By C. Hope Clark –
The email I received read like this:
“I have an incredible story to write and need guidance as I have never done this before. This was not a spur of the moment decision. Could you please contact me.”
Such emails are a daily presence in my email. It’s difficult to explain to a new writer, who sees writing as not all that difficult to master because, after all, there’s so much of it out there, that good writing takes time. So many think a good story is good writing. So many think good writing is in the genes. So many think if you write long enough to produce 50,000 words, you’ve earned the right to publish.
At the same time, I know many people have a great story to tell. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir . . . they want their tale distributed to the masses. Many are afraid to think it will make money, but they dare to hope so. Who am I to dash those hopes?
The following is close to what I tell people who dare to make themselves vulnerable enough to write their story:
1) First of all, do not even think about publishing yet. Your job is to learn how to write, which is not a quick task. Give this a long-term goal so you do it justice.
2) Read successful books in your genre so you can see what has worked before you. Keep reading them. Never stop reading them. Realize you always have something to learn about how to write better.
3) Get your hands on a couple of how-to writing books, such as those at http://fundsforwriters.com/resources/ . I stand by all these books.
4) Try to outline the story. It has to read like a novel, even if it might be a memoir. Beginning, middle, end – like a three-act play. Learn what that means. Always outline your first book so you can determine if there is a journey worth telling. Writing by the seat of your pants comes later, after this book, after experience.
5) Start writing. No backstory to start with . . . just start writing where the problem, action, issue begins. Much like you would tell a story at a face-to-face gathering.
6) Write daily. Writing is not something you do like a hobby when you feel like it. You take it seriously and write daily. Nobody wants to buy a book from someone who writes when he/she feels like it. They want to purchase a book from a serious writer.
7) Try writing short stories about your subject matter. Books are for the seasoned writer. You might find that these stories could become chapters in your book. You will learn which chapters are crap and don’t need to be published. Not all writing should be published. Frankly, as you are learning, you’ll learn later that maybe a tenth of what you write can be polished into something worth reading. It might feel wasted, but it’s not. Without sifting through the refuse, you never find the gold.
8) Find a critique group, either online or in person. Attached is a list of where to start looking online.
Take your time. Give it a couple years or more if this is your first effort. Once written it’ll need serious editing. Then, and only then, will you consider how to publish – traditional or indie or whatever is new at the time. You cannot think of that now because publishing will change before you get this manuscript ready.
So…this is how you start. Good luck with it.
BIO – C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com and author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. www.chopeclark.com