Stephen Winn

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Writers Need to be Courageous, Persistent & Informed

Posted by Stephen Winn
Writers need to be courageous, persistent, and informed. Man, do we ever! Being a writer is a labor of love because most often there is no promise of success (however you define it) or money.

If you don’t love to write you’ll never climb the daunting mountain that stands between you, your objectives, and your ultimate goal—and at this time I’m still climbing like most of you! Just look at James Patterson…he was turned down thirty-one times by literary agents only to win a high-profile writer’s contest which helped to launch his amazing career. The contest was for the best new novel by an unpublished author in America—no small achievement. There are hundreds of other stories by writers that attest to bravery and persistence as prime traits needed by a writer, but it’s so easy to get discouraged and feel down about your chances to succeed. If you want to be a New York Times best-selling author then realistically your chances are slim, but if you truly love to write then failure is not an option.

There are writers that can just sit down and write and everything they do turns out fine. I’ve never met an author like that but I’ve read about two or three. The first novel of John le Carré happened that way—it apparently just flowed out of him. I certainly haven’t been that fortunate—I’ve had to make sure everything I do is reviewed by a few readers/editors before I feel comfortable what I’ve done is the way I want it to turn out. I’m also a writer who can’t work to an outline, like James Patterson insists you should. Robert B. Parker, one of my all-time favorite murder/mystery fiction writers, said he initially wrote outlines for his stories (his first novel was written in 1971), but then dropped the approach in favor of creating the story as he worked his way through it. That’s what I do—I’ve tried the outline approach and couldn’t get it to work for me.

There are so many things writers need to do to succeed that I feel the need to outline a few of those for you below. I want to impress upon every reader of this article that the main thing you must do is write. Everything else is secondary but it is so easy to get distracted. That’s because there are so many necessary things to do that can’t be ignored. Here are just a few:

  •          You need to get your work edited. The copy edit is where to start because that is focused on the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. There’s also manuscript evaluation and developmental editing to make sure your story is the best it can be—that it is well-organized, makes sense, and flows well. Also, a good proofreader will make sure that things such as word breaks, page breaks and numbering are completed properly. You need to re-write and re-edit as you deem necessary, but this can be a big job which depends upon how strong your original draft is. Hopefully, substantive and structural editing will be minimal—fingers crossed.
  •          You need a website that describes you and your work and gives readers a chance to comment on your products. The website can be a huge benefit because your readers can generate many useful ideas for you. I’m told that most literary agents will check out your website as they check you out to see if they’re interested in representing you: so make a good effort with your site.
  •          It’s a good idea to have a blog too. The approach to a blog can vary widely, but as with the website, you need to dedicate money and time to design and maintain it. It’s best to contribute to it regularly which will be a great help in developing your readership. Again, a literary agent will want to check out your blog to see if they are interested in representing you.
  •          You have to do a lot of research in order to know what you’re talking about when you write. The key is to know your subject. Believe me when I tell you there are a lot of smart readers out there who will test you on your facts. Retractions aren’t easy to do, so once again, know what you’re talking about.
  •          Continue to do a lot of reading, and not just in your own genre. Your reading will generate valuable information and ideas useful for your work.
  •          Take courses and never stop educating yourself. There are hundreds of webinars and courses available to writers on every subject possible. Writer’s Digest is an excellent source for writers as well as many others.
  •          There’s also the process of promoting yourself as an author by either securing a literary agent to represent you to a publisher, or to self-publish. I’ve decided I want a literary agent to represent me, so I am spending a significant amount of time writing a synopsis and query letter for each of my novels in order to be prepared to make submissions as required. There is also the job of searching out, tracking, and securing an agent—no small feat!

Once again, amid all of these ancillary tasks, your main focus is to continue to write. I would recommend you do at least two hundred and fifty words a day because it will keep your brain tuned and working creatively. Always remember, without products you have nothing to offer.

Please take a moment to let me know about your experiences, challenges and frustrations. It would be great to read your comments. Oh…and good luck!  

Posted by: Stephen Winn


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