Advantages As a beginner you need advice on how to start!
Disadvantages You may already know all this
This review has been written as an inspiration to all would-be writers. Since being a child I had a burning ambition to write and after a lot of hard work trying to find out how to go about submitting items for publication I have now become a published writer for different magazines, educational materials and several non fiction books.
But in the initial stages I could not find any advice for NEW writers, all the books were for people who had already some experience. Therefore I decided to write my own guide specifically aimed at new writers.I have worked as a tutor of Creative Writing and have used this with my students, who have found it a good stepping stone towards their goal. Hopefully it will guide you along those first steps and you will learn how to progress further.
Don't be too ambitious at first and think you can write a novel that is going to be a best seller. Writing is like any other art, it takes time to perfect the craft. So start small and then move on.
One of the first steps in becoming a writer is to READ as much as you can about the art of writing, as well as reading work by other authors to give you an idea of different styles.There are lots of books in local libraries and bookshops on this subject, use this article as a starting point and go on from here.
TOOLS OF THE TRADEThe most important advice to any aspiring writer is to obtain several notebooks and pens small enough to fit into a pocket or handbag. Whenever you think of an idea for something you would like to write about make a note of it immediately. It is no use thinking you will remember it later - you will more than likely forget!
Always have a notebook and pen to hand - in the glove compartment of your car, dotted around the house - in the kitchen, on the bedside table, even in the garage or garden shed. Inspiration can strike at any time so be prepared!Keep a separate, larger notebook where you transfer all these ideas. They will come in useful someday so you must keep a record of them. You could list them in an alphabetically indexed book or enter them into your computer on a database under different subject headings.
This book is a very important part of your writing kit. Whenever you are stuck for something to write about look in there and you will find an idea.You will also need a computer with a word processing package or a typewriter, or access to word processing services to prepare your finished work before it is sent out to publishers.
Once you have an idea about what you want to write about, then get started.
Don't put it off until tomorrow.Or until you can sit undisturbed. Or until you have a place where you can sit comfortably.
Or until you have more time…..If you keep putting it off you will never get it done! Start NOW!
Prepare the first draft. Leave this aside for a day or two and then re-read it and amend anything you are not happy with. Don't worry if your spelling or grammar are not brilliant, with a computer you can soon change any of your mistakes.Markets
Your next task is to find a market for your work. Read as many magazines and newspapers as you can. Ask friends and relatives to pass on to you their old copies - they may have an unusual hobby, or have a trade publication connected with their work. All these are suitable markets for your work.Invest in a copy of the Writers and Artists' Book or the Writers' Handbook which are published annually. Your local library will probably have a copy in their Reference Section but it is well worth buying your own.
Look in your local bookstore and buy a copy of any magazines about writing which they may stock. There are several titles around, all of which contain helpful hints and information. But you must make sure you read them thoroughly from cover to cover and take notice of what has been written. Make notes of anything you feel would be useful to you.Visit your local library and borrow as many books as you can find about writing. In your "Ideas notebook" jot down any useful information you find out about the craft of writing.
Submitting your workSo you have made a study of suitable markets for what you want to write. Now you are ready to begin sending your work off for publication. But how do you set out your work? The first, very important point is to remember that editors rarely, if ever, accept handwritten work so you must have access to a typewriter or word processor.
Your work - the technical jargon for the typed copy is "Manuscript" or "MS" for short - should be neatly presented, on good quality white paper, typed on one side only. Margins at top, bottom and right hand side should be at least 3 cm. The left hand margin should be at least 5 cm . Type in double line spacing. The first line of each paragraph should be indented. Pages should be numbered, preferably at the bottom right hand corner - Editors refer to the pages as "Folios".
Too many people who use computers think that by spellchecking a document all mistakes are eliminated. Believe me this is not true! The spellchecker will only check the SPELLING of a word. If that is correct it doesn't mean there aren't words in the document which do not make sense, perhaps because they are out of context!READY TO SUBMIT
You should include a title page giving your name and address, title of your work, and word count, also include this on the last sheet of your MS in case the cover sheet becomes detached.
Do not staple the sheets of your manuscript or use binders. If there are a lot of sheets it is advisable to enclose them in an elastic band to keep them together. Otherwise use a paper clip which is easily detachable. The editor might need to photocopy your work to send around to different readers - s/he does not want to have to detach stapled sheets before they can be photocopied.
Many magazines will accept Readers' Letters by e mail so it is worth checking this out. However, if you are sending a longer manuscript always check if they accept e mail submissions. You can look in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook or telephone if you are still unsure about their policies on e mail.Record keeping
Now you are ready to despatch your first piece of work. This is where you need to begin your record keeping of when and where you send out manuscripts. Having tried various methods of record keeping, I find one of the most convenient is to keep a monthly record of work completed and a card index system for each piece of work.The monthly record simply states the name of the MS and when and where it was sent. At the end of a given time (more on this later) I can check through to see what has happened and either re-submit or write a reminder to the editor concerned.
The card index system has a card for each MS and the date and name of the publication it has been sent to. When items are rejected I can send them elsewhere and can see at a glance whether I have tried that publication before with the same piece of work.You may of course prefer to use your computer to organize your records, it doesn't matter what method you use as long as you remember to keep it updated regularly.
How long before acceptance?So how long should you wait for a piece of work to be accepted? A general guide for lengthy manuscripts is to wait for three months before sending off a reminder. At the end of this time if you have not heard anything, write a polite reminder requesting a decision and the return of your MS if it is not going to be used. Often the editor will reply that they would like to keep your work on file for future use. You then have to decide whether to let them do this - hoping it will eventually be published - or to ask for its return and try elsewhere. I usually let them keep the manuscript, but do bear in mind it could take a long time before you eventually receive payment. The first time this happened to me I received my cheque two years after I originally sent off my work.
One of the main problems faced by new writers is the feeling of failure when their work is rejected. Don't be put off by this. Simply file the rejection slip in a file marked "Rejections" and look on these positively - they usually give a contact name at the publication which you can use next time you write! Then send out your manuscript again to the next suitable market.A word of advice here though - don't send out manuscripts which have been rejected and look rather creased or grubby. An editor deserves to be treated with respect and your work should look presentable. It is sometimes possible to use an iron to press out creases from a manuscript if you really don't have time to produce another copy, but this is not really to be recommended!
Always keep a backup copy of your work so you can run off another copy at any time. NEVER send off your only copy of anything, always keep a copy on your file.Begin to write!
Having read all this advice you should now be ready to start writing.Don't be too ambitious and start on your best selling novel just yet. Start off small, perhaps trying your hand at sending letters to those magazines who pay for readers' letters. This is the only time you can write and do not need to send an sae. If you have not heard from the magazine within a certain time, then try again elsewhere.
As a general guide, wait three months with a weekly publication and six months for a monthly before re-submitting to another publication. You can keep copies of the letters you send out in a Brought Forward system and check this monthly. When you send out the original to a weekly magazine, say in March, put a copy of your letter in a folder marked June. When June comes you can retrieve the copy and if it has not been used, re-submit elsewhere.Under no circumstances duplicate letters to several magazines at the same time! This does happen and is irritating not only to editors, but also to readers who think "I have just read that in another magazine."
If you are a little shy about having your name in print, then simply write at the bottom of your letter "name and address not for publication". Editors usually honour your request. Alternatively, you could write under a pseudonym but you need to make sure any payment is made in your own name of course so need to add a note to your letter saying this.When you are an established writer it is worth opening a bank account in the name you use as your pseudonym, then cheques can be paid into that.
Where and When?A word on organisation here. It is not necessary to go to the expense of equipping a study to be used specially for writing. (Although this would be very nice if you have the room).
Unfortunately for most of us our writing space has to double up as a bedroom, or a corner in the living room or whatever. It is very important that you do not make the excuse not to write until you have a suitable workspace.In the early days I would often sit in an armchair with a clipboard on my lap, writing as I supervised my children playing. But I would be the first to admit it took me a long time to become a disciplined writer!
Find out the most suitable time of day for you - perhaps it is early morning before the rest of the household wakes up, or maybe in your lunchtime at work, or late at night when there is less chance of being disturbed by phone calls or visitors! Or when you are sitting in a traffic jam or on the train.Use every opportunity you can find to jot something down. But remember that all important advice - when inspiration strikes, write it into your notebook which should be always at your side!
Perhaps the most important advice to any would-be writer is to write SOMETHING everyday. Even if it is just one paragraph or a few lines, then get something down on paper! Once the acceptances begin to arrive you will become keener to work harder and become more disciplined.Inspiration!
Obtain your ideas for your work from your own experiences of life. Write about what you know!Talk to people, watch how they behave and how they dress. Make notes, as you travel to work on the bus or wait at the train station, look at the people around you, how they are dressed, their behaviour. Describe the weather, the events taking place. Jot these down in your notebook. Someday they may come in useful.
Drive to the local supermarket and sit in the car park with your notebook making notes on the different people who are around, these may prove the inspiration for characters in your best selling novel!Look at your surroundings. Think how you would describe them.
Study the marketRemember the advice at the beginning of this article - READ as much as you can about writing. You also need to study your markets. Spend time in your local library reading magazines, or in the booksellers. Search for magazines or publishers on the internet. They often publish guidelines for writers. Study your markets carefully. Check that the publications to which you really want to contribute do in fact accept unsolicited manuscripts.
If you look on the first or last page of most magazines you will find a brief paragraph which tells you whether they will consider your work. If they state "no unsolicited manuscripts" then it is no use wasting your time and postage on that market, so move onto another one.Courses
If you are really unsure after reading this about where to start, it may be worthwhile taking a writing course. These are often held at evening classes but correspondence courses are a good alternative. Look for advertisements in the press and send off for details. Many offer a money back guarantee and taking such a course is a good way to become disciplined as you make yourself complete the assignments because otherwise you would have wasted your money!Writers' Groups
Check with your local library if there is a writers' group in your area. If there isn't one, suggest then start one yourself!Don't give up!
One last piece of advice - don't give up after the first rejection slip arrives. You may receive hundreds of these before you really make it - so persevere and if you have the talent you will succeed!NOW - STOP READING REVIEWS ETC ON HERE AND GET WRITING!!!!!!!
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