The Writing Life: Advice for Beginning Writers

Advice for Beginning Writers

By Joanne Troppello

I remember when I was a novice writer and I had no idea what I was doing. My journey has taken me a long way from those days, but I wanted to offer some advice for beginning writers.

Get an Idea Journal

I still have one to this day. Did you ever think of some great idea and then forget about it later because you forgot to write it down? I keep my journal handy and write down new book ideas and keep adding them to the list because I never know when I’m going to need a new book idea. There are a variety of apps that you can use to track your ideas, even one as simple as the Notepad app on most mobile devices.

Write Every Day

You’re never going to accomplish anything in the writing world unless you put pen or pencil to paper or start typing away. I know it’s hard and many times life gets in the way, but if becoming a published author is a dream of yours, then you need to write every day. Now, this includes any type of writing, whether you are working on your WIP (work in progress), writing a blog, writing articles for publication, or just writing in your journal. Keep the creative juices flowing and write every day.

Set Goals for Yourself

If you don’t set goals, you will have a more difficult time succeeding as an author. There are immediate, short-term, and long-term goals. Immediate goals are those that will be done right now, like writing every day. Others include creating a story outline and developing your characters, then starting the manuscript. Short-term goals are those goals that will be accomplished in the next 6 months to a year. Will you finish that manuscript? Do you know how to edit it yourself and then find a professional editor? Where are you going to go to look for a publisher? Long-term goals will happen in the next year and following. Once you’ve signed your first publishing contract, where do you see yourself? Will you start work on your next WIP?

Write First, Edit Later

Not everyone is the same when it comes to their own editing process, but let me share what has worked well for me. I do some story outlining (not always as strict a process for every manuscript) and then begin to write, always keeping in mind, my four main rules of writing and I don’t do a complete edit until I finish the entire manuscript. If I start editing as I go, I will get discouraged and may never finish what I’ve started. Now that I’ve gotten my four rules down, I feel more confident about my writing and have been doing an initial edit after each section I write so I won’t have to do a big overhaul at the end.

So what are my four rules of writing

1. Keep your POV (Point of View) straight and don’t head hop.

2. Write in the active and not the passive voice.

3. Make your dialogue action-packed and not stale.

4. Watch for repeated words in your paragraphs, like too many sentences starting with “she” or “he” or other words.

Find a Critique Group or Accountability Partner

You need to join a writers group or have some sort of critique group that you can belong to. You must have support as you learn the writing craft and go on your journey toward publication. I am currently a member of the Christian Writers online group. I also have an accountability partner, who is my husband and business partner at our marketing company, Mustard Seed Marketing Group, LLC. He helps me by always encouraging me and making sure that I am working on my WIPs, completing them, and continuing in my writing career.

Create an Online Presence

Even unpublished writers need a website. You may not have a lot of content to fill up ten pages, but that doesn’t matter; you need to start somewhere. There must be a place online where potential readers and publishers and book reviewers can go to find you and your future work. Once you sign a publishing contract that is not the time to create a website.

You need to create one before then. You will always be evolving and changing as an author and so will your website. I am currently using and it’s very user friendly and it’s free. You can upgrade to add premium features, but the free version is an excellent place to begin.

You need to utilize Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites like LinkedIn and Google+. I would hold off on starting a Facebook Fan Page until you have your first book published (you can have unlimited followers there). In the meantime, I would begin with a regular Facebook profile (limited to 5,000 friends). Work on your Twitter profile and post as regularly as you can. However, understand that Twitter recently updated their regulations so you cannot use automated posting services and are not permitted to post the same content from multiple accounts. They’re trying to eliminate use of automated social bots. However, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know your followers better through increased interaction, as much as that is possible in an online setting.

Keep on Reading and Learning

Good writers are avid readers. I have always enjoyed reading and I still do today. The problem is finding a balance between writing and reading. Once I get in a good writing groove, I sometimes put reading on the backburner. However, that is okay since if you’re inspired in your writing, you should go for it. I just need to remember to take a break sometimes and get back into reading as well. Always be open to constructive criticism from editors, publishers, book reviewers, and your readers. Take the good with the bad and don’t let it stop you from achieving your dreams.

Follow Other Published Authors

I’m a published author and I still follow other published authors. By follow I mean on social networking sites as well as their blogs. Other authors can be a great resource for you. As you watch what others in your field are doing, you can emulate some of their tactics, process what is good for your goals and what isn’t, and then stimulate your own ideas as a catalyst from that interaction.

Research Your Publishing Options

At some point, you are going to need to decide how you want to get published. Will you self-publish through a subsidy publisher and pay your own way? Will you self-publish on your own through a service like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? Will you try to get published through a small press or mid-level publisher? Are you shooting for the stars and will you try to get in with a larger, traditional publisher?

Many smaller presses accept unsolicited manuscripts and you don’t need an agent to get you in the door. Check the Writer’s Market; it is a great resource toward finding a publisher. I remember the days of paying for postage and the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and snail mailing manuscripts or chapters 1-3 plus a summary out to various publishers. I’m glad those days are over, and you can submit online now (of course there are still some exceptions).

If you choose an agent, you will need to obviously pay this person. Some of them get paid only if they get you a publishing contract and others want money upfront. I signed with an agent once, but I was stuck for six months and could not simultaneous submit my manuscript to publishers while their agency had it; and they never got my manuscript sold anyway. I like to work on my own, so I don’t have an agent right now. Once I make the bestseller list, I’m sure I’ll get an agent for promotion, then.

Never Ever Give Up

If becoming a published author is truly your dream, then don’t ever let anything pull you down. I received many rejection letters before I signed my first contract. If you want to become a published author, it will take hard work and discipline, but also determination. Keep the hope alive!

Are you a new writer? How is your writing journey going? Are you a more experienced published writer? Do you have advice to share for beginning writers?

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