. Attend local, regional and national writing conferences, which will give you an opportunity to hear published authors speak and where you can meet and greet editors and agents. When you meet an editor or agent at a conference and they request that you send material—send it!
5. When your book is complete, be sure to send your work out to potential agents and to editors who will accept unagented work. Be persistent. Each rejection letter (and you will get rejected along the way) gets you one step closer to your dream of becoming a published author.
Most importantly, have fun! If you want to become a writer, it should be because you love to write, not because you want to get rich. I finally became a “full-time” author only after I’d already published seven books over about seven years. During those early years, I worked a “real” job to pay the rent, while I wrote whenever I could carve out the time. To succeed you’ll need persistence, talent and hard, hard work.