A quick google search will turn up all sorts of tips for how to get published. Here are ten tips that were either shared with me or that I learned along the way.
- Join a writing group, like American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, or another group tailored to your particular genre. The resources are innumerable. Joining groups allowed me to learn the industry, improve my craft, attend national conferences, and perhaps most important, make friends!
- Join a Critique Group. Peer groups are priceless, and critique relationships are essential. I don't know a single author who doesn't have a peer critique partner (or several!) if not a group.
- Be Teachable. Learn from others with more experience, and study areas where you know you need to grow. There are several ways to do this: attending workshops on craft or aspects of the writing business; reading blog posts, articles, and books on writing; and allowing your work to receive constructive criticism. That leads to my next point...
- Enter Contests. When I started writing, I had no idea what strangers thought of my writing. The best way I knew to get unbiased feedback was to enter writing contests for unpublished romance writers. The first results I received were not great, I'll be honest with you. But I kept at it. Then in 2008, I was shocked to be a finalist in the Faith Hope & Love Touched by Love Contest. Just as valuable as that final? The feedback I received. I entered more contests, and sometimes the criticism was painful--but most of the time, I felt the judge was right and I learned from it. I also learned what I was doing right. That sort of info is gold.
- Develop a thicker skin. Some of the constructive criticism doesn't always feel "constructive." It can feel rotten. Most judges are experienced with judging all kinds of stories fairly, honestly, and as objectively as possible, but...sometimes the feedback feels personal. Or is delivered tersely or downright cruelly (I've heard stories!). As one fellow writer told me, we have to learn how to separate the meat from the bones. Take what you can from all feedback and discard the rest. It's your story.
- Keep Writing. This sounds like a no-brainer, but we need to write daily (or almost daily) for several reasons: we can't sell a book if we never finish one. Also, daily writing helps us improve our craft and get into a routine.
- Do your research on your targeted publisher(s). Unless you're planning to self-publish, consider who you're writing for, not just in terms of audience but also in terms of editors/publishers. Most traditional and indie publishers have guidelines for what they will and will not receive, in what format, at what word count, etc. Write to the guidelines.
- Keep reading! Read the genre you're writing. Read books outside of your genre, too! Iron sharpens iron, and reading published authors improves our writing.
- Have a presence on social media. True, this has nothing to do with writing, but in our day and age, an online presence is mandatory. Agents and editors often wish to look up a prospective author to see how they interact with readers, whether or not they're professional in their conduct, etc. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging, you name it--you don't have to do them all, but find a few that work for you and stick to those!
- Keep Going! Start and finish stories...plural intended! Most authors I know did not publish their first novel...at least not at first. Their second, third, or thirteenth novels are what sold them. Yes, thirteenth. Persistence is key. So is the ability to set the dream of one story aside and start on a new one. And a new one after that. Nothing is ever wasted, so don't mourn when something doesn't get published. You don't know what God has in store for it. Want proof? It happened to me, with The Reluctant Guardian.
What about you? What would you add to this list?
I'd add that a writer needs a variety of writer friends who are willing to offer feedback and encouragement. This means understanding that critique partners may come and go and that might be a good thing. All of us have strengths and weaknesses in our craft, but if our feedback comes only from beginners or only from the experienced, we might fail to grow. I recall thinking, hey my writing's not so bad... That meant I had a long way to go! But if your feedback is only from the very experienced, you might be overwhelmed by all that needs to be 'fixed'.
Oh, that's excellent, Deb. I love that point. Thank you! I don't know where I would be without a support system and honest friends!
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